Since 1965 until recently, I had lived with traffic in the cities, more or less of it. I grew up in a small town and lived in a plant nursery which was less than a kilometer away from my school. Traffic, I could say now, was zero; and I and my siblings had to walk barefoot (except for my sisters who were given flip-flops or rubber slippers, as called then). To reach the town proper, we either walked or, if my mother needed to do her marketing, took a horse-drawn carriage.
Cars, jeepneys and buses were few and it took us not much faster to travel by carriage than by walking. People walk and horses trot or run, but only because people make them do so with a whip. Otherwise, horses would graze like goats or cows, if left in the wild. They run only when at play, it seems.
So you see, we have altered the way of nature in the name of so-called human progress. And, in the process, caused so much traffic with all the so-called horsepower we have created. First, they used horses to fight battles and conquer nations; and now we use them symbolically to gain progress. No wonder, the avenging King will come riding on a mighty white horse to proclaim judgment on all flesh. Puny human rulers have always trusted in horses, as the psalmist said, and have, therefore, rejected the One Who holds the real power.
But in small towns, particularly in upland Cavite, people walk s-l-o-w-ly. People there are so used to their unhurried pace that it took me a while to keep in-step with their rhythm. In the beginning, I was so stressed out and often lost my temper over my students’ “slow pace” in class as well (I tutor high-school students in a Math-scholarship program on weekends). Eventually, I learned the way people moved and lived. They even have a place named Marahan (slow); and so I tease my students that they all live in Marahan for the way they walked – and thought. On the other hand, they have another barrio named Lucsuhin (jump over) which is the most progressive part of Alfonso town – it will probably end up jumping out and becoming a separate town, eventually. There the traffic during market days can be “heavy” – which means waiting 10 to 15 minutes to cross the area, which is not bad at all.
In Alfonso, in particular, traffic gets tight mostly during fiesta celebrations and during the occasional processions for burials and weddings when vehicles line up to enter the church compound and block the main-town road along the compact business district (the length of three small blocks you can walk in two minutes or less!).
So traffic in the provinces is not the same traffic we see and hear of in Metro Manila or other major cities. For instance, Tagaytay Ridge area where I have lived for almost a year can also become a big parking lot like EDSA on weekends when tourists invade it for its diverse restos, landscape vistas and tourist thrills.
But traffic (the horrendous kind) brings a variety of economic and social ills: It is a waste of time, money and energy and is hazardous to health. Time wasted in traffic can be redeemed somehow if you have a book to read or a tablet to browse on. Money can be earned in so many other ways, especially if you can manage your business using a smartphone or if you work online. And energy can be conserved or recovered, as done by so many, by sleeping through traffic (if you are not driving). But good health is one thing you cannot maintain if you are in a jeepney or an ordinary bus gulping all the pollution of the streets. Even in aircon buses, the pollution remains in circulation, although we do not seem to feel or even realize it. The heat can also add to the deterioration of the body’s capacity to recover from stress, especially if one undergoes the same suffering on a daily-basis. The mental or psychological toll can cause various imbalances in people’s lives and relationships.
We all know the cost of having horrible traffic jams in terms of fuel energy wasted. We probably also have an idea as to how many suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases from living in the city with its unhealthful conditions. Yes, even when you are at home, living in the city makes you a captive victim of traffic’s exhaustive influence.
So, what does one do to escape the effects of traffic, in particular, aside from using dust masks or car ionizers? The best solution would be to get away from the city; but that is not an option for the majority. Tesla, the newest and most popular and probably the most dynamic car-manufacturer at present, provides the major solution: electric cars. Yes, now we also have electric motorbikes sold in many places. However, the Philippine government has not made any official or any major push to encourage people to go clean and green, except for that belated electric multiple-bus concept in Angeles City recently.
Developing countries have long started to take the path to renewable energy sources. No, it will not solve the traffic problem; but it will solve the major concerns connected to city vehicular traffic. Less fumes, less smog, less exhaust heat, less noise and less dependence on imported fossil fuels. And, hopefully, fewer health problems for city-dwellers.
We cannot eliminate traffic. We would have to eliminate people and the whole modern economic system to do so. But out there in the small towns, traffic (or the lack of it) is so much like the traffic (yes, the virtual absence of it) we had in my childhood days. Believe it or not! You can walk or drive for kilometers and not meet more than 5 vehicles all in all most times of the day.
Where to find such a place and how to get there is a matter of taking “the road less traveled”. By the way, when Robert Frost wrote that poem, the “road not taken” is the very same “road less-traveled” he mentions in the end – not the one he “did not” take. The only reason it was “less-traveled” was because he was the only one who had taken that road while most people had taken the “more-traveled” road. And that “made all the difference” in his own life.
Traffic, like the flow of life, determines what you see and experience in life. If you want to see new things and live life to its highest possibilities, you have to take the less-trodden ways and travel at your own pace and not at the pace of others who are driven by progress or personal gain while caught in modernity’s quagmire. If the one you eventually take has never been traveled at all, then you earn the right to be called a pioneer or a discoverer. Is that dangerous? Of course, it is! You could die. But so could you if you took other roads. In fact, in the crowded roads, you could die of more reasons other than that of simple dying. Meaning, dying the inglorious death of the multitudes rather the glorious death of the few.
Yes, traffic can lead to morbid thoughts of death and destruction. In the 70’s, students would have stormed Malacanang Palace if only to get better public service. Today, most people would not even sympathize with such students marching in the streets for the public’s sake for one main reason: They are causing traffic!
Who do we ultimately blame the traffic for other than the government officials? But the people or thinkers in-charge of development and progress do not have all the answers to all our personal problems and dreams. To start dealing with your own problems and reaching your dreams, walk the way where the journey and the end of the road leads to your chosen destination and you have only yourself to blame for not achieving your goals.
Caught in traffic? No, you are really caught in one of life’s tragic traps. Get out and see how much free and clean space – and life — there is out there. It only takes enough courage and a little wisdom.