Going the distance

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

FOR us living nearby tourist attractions including the Botanical Garden, Wright Park and Mansion House, we’ve learned to live with traffic during peak seasons of the Yuletide break, Holy Week and the weekend of the grand Panagbenga street dance and float parades.

But the weekend was almost hellish with the snarl lasting for the better part of the afternoon until evening Saturday and was repeated Sunday morning.

JM Agreda, our staff reporter, who went to “check” on PNoy Saturday afternoon, was forced to walk from Mansion House to downtown. He then texted me, “Good luck sa pag-uwi, ate. Kung ako sa ‘yo, I will take the jeep.” This was followed by my cousin Yvette’s text, “Tita Anne, good luck sa pag-uwi. My friends, who are supposed to pick me up, are stuck somewhere. Tatlong oras na sila.”

So here I was in the office, closing Monday’s edition, and in my mind a picture, albeit an unclear one, of the kind of congestion along Leonard Wood Rd.

But thank God I did not have to go through it. JM and I decided to walk up to Insular Life from Abanao Square where we attended an event and each get a cab. However, my cab driver gave out a cry of dismay when I told him my destination. “Ayna, madam, three hours nga naipit ak dita!”
I pleaded. “Please, manong. Uray agbayad ak doble. At least maitulod dak asideg Botanical. Uray magna akon from there.” I was ready to walk anyway.

We are fortunate to have pleasant and honest taxi drivers in our city. He said, yes, and much to our relief, the streets were already clear that time of night. JM was just as “lucky”.

Sunday morning, I decided, against my senses, to do my grocery anyway even as I was sure all roads were leading once again to our famed tourist destinations. I told myself, I will ask the cab driver to take me to Polo Field and then walk the rest of the way home.

But my green bag was heavier than expected leaving me with no choice but to ask the driver to take me straight home. I did not see him cringe but told him anyway, “Pasensya, manong. Alam ko traffic sa may amin.” To which he answered, “Ganyan talaga, ma’am. “We somehow got past through Leonard Wood Rd. slowly but surely. When we got stuck at Park Circle fronting St. Joseph Church. A bumper accident, something which I could barely imagine when cars were moving at snail-pace. “Nagtetext siguro ung driver ng kotse sa likod, ma’am, kaya nakabangga,” the driver said.

While everything was at a standstill and police were doing SOPs on cases like this one, City Police Director Jesus Cambay suddenly appeared and started directing traffic to ease the rotunda of cars allowing converging cars from Gibraltar, Mansion Road, Leonard Wood, Ambuklao and Country Club Road to pass through.

Thank God. After a good 20 minutes in the area I got home.

Both these cab drivers and even media friends on Facebook agree, while the intent is good, lifting the number coding scheme during tourist peak seasons is more a bane than boon since even private vehicles in Baguio take to the streets during this time.

No one should be exempt from our traffic scheme, we agreed. Instead we must encourage our tourists to leave their cars behind in their hotels or transient houses and use our mass transport.

Better yet, we encourage them to walk and enjoy the relatively cooler weather here in the Summer Capital.

Everybody must go the distance. Lifting our number coding scheme was the city government going the distance. But something’s gotta give.
This year’s Panagbenga theme is all about the environment. We don’t have to be runners to go the distance. We could always walk. Less pollution that way. Less headache, too.

(Email me at mayanne.cacdac@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 03, 2014.


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