Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reflections from an MRT Ride

A ride, at rush hour either to start the day or to head on home for the night, on the MRT trains of EDSA really should be required of all our presidentiables.

Recently, we had a chance to do just that, and not having to go through this everyday, the experience was jarring.

It's not yet quite as worse as they have in Japan (see video above), but it did get so packed right from the get go that we just stood propped up by other bodies on all sides, with no fear of losing our balance. The aircon worked well enough, but you feel it only on your head. It's perspiration (not just yours) that you feel everywhere else. And each time the trains stopped at the next stations, unbelievably, we learned there was always room to take in even more passengers.

But, being the Filipinos that we are, we quickly adapted, accepted the situation, settled in, looked around, and came to a few observations and revelations.

The average age of the riders couldn't have been more than 30 years old. Maybe 70% were male, at least on the train that we got on, which wasn't so surprising. Women really have it worse in trains this crowded.

For a while, it seemed strange that there were no senior citizens to be seen, until we saw three of them, all with seats. They couldn't have all fought their way through the crowds to get one of the prized spots. People must have given up their seats for them... well done, riders!

Overall, no one seemed happy, but no one seemed sad either. It just was.

Some riders were texting, others were obviously sleepy, and most just had blank, bored looks. People were going about with their lives, and short time on the train was just a small part of the day. The more important hours, it was clear, lay ahead, some place else.

But, the thing is - and this is the point - if a presidentiable ever did take the time to ride the MRT, we seriously doubt that any rider would have bothered to ask them what they would do to improve the conditions of their daily commute. They wouldn't have asked, would you have more trains running to decongest the ride?

Rather, we can imagine not even really caring that he (all of the possible winners are men this time around, yes?) was there. People would probably take a quick look, and continue on with blank, bored looks.

What's the point? By taking this daily ride, they already were doing their part for the country. Braving the tedium of the trains, the crowds and the routine gets them to work, which gets them paid, which gets taxes withheld, and families fed. Sons and daughters get to school, and the country continues to move on.

It gets them to do their part for this country, whether they recognize it or not... and taking the train, in this sense, is an exercise of quiet daily heroism.

So if ever... if ever... a presidentiable did find himself in their midst, he really should remind himself, "They've already done more for me today than I have for them."


Urbano dela Cruz said...

Why just the light rails? Why not all public transit?

And why just the presidentiables?

Shanghai requires its government officials to take public transit at least once a week. Mexico City requires government employees to bike once a week.

CANVAS said...

Fair points.

You could say the light rails represent all other modes of public transportation. :-)

And of course, it's not just the presidentiables who would benefit/learn from from such a ride. It's just that in the context of the ongoing political circus, they're the ones making the most noise about what they've done here and there.

augie said...

(to the tune of you-know-what)
"nakisiksik ka na ba,
sa MRT pag rush hour...
nakaligo ka na ba,
sa pawis ng iba (yuck!)