We are lucky and privileged

This is just a reminder that we, car owners, are lucky and privileged. Despite the challenges of the community quarantine, we still have it easier than the majority of the people.

Our biggest gripe before was the traffic and how it takes hours for us to get home. But we didn’t have to cram ourselves into our vehicles, we’re safe from the smoke during traffic, and we didn’t have to switch rides just to get home.

Remember when the Enhanced Community Quarantine happened? The capital stopped almost literally as public transport was suspended. People had to fight their way into the available rides while some were left with no choice but to walk. Upon arriving in their areas, checkpoints were already established and the curfew was already imposed – you can’t go home despite being a couple of kilometers away from your house.

When they published the guidelines, tricycles, the only public transport that goes house to house, were not allowed; meaning people had to walk to go to essential stores that remained open. Replenishing your supplies became a daunting task too because aside from the risk of getting the virus, well, you have to walk your way to and from the market. I’ve met these people and some have trolleys to bring their groceries while others used luggage bags. Unfortunately, there are also those who had to walk around a kilometer with 3-5 bags of groceries numbing their hand.

What’s worse is even for frontliners, there’s limited means of  transportation. Those working in the hospital, if lucky, can avail of the libreng sakay but for the others like those working in groceries and drugstores, there’s no choice but to walk. 

We didn’t want to be villains in the public’s eyes but that’s what it seemed when we could travel and they had to walk. Those who have a motorcycle were forbidden from having backriders even if that’s a family member or a frontliner. Meanwhile, we were able to line up when Starbucks opened their drive-thru services. Tomas Morato was clogged during Mother’s Day because we can pick up our orders or get one for take-out — while non-car owners have to postpone their celebration until they can go out again. 

When MECQ was imposed, Malacanang stated that businesses that cannot provide shuttle services for their employees should not resume work – but that’s all for naught. Some offices resumed despite not providing a shuttle and workers were forced to figure out a way for themselves. What can they do? Defy the order? They were already placed in the 50% skeletal workforce. They can’t risk getting fired during this time.

Even in the GCQ, the commuting public would still be unlucky as all PUVs are only allowed to take in 50% of their capacity in order to observe social distancing. No motorcycle taxis would be allowed, the same with jeepneys with older style where the passengers are facing each other – only modern jeepneys can resume. Train riders are also facing longer lines as the capacity of each train significantly decreased.

What that means is everyday would be a Monday rush hour for commuters. The number of public transportation units didn’t increase, but their capacities decreased, so more people would be left on the streets and there will be longer lines in train stations as the sun rises up every day. It would be the same story going home.

A number of people already bought bikes or motorcycles as their own means of transportation. However, come rainy season, these people would be racing for any roof they can find, making their travel time longer.

You might be having a sigh of relief right now because you — a car owner — is safe from that. However for some, they are filled with dread. There are people who bought their car this past couple of years on loan and right now those cars are in danger of being repossessed. Some people didn’t have an income at all during the ECQ period. Some, even if they go back to work, are facing salary cuts due to the market situation, thus derailing their monthly budget. Even if the banks give them the 6-month amortization for their backlog in payment, that would still be added on top of the standard monthly due.

So the next time you road rage, argue or berate an officer, beat the red light, don’t use your turn signals, overspeed, counter-flow, illegally park, try to get ahead of the line, swerve, brake-check and more, just remember, having a car is a privilege and we shouldn’t take it for granted.

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