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What's it like to commute in Metro Manila?

(Photo by Mark Balmores for the Manila Bulletin)

What is it like to commute in Metro Manila? We've all heard and experienced stories that range from good to bad to worse. One Ma. Charmagne Cruz has written about her harrowing experience over at Quora, detailing what her typical commute day was like, encapsulating the horrors of commuting around the bustling Metro.


This is commuting in Metro Manila, Philippines: Horrendous. Soul-Crushing. Mind-Numbing. Depressing. And so much more.

Metro Manila has one of the worst traffic situations in the world (if not the worst) and its public transport is just nada -not even worth mentioning.

Five years ago, I lived in an area called Tondo, Manila and worked in an area called BGC, Taguig. Driving without traffic, we could cover the distance in an hour max. Driving with rush hour traffic (7-10am, 6-9pm), add another hour to that (so 2 hours one way). With road construction nowadays, I'm guessing 3 hours each way.

But I didn't drive then. I was a public transport girl. My shift was 10am to 7pm so thankfully, I didn't have to bear the brunt of rush hour but I still felt it.

To start my commute:

Walk to the jeep stop (main street corner). Ride a jeep and wait. Why wait, the guy has to fill the jeep first. So unlucky you if you just missed the last jeep that had already 20 people inside (yes, 20, very possible, it's called being a sardine and sitting with your butt only half pushed in the seat O.o) and now, you're one of the first few passengers on this one. Or, if the guy decides to move the jeep, he'll be stopping every two minutes anyway until he gets to the train. (There are of course no bus stops so it's free for all.)

Average wait time for jeep: 10 min

Travel time from the street to the train station sans the waiting game but with all the traffic, add another 20 min.

Jeep travel time with traffic: 20 min (Tot Travel Time = 30 min)

To give you an idea, that 30 minute commute is just to cover the distance of 2.4km or according to GoogleMaps, 11min if there was no traffic and no stops.

Then, I take the train. The train I take is the LRT 1, not as bad as EDSA MRT but still god-awful as can be. You start with a line at the bottom, that slowly, super slowly moves up. And when you finally reach the platform, more people, and every train that passes you is full.

Average wait time for train: 30 min (Tot Travel Time: 60 min)

I have spent an hour of my life just to travel 2.4km from my own house. T_T By this time, I'm telling myself, "Maybe I'll just be absent. Crap. I can't. I have no money. Shoot me now. Hope we get a flood. Maybe an earthquake. Wait, it's a backoffice, we don't get holidays for those. Crap again."

When I finally get into the train, I am sweaty and there's barely no space. Of course there's no seat. This isn't the first stop. Only the terminal stops have people lucky enough to get seats. Thankfully, the train is a short ride. It's just 30 min if there's no hiccups.

Train travel time: 30 min (Tot Travel Time = 90 min)

And then I take the EDSA MRT to my next stop. Thankfully, I ride the EDSA MRT at its terminus. So I know that the next train will always have space. The waiting game starts again as this is a packed station. I expect to get into a train in 20 min.

Average wait time to get into train: 20 min (Tot Travel Time = 110 min)

Train travel time: 10 min (Tot Travel Time = 120 min)

This is the most comfortable 10 minutes of my commute because the airconditioning unit usually works and I may possibly have a seat (if I'm agressive enough going in and pushed the other ladies).

Once I reach my stop, I take the office bus or the regular commute bus.

The office bus typically takes 30 min to get to the stop. Why? The office only rents 2 shuttles and the traffic between Makati (where I am) and BGC (the office) can go from 30 min to an hour because there are only two roads that connect the two cities! (Somebody probably said a big "Fuck You" to urban planning).

The commute bus is bigger but farther down the road and by this time, I am dead tired. From my whole commute, I've only sat down for 40 minutes and my feet are killing me. Plus I'm sweaty and it's so humid and hot.

Average wait time for company shuttle: 30 min (Tot Travel Time = 150 min)

Shuttle travel time: 40 min (Tot Travel Time = 190)

I've been commuting for a little over 3 hours and most of it spent on my feet. Needless to say, I quit that company as soon as a could (i.e. when I've saved enough of a buffer). I lasted 7 months with that kind of commute and I can honestly say, that was the worst job of my life. The primary reason being the long commute.

Going back home, I always just felt so crippled. I had to eat at KFC every night (buying meals for less than a dollar) just to wait the traffic and lines out. I leave the office at 7pm and often get back home at around 10:30pm. This was no life. There was no "free time" to enjoy the little things. You can't read books because you're so cramped. You had no data/Internet because you had no money (if you did, you'd be living in the city you worked in). You don't talk to people because everyone's as tired as you are at 9am in the morning, and at night, everyone's grouchy already. You can listen to music but that's all you can do.

No one could pay me enough to go through that hell again. And unfortunately, my hell isn't even one of the worst. I know of people who travel 5 or even 6 hours one way. This is just punishment for crimes our government officials did.