Commuting Northbound Versus Southbound, And The Minutes In-Between

Metro Manila is notorious for its congested traffic: north or south, east or west, there’s no way out of it. But as a north-turned-south-girl, I can confidently say that there’s a HUGE difference in terms of traffic and long lines depending on the direction you’re coming from.

I used to live in Katipunan; from there, I would commute to Cubao via jeep, and then to school in Pasig via MRT. On a good day, i.e. if I left my house at 5:30 a.m., I would get to Pasig at around 7-7:30 a.m. But now that I live in Paranaque, I commute from there to the terminal via tricycle, to Ayala via UV Express, and then to Pasig via MRT. If I leave at 6 a.m., I will probably arrive in Pasig at around 8 a.m. While commuting southbound from Katipunan can be shorter than commuting northbound from Paranaque by 30 minutes, this time difference is not significant, considering that Katipunan is much closer to Pasig than Paranaque. Moreover, even if you supposedly save 30 minutes, the time in-between those minutes are far more tiring, sweaty, and frenzied than the extra minutes spent navigating the concrete jungle of Ayala. The tip of this iceberg is shown on Google Maps: as of the time of this writing, i.e. 9:06 a.m. on a Thursday, commuting from Katipunan to Pasig would take one hour and 47 minutes, while commuting from Paranaque to Pasig would take one hour and 54 minutes. Google Maps suggests more roundabout routes, so the time difference between northbound and southbound is only seven minutes, but my main point is that commuting northbound only seems to be shorter.

There is no direct route from Katipunan to Pasig; you’re going to have to take a detour to either Cubao or Eastwood (which means going a bit farther north before going south). Let me tell you, going to Cubao every day is not fun: the difference between 6:15 and 6:30 a.m. is everything. 6:15 can get your jeep to Cubao in 10 minutes, but 6:30 will have you stuck in front of Camp Aguinaldo for an hour. With the sun climbing higher in the sky and cars coming to pile up on the road, the air inevitably becomes hotter as the pollution grows thicker. Likewise, one minute you could innocently be standing on the MRT platform, revelling in the sunshine; but the next minute will bring hordes and crowds of sweaty people making four lines when there should only be two, elbowing you in the ribs, or pushing you where there simply isn’t any space. All this coupled with the stress of being late. While this madness spans two hours, they are the longest parts of the day: you arrive at school or work already tired. So, the lesson of the story is: don’t delay leaving your house. 10 minutes is all it takes for the world to become a gloopy soup with no exit or any regard for your time.

The line to the UV Express from Paranaque to Ayala, on the other hand, never becomes impossible: while it may start to spill over or wind around four times, the steady stream of UVs keeps the line moving. It can get hot and sweaty, but the feeling of moving forward eases the frustration. Once you’re inside the UV, you can sit back and relax: it will take 20-40 minutes for the van to get to Landmark (from which you can walk to the MRT). Though the time spent in the UV is quite long, at least it’s aircon and you’re sitting down; you won’t smell any smoke-belchers and people will rarely elbow you in the ribs. Additionally, the lines in the Ayala MRT station are organized: no one makes more than two lines per set of doors, and everybody respects the person in front of them. But again, the rule of time applies here as well: regardless of how comfy a trip is, it will take longer if you leave later.

More people live in the north than in the south: at the end of the day, it can be observed that there are not as many people on the southbound platform compared to the northbound platform. If you live towards the north, going to and from central Metro Manila is exasperating; but if you live towards the south, going home can be a breeze. In any case, I would rather spend my time waiting and sitting quietly rather than competing for a four-inch space on a bus or MRT. The travel time from north to south and vice versa are fairly close, but what happens in-between those times makes all the difference, conditioning your mood and attitude for the rest of the day. Regardless of where you’re coming from, never forget the bottom line: time management. Leave when you have to and don’t delay, or you’ll be stuck in a line for an hour or two.

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