Last semester I took an Advocacy class called, Engagement in the city. A frequent topic discussed was the concept of the neighborhood effect and how the spatity of where people live affects their life chances. Life chances are opportunities people have that allow them to have more or less life chances than someone else. Many of these things can be related to educational attainment, socioeconomic status, employment, access to transportation, etc.
Transportation is an integral part in how people live. It allows us to not only get from one place to another but also have the ability to acquire the resources we need to survive. I’ll give a simple example: the ability to get to school. If a child is unable to get to school, then how will they obtain an education that will allow them to get a job that makes them money. It is a vicious cycle that can be analyzed in multiple different ways. Today I am going to dive into transportation in the Philippines and the things I have observed during my time in the field as well as personal experiences I have with getting around!
I never expected transportation to be one of the more difficult things I would have to deal with while living abroad. Not only is finding a way to get around intimidating and a bit confusing, but the traffic is unreal! Transportation in the Philippines is much different than in the United States. At home, most forms of transportation are through private cars and public transportation like bus, train and air. Many of those forms of transportation are not common here. In my earlier blog post I briefly talked about Jeepneys which is a common form of transportation here. You wave down a jeepney similar to a taxi. You then ride until you get close enough to your location to walk or to transfer to another Jeepney. It is all easier said than done, they move quickly and oftentimes it is difficult to know if you are even heading in the right direction. However, I will say after a few rides you definitely get the hang of it. Another form of transportation is via Tricycle which consists of a motor bike with a small carriage to the right of it. Although it looks small you can fit up to 6 people not including the driver. It is quite amazing to watch. Although private cars also do exist they are not as common and quite impractical. It is extremely expensive to own a private car because of gas prices and the car itself cannot be afforded by many Filipino salaries. Traffic is constant and rarely lets up, unless it’s Sunday. To get 5 km(3 miles) in the US might take 10 minutes but here it could take up to an hour. You always have to account for traffic in your travel times.
Transportation like I said can be very difficult and many can’t afford it which is why a common way of getting around is through walking or biking. When I was in the field I traveled to Barangays that were very rural and quite treacherous to get to. One story I wrote about in my notes stood out the most to me:
“A Walk Home from School – I had just climbed up over 100 stairs to get to the top of this beautiful waterfall only to realize there are still many meters of rocky terrain and smaller waterfalls if I truly wanted to reach the top. Although I find myself exhausted and overcome by my adventure already I decide to enjoy the view from where I’m at. All of a sudden 4 little children round the corner of the steps and begin their walk into the same path I took. At first I thought they were playing in the waterfall but then They continued walking and walking. They were no older than 8 and as young as 4. They held hands as they walked through the more dangerous and slippery areas. The oldest boy would test the boundaries before his two younger sisters and brother made their way. My coworkers told me there’s a village upon the waterfall behind the cliff. I watched in utter disbelief as I realized these kids were walking home from their trek into the town. To and from school, the store, even just civilization, these kids must make this hike. How dangerous I thought, how could a mother let her children do this? However, another part of me thought well what else are they supposed to do. Sometimes these children will carry bags of rice or food bags. I watched as every once in a while they would slip and fall back a few feet. It was truly remarkable to watch them reach the top. 25 minutes just to cross the waterfall.”
I truly believe transportation is an important component to the way people live and the opportunities to important life chances someone has. I constantly think about these children and how making this climb is the only thing they know and may ever know. I wonder about their access to food and water, as well as school and medical treatment. Examples of this are what attribute to the reasons some people live the way they do. I continue to be amazed by everything that I see and experience every day that I am here. I truly am amazed by the people here and the resiliency they show in so many different ways.