Poetry on the road

Contemporary Filipino poet Allan Popa said it well: “Ang lahat ng daan ay daang pauwi (All roads lead back home).” And waxing poetic on highways is not ordinary to travelers whose senses find joy on a road trip.

“The road is alive. It has its own life,” says Arlette Capistrano, assistant vice president for communication and stakeholder management of Metro Pacific Tollways South (MPTS), a subsidiary of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), a company under the MVP Group of Companies, when she tags me along on a road trip to experience CALAX (Cavite-Laguna Expressway), NLEX (North Luzon Expressway) and SFEX (Subic Freeport Expressway).

“I will take you from the mountains to the beach,” Arlette promises. It is not a hollow promise. She means it as I experience anew the rolling terrain of Silang (when we pass CALAX) and the scenic port side of Subic (when we traverse the SFEX from NLEX) — all in three hours, in the car.

Arlette Capistrano, AVP for communication and stakeholder management of Metro Pacific Tollways South.

On highways, I see poetry everywhere when I look out the car window. Say, on the way to Silang, Cavite to eat breakfast at Concha’s restaurant, there are undulating patches of greenery amidst real estate developments. The well-paved roads add to an imminent travelogue in my mind.

Inside the car, on a wide highway, the view of the sky creates either an illusion or reality of infinity for an always excited passenger like me. The solemn, serene sight of black birds flying in flocks is temporarily disturbed when the car passes through those little bumps on the road that shake the passengers in the vehicle.

When fully operational, says Arlette (who’s also the spokesperson of the MPT South), CALAX will stretch to 45 kilometers of roads. The operational roads now are at 10 kilometers, from Mamplasan exit to Santa Rosa City.

“Our chairman, Manuel V. Pangilinan, always says, ‘You should do more things to improve the lives of people,’” says Arlette.

Indeed, state-of-the art highways (with sound barriers, those blue panels along the roads that muffle vehicle noises so as not to disturb the residential areas) improve the lives of people. Infrastructure is humanized when the vision to build it is based on creating better lives.

As MPT South spokesperson, Arlette’s responsibility is to ensure safety and security of motorists. She makes sure that correct and accurate information reaches the road users. “To ensure that they are out of harm’s way, they should be fully aware of activities, rules and regulations, when they use our toll roads. Messages are aligned throughout all communication platforms be it mainstream or digital,” says Arlette, who began her job in MPTC in 2016.

The MPTC, according to Arlette, involves itself in many CSRs including the planting and growing of trees, bougainvillea and flowering plants in the islands and the roadsides; implementing driver safety advocacy for proper driving along expressways; conducting community safety advocacy by cultivating a safe and secure environment of communities that rim the expressways; supporting the youth’s education with Brigada Eskwela; and participating in relief response for communities during disasters. 

Back to our road trip. From CALAX to SFEX is navigable in three hours. It’s inevitable to use the highways that belong to another company — the SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) and the Skyway 3 that are owned by San Miguel Corp. Tollways.

“The MPTC toll roads and SMC toll roads are not in competition. We complement the routes of each other. From the south to the north, we connect people to their families and friends. We help communities economically grow their tourism and trade,” says Arlette.

If both toll roads are complementary, why can’t passengers use just one RFID (radio frequency identification) on tollways?

Arlette says that, hopefully, a singular RFID will be available in time. She says, “On interoperability of the RFID, the RFID of Autosweep (for SMC toll roads) can now be read by the sensors of all MPTC toll roads. The technology teams of both infra companies are now in the testing phase for Easytrip (the RFID used by MPTC) to be read in SMC toll roads.”

The merged RFID is poetic justice every motorist deserves. The faster it is done, the better.

SFEX gives a mesmerizing view of the sea in Subic Freeport Zone.

Meanwhile, the road trip to Subic on SFEX is literal poetry in motion. From NLEX, the bougainvillea blooms on the islands are an abundance of joy. Bracts in fuchsia, magenta, lavender, baby pink, white and orange foretell of a happy, easy trip. The rice fields on either side of the highway are reminiscent of the obras of master painter Fernando Amorsolo. On a long stretch of roads, the traveler is at peace, the kind that revels in nature, the kind that celebrates simple joys found on the road.

When NLEX gives way to SFEX, all the more nature becomes unstoppable in its display of its beauty. One moment, it’s rice fields pregnant with golden grains. Next scene is the sea. The beaches of Subic beckon.

And there, for lunch, at Rali’s restaurant in Subic Freeport Zone, said to be a favorite dining place of MVP, Arlette and I slurp our fresh oysters. The tiny forks stare at us, wondering perhaps why we don’t use them as urbane diners do with oysters. Excitement gets the better of us. Then my seared tuna on a garden of greens and cherry tomatoes and Arlette’s pork chop cooked French-style land on the table. The mouthwatering dishes silence us. The sea in front us winks; it’s glorious in the mid-noon sun. When the split turtle pie is served, a downpour rushes in all of a sudden. Drops of rain reach our table. The dessert leaves us unmoved by the drench.

Going back to Manila, Arlette is also waxing poetic on the highways. She says, “The road, in its inanimate state, is alive. It needs love and respect from the motorists. It gives back the same amount of love and respect.”

I respond, “All beautiful roads will lead us to a better life. They will lead us back home. ‘Ang lahat ng daan ay daang pauwi.’”

Safe travels.  

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