Pedestrian panic in Metro Manila

I really miss my acquired “pedestrian power” in Switzerland.

Today, I ventured out of my comfort zone (read: my parents’ house in Las Pinas, a city south of Manila) for the first time, and hied off to Manila with my sister using public transport. Little did I know that I had to relearn how to cross the street Philippine-style in order not to lose my life while on vacation to visit my family and friends.

In Manila’s concrete jungle, the pedestrians seem to have no rights at all. Drivers are the kings and queens of the road. They don’t let pedestrians cross the street even at pedestrian crossings. You cross at your own risk. Motorists, most often than not, are not gracious. (But in fairness to Filipino motorists, a number of pedestrians are also undisciplined and are guilty of jaywalking. During my driving days in the Philippines, I almost hit and run over people who had the gall to cross streets at undesignated places.)

This afternoon, I almost got hit by a speeding van while crossing the street along the pedestrian lane on my way to the jeepney loading zone near Manila’s city hall. If my reflex system had been undependable — that is, failing to rush to the other side of the street on time — I would have been the next police report in the area. My epitaph would have read: “Dead due to lack of alertness while crossing a main street in Manila. Forgot that white pedestrian crossings in the city are not recognized by Filipino motorists after migrating to Switzerland.

Uninitiated Swiss people will definitely have a hard time in Metro Manila if and when they decide to tour some areas of the metropolis on foot. I think my step-mother-in-law will not survive here on Day 1 alone.

Where, o where, are the yellow pedestrian crossings of Switzerland? Suddenly, I miss the Swiss drivers who step on their breaks every time they see me cross the street at designated crossing lanes. Those yellow lines empower me with pedestrian rights, something that seem non-existent here in the Philippines.

While I can walk leisurely and with dignity as I cross the streets of Switzerland, here in Manila, just the mere thought of making the first step to reach point B from point A that traverse a busy street already gives me the jitters. I should wear a reliable pair of running shoes next time if I have the guts to go back to the “battlefield” where there’s an ongoing war between pedestrians and motorists on who has the right of way.

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