Manila–In Manila, traffic is always heavy. Even when it’s less than congested by the standards of other cities, it’s heavy. Cars and trucks manuver with lime green and rose red motorbikes, pedicabs and jeepneys.
Jeepneys are Manila’s rolling cultural icons. They are converted WW II-style Jeeps stretched with passenger cabs to accommodate twenty or more people. Stretch Jeeps.
They are made of molded sheets of stainless steel and aluminum and loaded with chrome and other ornaments such as wings on the hood and passenger cabin. Brightly colored mural expertly rendered by air brush artists depict scenes that refer to nature and modern life.
Where else can you see Jesus air brushed in great, refined detail next to an equally vibrant image of Spiderman? All bases covered.
In congested cities–New York, Cairo, and Manila–traffic moves as a whole, shifting in unison like a flock of sparrows darting and reversing as if they are one.
So it is in Manila’s thoroughfare. The incessant honking of horns is of a different type. In New York a honk often means, “Get out of my way, I’m coming through.” In Manila it means, “I’m over here, just inches to your side. Don’t swerve, we’re already as close as we can be without touching.” It’s friendly honking.
If there is a rule in congested traffic, it’s fill the gap, and Manila’s drivers do it with reflexive skill.
Driving here seems as much about positioning as about reaching your destination. In traffic like this the occasions for anger are many. Nonstop, actually. So, acceptance and temperance are a better adaptation, and more healthy.
The energy required to react to every perceived slight would be exhausting. It can be put to better use than anger, which won’t change things anyway.
So people simply move through the maze of vehicles and clamor and go about their daily affairs, filling the gaps and quietly reminding each other, “I’m here. Take care.”