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Posted Jun 01 2009 7:28am
Manila Traffic photo by tadzima

There is no other word to appropriately describe Manila traffic.

I'm going be the annoying, complaining, stereotypical Pinoy ex-pat just this once and not be apologetic for it... I need the stress release after just having had the most harrowing time trying to get back into the Pinoy driver every-man-for-himself mindset - easily translated as "Kill or be road kill."

Maybe cars don't go quite as fast in Manila as they do in Oz. But over there, I don't have to contend with fellow drivers who think they're either in some rally race or in Enchanted Kingdom's bumper car ring. There are no jeepneys that swerve from the middle of the road to pick up passengers on the sidewalk with absolutely no warning. There are no buses bearing down on you like huge angry monsters trying to bully you into submission by using their size.

There are no insane pedestrians that come out of nowhere and dart in front of your car just as the lights have changed. No motorcycle drivers or cyclists with death wishes who use the narrowest of spaces in between cars with no caution or heed. And it's unheard to sit in traffic for one hour covering a distance that can actually be driven in 10 minutes elsewhere.

It's utter chaos.

Try as I might, I don't think I'll ever understand the psychology of Manila traffic. Allowing one car to move ahead of you in a traffic queue seems tantamount to having one's teeth pulled. "Giving way" is a concept that seems completely foreign to us Pinoys driving in Manila - probably because any driver who practices "giving way" here will never get anywhere because other drivers will mark him as a wuss and run all over him.

I'm not sure we've realized the sheer ill logic of our behavior. We refuse to follow traffic rules because we figure no one else does so, hence not following the rules will probably get us to where we want to go in a shorter amount of time. But it's actually our refusal to follow traffic rules that increases traffic snarls exponentially - and gets all of us stuck in our cars, wasting precious time sitting in traffic jams unimaginable to anyone who's never been in one.

Driving in Manila again after just six months of driving in Perth, where traffic rules are not merely suggestions and where "rush hour congestion" means moving at 60 kph on an 80 kph road, has been akin to being thrown back into hell after experiencing a fleeting taste of paradise.

This is definitely not something that I've missed.

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