I drive a lot around this city of mine, which in reality is a cluster of 16 cities all huddled together near the mouth of Pasig River on the eastern coast of Luzon island. Metro Manila is my ‘hood, yo, and negotiating the maze of streets is almost second nature to me.
It is, however, a nightmare to get around if you don’t know exactly where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there. I have a few friends who shy away from meeting up if they’ve never been to the venue or area, and I still get lost on occasion. No, wait, I don’t get lost. I just temporarily find myself in a different location from where I want to be.
Today I attempted to get to the Manila Diamond Hotel where my mom is booked because she’s attending a medical society conference. I’m not familiar with establishments and roads in the Roxas Boulevard area, so I attempted to use Google Maps to find an acceptable route.
Turns out, I know the ins and outs Manila better than Google Maps. I was driving on Gil Puyat (Buendia) heading towards Roxas Boulevard, but Google Maps told me to take a U-turn and head back to EDSA, and only at the endpoint of EDSA would I be able to get onto Roxas. The Buendia route I was already on was shorter and more straightforward, so I ignored Google Maps. By doing so, I also avoided the usual horrendous traffic build-up near the EDSA-Taft intersection.
Traffic’s another thing you’ve got to master when getting around Metro Manila. I’m thankful there’s a handy smartphone app from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) which shows you at a glance how heavy traffic is on major roads, particularly C-5 and EDSA. But only the uninitiated would take these roads during rush hour (which is actually rush two-, three-, or four-hours, depending on whether there was an accident or if it rained).
The roads less traveled parallel to the national highways can cut hours off travel time. You may already have traveled those roads before, but would never have connected them together into an alternate route unless you take a chance on them. There was one time I picked my mom up from the airport in Pasay and was driving her northbound to her office in Greenhills. A huge traffic jam had built up on EDSA-Guadalupe, so I took the off-ramp towards Rockwell/Estrella Street. From there, we took a bridge over the Pasig River, wove through the streets of Mandaluyong, and emerged on Wilson Street in Greenhills just a kilometer away from our destination. It had only taken us 30 minutes to negotiate, and in a city where it takes an hour to get anywhere, that’s major.
I do wish there were a way to get around the city faster, cheaper, and environmentally-friendlier than driving a car. I hope I live to see the day an extensive rail line and efficient public transport can get me around town. Or someday maybe I could even bike to work safely?