Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Jesus Didn't Drive (or "Drivers, Leave Your Catholicism at Home")

By now you all know of my fondness for the drivers in the Philippines. It took another step in the wrong direction the other day.

Our condominium complex sits at the corner of the major intersection of Ayala Avenue and Sen. Gil. Puyat Avenue (Buendia is the old name which everyone knows and uses and I will continue with that because I don't like having to type out the new one.) Anyway, it is one of the few intersections governed by a traffic light in metro Manila. Traffic lights are relatively common here in Makati, but in the rest of the metro area it is every driver for themself. It is in the spirit of the latter in which most drivers drive. It is also one of many intersections here where no left turns are allowed. Period. Doesn't matter which street you're on, you can't turn left onto the other. That's the rule. Signs are posted. Police ticket offenders. Just keep making rights until you go all the way around the block and you'll have effectively turned left in the end.

Being a major intersection, there are also crosswalks with walk lights present. I almost mis-typed that as "walk lights pleasant" which would not only have resulted in an incompleted sentence but also an untruth. The walk lights are anything but pleasant. The green 'walk' signal has turned to the red 'don't walk' once the average person has made it halfway across the street.

Anyway, the whole no left turn thing the other night seemed to be too much of a bother for three drivers. Three pedestrians (myself amongst them) who were halfway across the street (we'd made it as far as the safety island at this point) on what had begun as a green walk light suddenly found a bus pass in front of us headed from Ayala left down Buendia towards the bay.

"@#%* Idiot!" we all thought (at least I did), taking a cautionary look to our right before continuing onwards. Well, the next thing we know, a bus and a taxi decided to do the same thing the first bus did...and at high speed...while we were in the crosswalk! (Whose light had turned red as soon as we stepped off the safety island!) There was a great amount of dramatic breaking on the part of the bus but not enough that it could be stopped as we ran out of the way. Really, what we should have done is all just stand there in front of the stopped bus and waited. Waited while it blocked part of the intersection. Waited for a police officer to come from the Makati Central Police Station just two blocks away to issue a citation.

Wouldn't you just love to do that? Just stand there and block a bus driver (or any driver!) who recklessly ignored the rules like that? Blocking all the other traffic, so that the passengers of the bus as well as countless other motorists would be fuming with anger towards the bus driver?! I realize it's all a bit overdramatic, like "Tank Man", the unknown man who stood before

the tank in the streets of Beijing during the Tiananmen Square Massacre. He was probably jailed and/or executed shortly thereafter. We'll never know. After all, the massacre never happened, so he probably never existed.

Anyway, this all brings me to this conclusion, because I know you are wondering how all this ties into the title of this entry, right?! (Scroll up. I'll wait....) My conclusion is that aside from being amongst the worst-behaved drivers in the world, Filipino drivers are a bit like conservative Christian, right-wing evangelists and politicians. Their faith is for show only. They shouldn't have to practice what they preach so long as people keep sending them money so they can enjoy the pleasures of a massage with 'happy ending' from a muscled masseur after having just delivered a sermon on the horrors of homosexuality and promiscuity. Filipino drivers ornament their vehicles with sayings, including quotes from the Bible, "Jesus Alone Saves", "God Bless Us", "God's Blessing", etc. Yet they seem to have no problem in mowing down pedestrians, disobeying the rules of law, intentionally cutting off other motorists, etc.

It may be a visit to the Philippines by someone in the Vatican's office for migrants and itinerant people, or Cardinal Renato Martino, who heads the office that has prompted a sort of '10 Commandments' of driving, issued on June 19th. It warns about the effects of road rage, saying driving can bring out "primitive" behavior in motorists, including "impoliteness, rude gestures, cursing, blasphemy, loss of sense of responsibility or deliberate infringement of the highway code." It urges motorists to obey traffic regulations, drive with a moral sense, and to pray when behind the wheel. (PRAY when behind the wheel?! I've seen drivers who can barely DRIVE when behind the wheel!! As a passenger, I've often prayed before getting in the car with certain drivers, but have been too distracted once on the road to do much real prayer. Usually all I could come up with was a series of "Oh God!", "Oh My God!", and "Oh Jesus!" due to the fear factor of being in the same vehicle with such unskilled drivers.)

So I figure you can either bless yourself and say the rosary while driving, as the Cardinal recommends or just be a decent human being to other motorists and pedestrians in the case you aren't Catholic/Christian. Either way, you wouldn't last a second in Manila...nor would the person you ran over while you were on a "Hail Mary".

1 comment:

Karla said...

I have always said that traffic lights/signs (when not stolen for scrap metal)and rules (lack thereof) in the Philippines are merely suggestions. :o) Thoroughly enjoying the musings!