Middle Class Commuting Or Just Going Out During Quarantine

Middle Class Commuting Or Just Going Out During Quarantine

Ma. Luisa "Louie" P. Sebastianhttp://contributor
Ma. Luisa “Louie” Sebastian is Senior Adviser for Strategic Communications of Page One Group News/Media. She loves to write, dance, and watch movies. She is currently Vice President-Internal of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines.

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Gone are the days that malling was a de-stressor after a hard day’s work. Exciting land and air travel to beach destinations are mere Facebook memories for now. Couple dates, night-out with friends are also a thing of the past.

Fear, restlessness and worry envelope anyone who goes out of the house today. This health crisis due to COVID-19 has wrapped everyone in anxiety.

This was confirmed by a recent survey commissioned by PhilCare, a health maintenance organization, which showed that 77% of the respondents said they do not feel at ease leaving their homes amid a pandemic, 88.75% were uncomfortable going to the mall, 87.75% to restaurants, 86% on vacation, and 70.75% to hospitals. The study was conducted through a phone interview with 400 respondents from 41 provinces between May 10 and 14.

But come June 1, many of us reported back to work onsite. The need to provide for our family strengthens our will to fight this invisible enemy.

Commuting pre-COVID

Horrendous traffic characterizes Metro Manila trips. Mass public transport is the best way to reach your destination sans the stress of wading through traffic.

Back in 2009 to 2014 when I worked in Pasay, I enjoyed riding the LRT/MRT from Quezon City since I had time to read a book while on-board the train. Since January of this year, I always look forward to my P2P bus ride to Makati. My flexible working arrangements allow me to choose the days that I report to the office so I arrive and leave Makati during off-peak hours. I leave my car at UPTC which only charges P45 for a whole day of parking. P2P has provided middle class commuters with comfort and convenience at a reasonable fare of P100 per trip.

My friend Lauro refuses to buy a car although he can afford one. Instead, he opted to invest in two e-bikes and four bicycles which he said, allows him better mobility. He also prefers to ride the LRT where the trip from Pedro Gil (Makati) to Munoz (Quezon City) only takes 35 minutes. He walks for about 10 minutes to reach his office. In the past, MRT rides were a punishment when only less than 10 trains operated. But now, he said they are back on track with 18 to 19 trains per day. Payment through BEEP card also allowed him seamless transfer from MRT to LRT or vice-versa.

Unlike other middle class families who buy second-hand cars because they refuse to avail of a car loan, Lauro finds it impractical to purchase one due to high maintenance costs which could easily spike to P50,000 annually and this does not include the cost of road accidents that he may encounter. For family events, he said it is easy to rent a van nowadays.

Lauro swears on the efficiency of e-bikes which he said can make one roundtrip from Paco (Manila) to BGC (Taguig) or Pioneer (Mandaluyong). But e-bikes run slow at about 55 kilometers per hour so he just leaves the house early. But this is insignificant compared to the cost of gasoline that he saves and the benefits to the environment of using e-bikes which are smoke-free.

Travelling under the new normal

Mayie who lives in Cavite and works in Makati did not see any time difference in her commute before the lockdown and when she resumed work last June 1. Her one hour travel time to Makati is the same because she waits longer at the P2P terminal where new protocols on health and safety have been implemented to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

To go home from the terminal, a shuttle ferries the residents of the subdivision but Mayie said she prefers to do the 15 minute walk. Before the lockdown, the shuttle fare was only P15 but it was doubled upon resumption of operations last month. But she said that residents did not complain because the shuttles are now modern with aircondition. People are willing for pay for comfort and convenience.

My other friend Tina said her trip to Makati from Cainta has been cut by about 1.5 hours. When she reports to her office, sadness envelopes her with the sight of empty roads knowing that this is a sign of a dying economy.

Some notes on going out

Call me a paranoid but I believe that this should be our mindset while we are in this pandemic. Whenever I go out, which is very rare, I put on a battle mode – alert, attentive and cautious.

In my recent trip to the grocery after more than a month, I was annoyed by some people for who threw caution to the wind. Two senior citizens who were in their mid-70s argued with the guards who refused them entry. He explained to them that they are only allowed in the grocery and drugstore but not inside the mall. But the seniors shouted at the guard and even insulted him. The line was too long already so the guard had no choice but to let them in.

Inside the grocery, four women in their mid-50s, started chatting incessantly. I also saw a woman accompanied by her son who must be about 15 years old. Then I saw another senior citizen remove her mask while waiting for the elevator and when I called her attention, she said it was difficult to breath.

When I posted these observations online, a friend posted that she also saw a middle-aged woman with two kids, about 5 and 7 years old, inside the same grocery. A cousin in Bulacan said she also saw one family go to the mall.

With more people out on the streets, there is a higher chance of COVID-19 transmission regardless of whether the quarantine level has been downgraded. The bottomline is that we are still on community quarantine and the virus still lurks out there. Until a vaccine for this virus is available, physical distancing and strict compliance with sanitary measures are our only way to avoid this disease.

Photo Credit: DOTr MRT-3 Facebook Page

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