Caught (up) in traffic

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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Quiapo, Manila

The Quiapo district of Manila is one of the oldest CBDs in the metropolis and is a major end point for public transport similar to Cubao and Divisoria. Quiapo is best known for its church, which is dedicated to the Black Nazarene, and one of the most visited by pilgrims in the Philippines along with Baclaran (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) and Antipolo (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage). Fridays are usually the most congested days in the area as it is the day designated for services for the Black Nazarene (Note: Wednesdays are for Baclaran.).

IMG_0377Underpass along Quezon Boulevard – the Far Eastern University is at the left while the bridge downstream is the elevated LRT Line 2 that is directly above Claro M. Recto Avenue. At right are commercial and residential buildings surrounding the Manila City Jail. The building at the right behind the LRT 2 is the Isetann mall.

IMG_0378Grade separation – the Quezon Blvd. underpass running beneath LRT Line 2 and Claro M. Recto Ave. has 3 lanes per direction.

IMG_0379The Intramuros-bound direction of Quezon Blvd. has five (5) lanes but these are confused due to the lack of lane markings. Effectively, there are only 4 lanes due to road-side parking and pedestrian activity. While many old buildings are designed in the arcade style where pedestrians are supposed to have right-of-way, these are usually occupied by merchandize, signs and other obstacles to pedestrian flow. As such, pedestrians walk along the carriageway as seen in the photo.

IMG_0380One of the side streets in Quiapo is Raon, popular for electronics and camera shops. People came and continue to come here for good deals on music players, karaoke machines, speakers, digital cameras and other electronic goods. However, one has to be attentive or alert as there are supposedly many snatchers and pickpockets in the area.

IMG_0381The Quiapo Church is a shrine dedicated to the Black Nazarene. The Feast Day every January attracts hundreds of thousands of people in a procession that now starts from the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park and ends at the church.

IMG_0382The giant screen usually shows ads by the sponsor, a major drugstore chain, and popular television shows. The screen is quite bright at night and you can see many people gathering around for when it features primetime TV shows.

IMG_0383Plaza Miranda in front of Quiapo Church has been the site of many events including the infamous bombing of a political gathering in 1972 that led to the imposition of Martial Law in September of that year. Common around the plaza are vendors peddling herbal medicines, religious items, and even religious services like praying for the client in exchange for a small fee. There are also fortune tellers and other characters.

IMG_0384Past the Quiapo church is the ramp towards the Quezon Bridge. Underneath and faintly visible in the photo is an underpass along which is Carlos Palanca Street that leads to Rizal Avenue in the northwest and P. Casal in the southeast. There are many shops along this road where the Quinta Market is also located at the corner of Quezon Blvd. and Palanca Street. Among these shops are those selling handicrafts and the notorious ones selling bootleg DVD movies.

IMG_0385Approach to Quezon Bridge, one of the oldest bridges in Manila spanning the Pasig River. It’s steel truss design has been an example used in many civil engineering and architecture classes.

IMG_0386A closer look at Quezon Bridge.

Streets of Intramuros: Calle Real del Palacio

I haven’t had a good chance to take photos of the streets in Intramuros, Manila. The historic streets within what was for hundreds of years regarded as Manila deserves a more detailed treatment. Recently, I have been able to go around a little bit thanks to meetings at the DPWH and a lecture at the Mapua Institute of Technology. I took full advantage of the opportunity to take photos along some streets along the way to my meetings and am posting these in a few articles about what I think should be a good example for heritage conservation including the street names and old structures within the walled city.

The original name of Andres Soriano Jr. Avenue, the main road stretching from Plaza Mexico along the Pasig River to A. Bonifacio Drive in the Port Area, was Calle Real del Palacio. I believe they should have stuck with the original name in order to preserve this piece of history. Our politicians have a penchant for renaming streets after their kin, heroes, or for purposes like claiming that we should exorcise names associated with our colonial past. While the latter seems to be a basis for changing names elsewhere (not just in the Philippines), perhaps the remedy here is to still retain the original name under the new one.

          IMG_0415Ruins of the aduana or customs building, visible upon turning from the Muelle Del Rio at Plaza Mexico towards Andres Soriano Jr. Ave.

IMG_0416The road is a four lane, two-way street. It is usually congested because of public transport loading and unloading operations (usually in the middle of the street) and roadside parking, which is tolerated. In fact, there are parking aides in charge of collecting fees from drivers parking along the streets. Intramuros is host to a lot of offices, commercial establishments and schools – all major traffic generators that attract so many vehicles thereby requiring a lot of parking space. The building to the left is the reconstructed building where the old ayuntamiento used to stand.

IMG_0417The new building where the ayuntamiento was is now supposed to be the new offices of the Bureau of Treasury.

IMG_0418The open space at left is the along which are many parked cars is the Plaza Roma, which is in front of the Manila Cathedral. The building right after the plaza is where the Palacio del Gobernador used to be. It is now the offices of the Bureau of Treasury.

IMG_0419Cabildo Street, one of the side streets from across the Plaza Roma, which ultimately leads to Fort Santiago.

IMG_04206Another look at the building where the old Governor’s Palace used to be. Visible downstream along the Soriano Ave. is the gate leading to the Simeon de Anda monument located at a roundabout along A. Bonifacio Drive.

IMG_0421At right is Gen. Antonio Luna Street, which is another main road that has one end at Puerto Real, the southernmost gate of the Intramuros and the other at Fort Santiago. Curiously, this road was also called Calle Real del Palacio as it passed in front of the Palacio del Gobernador.

IMG_0422A view along Gen. Antonio Luna Street towards Fort Santiago, which is a one-way street.

IMG_0423Western entrance to Intramuros along Soriano Ave. leads to Bonifacio Drive and the Port Area.

IMG_0424Arzobispo Street, which also leads to Fort Santiago but also passes along the Archbishop’s Palace, the office of the Archdiocese of Manila and with its southernmost end at San Agustin Church.

IMG_0425The Simeon de Anda monument at the Anda Circle along Bonifacio Drive.

Namumulaklak

The Filipino term “namumulaklak” usually refers to flowering plants when blossoms appear around the equivalent of  springtime. This term has also been used to describe passenger behavior, sabit or to hang, particularly when public transport vehicles are already full and the more daring people hang at the door of the vehicle. When one says namumulaklak yung jeepney (the jeepney is like a flowering plant), this refers to a several passengers dangling from the rear door of the vehicle such as what is shown in the photos below. Perhaps the one who coined the phrase sees the jeepney as a bouquet with the people hanging behind as the flower buds?

IMG05404-20130208-1749Jeepney along Marcos Highway in Pasig City

I took the preceding photo while traveling along Marcos Highway en route to Antipolo, Rizal. The corridor has been served by jeepneys as far as I can remember. The scene is one you’d see every time during peak periods despite prohibition of this practice by authorities. Jeepneys easily evade being apprehended as the driver or conductor of the vehicle usually accepts only a few hangers-on and asks the latter to dip their heads so police or traffic enforcers cannot easily see the violation as the jeepney approaches. One or two people hanging behind the jeepney is quite common and generally tolerated along many roads. Enforcers says they are usually against excessive sabit when the risks are higher that one would fall off the jeepney.

This behavior is not exclusive to Metro Manila jeepneys but may be observed in other cities and towns as well. In certain cases such as Baguio City in the north, there are even passengers on the roof of the vehicle. While more unsafe, the behavior is tolerated and, surprisingly, there are minimal incidents of people falling off. Some foreign tourists are even offered rides on the roof and those seeking some thrill often oblige and just try to keep a tight hold on whatever that will keep them from falling off the vehicle.

IMG_2296Jeepney along Kennon Road heading up to Baguio City

IMG_2298Another jeepney along Kennon Road

DSC05130Jeepney along National Road in Bondoc Peninsula, Quezon

DSC05132Another jeepney along the national highway in Quezon

I used to hang behind jeepneys when I was commuting back during my college days. I had to take 2 jeepney rides between our home and UP Diliman. Those times it was quite difficult to get my first ride to or from the old jeepney terminal near Katipunan Avenue. To get a seat will take you a lot of time or would require one to go to Cubao where there are queues for jeepneys passing our village. Going to Cubao meant spending more for fares and so we would usually try to chance upon jeepneys with none or few sabit so we could be relatively safe under the rear roof of the jeepney rather than dangling outside. Many jeepney drivers seem to revel in trying to shake off people as they drive recklessly along the spacious Marcos Highway. Among the most notorious are jeepneys plying the Antipolo-Cubao via Sumulong Highway, Cubao-Montalban, Angono-Cubao (Double Highway) routes, particularly those which as regarded as patok (popular) jeepneys with their signature loud stereos blaring rock or hip hop music.

There are calls for enforcers to apprehend more violators and be firm with the law against such risky behavior on public transport vehicles. These calls are correct and there should be a strong campaign to reduce sabit. But what is usually lost in the road safety discussion is the reality that such behavior stems from the fact that there is unserved transport demand along the routes served by the jeepneys. This unserved demand means the supply side needs to be addressed first by determining why people are having difficulties getting seats when these are needed. It is not simply a coincidence that the time when it’s most difficult to get a ride is during the peak period. But this does not mean we have to provide all the vehicles with the equivalent number of seats during this time. Note that the resulting number of public utility vehicles will be excessive as they are not required during the rest of the day. The key is to understand that the travel speeds and turnaround times of public transport needs to be improved, and that means addressing congestion and not just increasing seating capacities for passengers by increasing vehicles. This is actually a daunting job and one that requires some clever analysis considering the overlapping routes in many Philippine cities. Perhaps one approach is really to simplify route structures and this can only be done if there are mass transit systems that can provide backbone services for most commuters.