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Kjwan

Kjwan LOGO HI RES

One of the reasons I have been introducing snippets from the music scene of the Philippines is to show that there has been a quiet revolution brewing in the music industry over many years now. I’ve learnt that things don’t operate in the same way as the music scene I grew up with back in my own country and things are a little prone to over commercialization drowned out in what seems to be all too important sponsorship deals and many talents sell their souls to the industry for fame.

It’s also fair to say that there is a whole crop of working bands that choose to not go down that road and stick to doing what they love whether it makes them famous or not. I think it’s fair to say that Kjwan fits into that bracket.

I’m sure they would embrace a little public adoration naturally but I don’t get the impression that fame is what they are exclusively seeking; they just seem to me to be having a good time.

I get a special buzz in introducing these guys from Kjwan for a slightly silly reason, I know them. They are great lads and I’m sure they won’t mind me saying very ordinary lads at that.

In my usual lazy amateur journalistic way, I will allow the existing online material to educate you further about this band that are not exactly what I would call rising stars. They have been around awhile and their efforts are being taken notice of even outside of the Philippines.

KJWAN HIRES01

I’ve never seen them playing a big gig personally. I’ve watched them playing small bars and to audiences of a few hundred at best. Don’t let that have you thinking they are not known or popular. That’s the way it is for a working band that are just enjoying themselves in the Philippines and all the more credit to them for that.

They soldier on and these lads love each other’s company, know each other well and that comes across to me strongly when I’ve watched them play. The consequence of that is they are a tight, non-pretentious, talented and unique band whose music I genuinely enjoy.

Just a personal view here from me when I say that I see a lot of decent bands and some excellent levels of musicianship. My comment though is often the same when I watch these working bands as I go around. I tend to end up saying that most of these bands are good, some a little better than good but always I end up further commenting that they are good but nothing special.

I doubt very much any world beaters are going to take the world by storm from the Philippines. Originality is still in short supply all too often. It’s not always important whether you have something new to offer or not. Kjwan just plays. For me, that’s what music is about.

I’ve never listened to one of their cd’s. I’ve listened to them through the usual online sources of YouTube but above all I’ve watched them play live many times and never failed to enjoy watching their set.

Enough said so let me introduce to you Kjwan.

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Sari-Sari Syndrome and Other Businesses

Now you can’t fault the Filipino for survival skills; when it comes to prospering skills, not so much. This can be said in so far as many small business ideas go at least. A classic example is the Sari-Sari store.

Now sari sari stores are the things you stumble upon every 14 seconds at walking pace. That is really the problem with them. It’s many an aspiring entrepreneurs’ idea of a sound business, but personally, I wish someone would give them a few economic facts.

When you come to terms with the lack of opportunities many have here, it’s easy to see why people dream the impossible dream and it is totally understandable. This article is meant to give a little insight to anyone out there whose perspective partner is telling them that all they need to secure their future is a sari sari store. It’s not usually an idea that has been subjected to a business study.

Now sari-sari roughly translates to anything and everything. So many people’s idea of a good little business is to turn the front of their home into a little local store and in many cases as its part of their own home, this means no rent and its profit all the way, or is it?

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I’ve witnessed so many of these stores fall down within a few years. It’s a nice thought to have one but probably not the best idea.

A typical sari-sari is little local store selling all the everyday products from cigarettes and alcohol to canned food, flour, eggs, diapers and of course, the load for the cell phone. And if they stood alone in their street, it would be a great idea. But it is likely that you have 2 or 3 stores already within a stone’s throw from you. Everybody seems to be a sari sari store.

This may be deemed as a controversial opinion by some but for me they seem to keep each other poor and it’s just down to lack of imagination and common sense. It’s not intentional, of course. It’s simply a situation like many others here in the Philippines where people make poor decisions based on hope more than sense.

If you’re in a community of say 1,000 households and there are around 150 sari-sari stores within this community, it’s not too surprising to hear that many of them struggle. They survive it would appear but only a few truly prosper. Too many dreamers per square kilometer tends to be the problem but it’s easy to know why when you see how the usual doors are not open. This is the Philippines where a dream can be an inspiration or a suicide mission.

With many here, it’s more about getting by. When westerners think of business they think of making a lot of profit. If that’s not possible then most times the plan ends there. With Filipinos it’s more about surviving, so with that in mind, although it doesn’t make too much economic sense from an entrepreneurial point of view, for them it’s all about eking out a living which makes perfect sense. Sadly though for many it does not even achieve that.

The Downside of Competition

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The sari-sari store is the ultimate example but it is not confined to that market. If somebody opens an internet café and it does well then someone else will open one over the road. Fine, a little competition is good for the consumer especially, but it doesn’t end there. Before you know it, a third one will open also, and not too long after, a fourth and so on.

In no time at all, the area will reach saturation point and nobody is making a good living as there are not enough bums to fill the seats. There would be but there are so many seats for the bums that it’s a waste of time.

The Business Plan of the Philippines

The internet café is another classic example. Many a Filipino business plan consists of opening the door, looking inside and saying to themselves, “Hmm busy” and that’s all it takes and before you know it they are acquiring a local premises and filling it with computers. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that too much of anything means numbers are filtered down to the point of bankruptcy.

In fact, in so many fields, it seems saturation is the name of the game and the result is the majority scratching out a living and some survive, some don’t but they all try it. There is no trade protection that limits how many similar businesses can operate in the same area.

I’ve often questioned why there is no protection for local traders from saturation. Nobody has any real solutions to unemployment so they leave them to try and fail without much forethought.

Unimaginative Businesses for Unimaginative People

You will see it in many areas and notice the lack originality when it comes to business. Filipinos for me do not show much ability to be an original thinker. I’m sure some will argue against that but for me at least, it’s very much a part of the cultural mindset. It’s no different within business. They follow more than they lead or innovate. Hope is the reason and lack of capital means they all try small ideas based on what others are doing.

Food is very commonly sold and many in Metro Manila rely on ready cooked food, as there may not be cooking facilities in their accommodation especially if it’s a dorm. So as you wander round the streets and side streets also, you will stumble upon countless food eateries or cantinas. Mostly little places with a few chairs and trays of food on display. But you will soon notice that the variety is just not there. They all sell exactly the same dishes.

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Again, it’s often saturation point with these establishments all selling the same food with very little variety and few customers want to try anything different which makes it an uphill struggle. They simply compete with the cantina next door and rarely think of doing anything alternative and sell virtually the same dishes all with mounds of rice as is the norm here. They have their talents but original thinkers when it comes to business, they are not.

Clients Heads Stuck In the Mud

On the other hand again, in their defense, I have noticed a tendency with Filipinos that they are not adventurous when it comes to different foods and many won’t try anything new or different. If someone started selling novel food or even a sandwich stall, I doubt they would touch the imagination of the general public. It’s a frustration for me that most Filipinos in my experience will not step out of some comfort zones. They won’t taste new food, they don’t relate to concepts. Just my opinion of course and it definitely does not apply to all, but it is a noticeable feature with many.

If it’s not served with mounds of rice, they simply don’t seem interested. Many here are simply totally narrow and won’t even try the different. Maybe among the more professional types yes, but as regards the everyday public then sadly not. I can imagine many a westerner thinking of making a business here thinking that if I do something different, they will try it. In my experience this is not so at all. Maybe within niche markets yes but as regards everyday folk, they don’t want to know.

It’s Not Novelty Land

I met an Australian once, a nice guy who was talking about opening fish and chip shops. I didn’t know how to tell him not to bother. I saw one once in Ortigas; next time I passed it was closed down. Seen the idea tried elsewhere, too and rarely does it have any success unless you’re surrounded by non-Filipinos. Many simply won’t try anything new.

Business for Survival

It does seem strange from an outsiders point of view that this situation exists and you find yourself questioning why go into a business where your best chance is to merely eke out a living only. It is my belief, and I stand to be corrected, that Filipinos don’t think so much in terms of making it rich, they think in terms of surviving only. Lower expectations bred purely from the economic climate over the last few decades.

In a country where few have known anything more than struggle to survive, I think this is fairly natural. Generation after generation has grown with a mindset of poverty in varying forms which in turn has made this thinking normal. So before we call it crazy, you have to be aware that yet again, things are different here and always have been, and it becomes simply a culture of survival and thinking in terms of making it big is a luxury they have never known.

Listen to Yourself

At the risk of being controversial, I will leave this article on a note of advice for prospering in the Philippines. Always listen to Filipinos when it comes to understanding the business climate as this will make you see how all things are possible. However, don’t always act upon it. It’s often more of a dream that is not realistic. Competition has Filipinos eating each other. Don’t fall into that trap, think carefully and observe. There are many great potential businesses here. Listening to the family of your partner may not always be the best advice. It’s a dream for them. Be realistic yourself.

 

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Bubble Bursting

The bubble that has been burst is mine. Returning from my stay in Davao, I was full of energy and ready to continue this strange venture I’ve started when some hard realities of life smacked me down and poured cold water all over my enthusiasm.

So here I go again with another apologetic post. Reason, my computer decided to have a coronary whilst my finances are at an all-time low, hence no computer repair possible just yet.

Oh well, such is life and I will just have to regard this as a blip in my long term planning which I haven’t planned yet. I guess it makes sense to never plan a thing. Just let things take their own course. Not a lot of choice in the matter anyway so I will pretend I’m being philosophical about it. My computer is busted so I’m out the game for a little while longer, simple as that.

bubbleburst

So as I’m at a friend’s using an available laptop, I thought I would just let those who give a damn know that I’m back and will be writing when my computer is repaired which I pray will be soon. I won’t be going into any particular topic just now.

These demoralizing events have killed my imagination for now at least. I’m sure you have been in the same place, same frame of mind. I have been away from writing for 4 months. I’ve been scribbling notes and making plans whilst I was in Catigan. I was bursting to start work when I got back. 

I’m now feeling like a footballer that’s been out of the game for a few months with an injury. I have been deflated (computer kaput) and I am lacking match fitness too. I’m dry and rusty and definitely lost my sharpness.

I’m sure I will be back full of gusto, moving the direction of this blog and pressing on with opening up wider topic matters and continuing evolving the blog, but it won’t be just yet.

I still have no fixed ideas as to where I want to take this as I’ve said before. I’m seeing where it takes me. Right now with a broken computer, that’s nowhere. A repaired computer and a little cash injection will put me back on track and it’s probably best I don’t try to write about anything in particular on a friend’s laptop in a hurry. So you lucky readers are being treated to a meme post. I won’t do it again after this I promise.

The Future’s Bright
Having a break from writing meant I could rethink future direction. I’ve come to the conclusion not everything has to be serious and for that matter it doesn’t hurt to move away from Filipino related issues. We have the World Cup to enjoy in June and I’m sure many expats will be preoccupied with the greatest show on earth. It’s an event I can’t leave out even if football to a Filipino is not of much significance. Some have an interest, but most don’t, and it receives as much attention as the superbowl does in North Korea. 

I’m hoping there will be some events organized locally so us citizens of the world that love a real game instead of that bouncy bouncy thing they play here can enjoy it together. Yes, I have an aversion to sports that height challenged people like me are excluded from. If anyone knows of any World Cup events planned for the coming World Cup in Brazil, let me know so I can inform others.

If I was fortunate enough to own a bar, I would be recruiting a Brazilian chef, checking through my Sergio Mendez collection and organizing Brazilian nights with half price bikini line trims and top it all  with the World Cup matches screened live. A bit risky maybe as Rio de Janeiro is around 13 hours behind the Philippines. Matches are likely to be around midnight and 3 in the morning, but I still think there are some great opportunities coming up this June for anyone wanting to fill a bar with foreigners. As for me, I’d better get a television.

Ulterior Motive
My stay in Davao introduced me to a radically different way of life to that of living in Manila. It’s nice to be able to have another perspective, a much brighter one. Metro Manila has been the focal point of this blog. I intend to bring some of the sunnier aspects of living in the Philippines to light.

It’s perhaps time to broaden this blog out and show people how life can be good here.

I also plan one day to make a business from Manila Concierge Online. The long term intention when the time is right is to assist visitors, expats or just about anyone in finding the best ways to enjoy your time here. I am not fully qualified to call myself any kind of expert so I’m putting together a network to help those wishing to come here to enjoy the Philippines in the way they want to enjoy it. It doesn’t help much when I disappear off the map for 4 months unable to post or properly write. But this is a slow-build blog. My longer term ambitions are for the future, for now this is just a blog of the ramblings of a half senile Englishman.

There are many writers online already that will tell you where to eat the best Italian food, which are the nicest beaches and where to go surfing. I won’t be doing much of that as I have little idea; I’m not privileged enough to have ever found out. I did in the early days but the cash comes tumbling down and I had to moderate my ways.

I’m hoping to get invites to restaurants, resorts, homestays or just about anywhere so I can inform readers of some interesting places to go and fun things to do. Many come here and spend a fortune staying in hotels or renting expensive condos. If you are prepared to step outside your comfort zone just a little you can stay here extremely cheaply. Having the comforts is not that expensive either. If you get away from the capital, you will experience the diversity in some of the most beautiful places on earth. Being in Metro Manila is an experience worth having sure, but there are so many better places to see if you’re planning to visit or live in the Philippines. I’m possibly guilty of being too Manila centric previously. I hope to change that.

This post is not about anything in particular. I can’t wait to get back into proper writing and reflecting on some of the better things about life in the Philippines. I’m not a travel writer and I’m certainly not James lifestyle guy. I enjoy Philip Lifestyle Guy on TV 5 but James Lifestyle Guy is more about back alleys, drinking shots with tricycle drivers and eating for 50 pesos than it is about French or Italian cuisine. The only reason I hate you Philip is because you make me hungry. 

For now, it’s an amateur blog written by someone still learning. Stick with me. Normal service will resume as soon as possible, just as soon as I get my new motherboard.

I still have no idea where this will end. I have little idea where it’s been. Your help and input will be essential.

Facebook?
Speaking of help and input, I was considering previously starting a Facebook page as a kind of forum for discussion. I fully intended to do that, but I confess I’m not sure if I want to anymore. I had the crazy notion that posting this out in various Facebook groups would be a good thing, drive traffic towards my blog and build a larger readership. I have never had a negative comment sent to me via my blog. On Facebook, it was another story and I gained quite a few critics with some mindless statements thrown at me.

I know as a blogger I have to be thick-skinned. That’s fine but when you’re being told off for things you haven’t said, that’s another matter.  It seems to me that Facebook has many readers who react to one line without reading the whole story. I’ve done it myself more than once using Facebook,  I know how easy it is to wrongly kneejerk only to realize you have misunderstood what you react to and look foolish in doing so.

Because of the nature of Facebook, I just don’t know if it matters. Looking back, I’m now wondering why I ever wanted a large readership. I’m still thinking that one through.

Tell me what you think. Should I open my throat to the hounds on Facebook, or should I just keep to a simple blog with a smaller audience? I am giving that one some thought but at present, I’m thinking it’s best not to bother.

So here endeth my meme post. As much as anything, it’s to keep my 6 readers with me. I look forward to catching up with Peter who has invited me to his street kids project. I’m very much looking forward to that.

It’s stupid if I say at this point that I shall be going here and there to give you some more insight into things to do and places to go. It needs cash to do that and right now I’m not overloaded with it. It’s just good to be back. Let me get over my injuries (septic left shin and broken computer), return to match fitness (fix computer, keep taking the antibiotics and wake up my deflated mind) and continue this silly blog.

I love football analogies (well, it is World Cup year).

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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Open Your Internet

Ok. Shortest post in the history of blogging but it’s mainly for the purposes of making sure I have an inclusion for February. I’m in a cafe having to listen to a videoke outside which is so bad I would tell far more than rank and number if it was used as a torture. Seems to me if somebody burped and farted, Filipinos would still applaud hysterically.  Anyway, please be patient, I’m coming back to the land of being able to write shit. After a rest, I’m back to boring you with my blah and looking forward to it big style.

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Update

Just a short note yet again as this old man is still outta the loop and apart from the odd visit to a cafe, I don’t get online till I get back. I’m writing Willie Shakespeare style with a pen and quill and when I get back to civilization, I will be back giving my un_needed views and psychotic dogma. Be back soon guys and girls. I know nobody has missed me anyway but I’m polite enough to tell you whats going on.

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Not Giving In

Just a very short post to inform my 5 readers that I have not killed off the blog. I’m out of town for awhile and it’s remote, therefore no internet. Being one of those poor foreigner types, I don’t have a laptop and simply am far too sophisticated for pen and paper.

I’m in Catigan right now, a slightly remote part of Davao and even if I had a laptop, I would have to post them from a café. It’s expensive to get down into Toril (the nearest population area) and I’m simply saving it till I get back into Manila sometime in the new year.

For anyone that gives a fart about my blog and to those that read me, then please keep an eye open on the blog. I will be back with you all soon and I hope the new direction I will be taking will be to your liking. I can’t write a proper post as the carabao express will be leaving soon and I don’t want to have to spend the night on the streets of Toril till morning, so I beg your patience and promise I will be back quicker than you can say, relief operation.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and looking forward to a better New Year ahead of us!

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The Less, The Merrier

I am not writing about anything particular. I’m just here to say this is the last time I share this blog in Facebook. I just wanted to get people to have a look and then I continue as a blog only.

Frankly, posting out in Facebook was a rather disillusioning experience. I have decided that I would rather have just 10 viewers who understand what I’m talking about than 400 who read a paragraph and respond with kneejerk reactions. Based on some of the comments Ive received, I think it’s fair to say that many of them had not read the whole article or simply have misread it. I don’t mind being criticized if they are criticizing what I actually wrote. But when they take completely different meanings from what I’ve said I found it very disheartening.

I knew it before, but my experience of posting my blog in various FB groups has taught me that FB is not the best medium for giving opinion, commenting or giving a perspective. I will write in more depth on that topic at a future time as this post really is simply an announcement.

The other announcement I need to convey is to say that I won’t be posting the blog anything like as regularly as I have been. Simple reason is I’m in a province for a few months and internet access isn’t available. I will post anytime I’m able to get online but where I am is remote and although I’m yet to try all the options, the chances are I won’t be able to get a connection.

The good news is I should be able to move away from Manila centric articles which I imagine drives a few mad.

So if you have enjoyed any of my posts and wish to continue reading, then follow my blog and in the future i will probably start a FB group to go along with it. It wouldn’t be a good idea to start it now as I won’t be able to maintain it from where I am. You can if you wish send me a friend request to my FB account and I will make sure when I start the FB group, I will invite you.

Where I am is a completely different Philippines from Metro Manila and being here is always good for my soul. Forgive this nothing post but I have written it on route to my destination in an internet cafe. I also plan to widen this blog out a little and feature topics that are not always Filipino. I shall give a fuller explanation in the near future and I hope I can keep those that understand what I’m trying to do with this blog. Those that misunderstand it, I hope they go away.

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Train Trials

MRT ManilaIf I had written this article about six months ago, it would have contained little that was positive. In the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen anything quite as insane as the way some behave when they ride on the local rapid transit trains – the MRT (Metro Rail Transit) or the LRT (the Light Rail Transit) across Metro Manila. If you wanted to see people here at their very worst, just go to a busy train station in rush hour.

Getting caught up in it can leave you frustrated with not only people, but also the two agencies that run the rapid transit system. The dangerous and outrageously selfish behaviour of many passengers was not being policed sufficiently.

After a pause from using trains, I took a few rides again and I was delighted to see that there were some actions being taken at long last to prevent a catastrophe and make train travel less dangerous. The insane behaviour of far too many made train travel almost unbearable. Something needed to be done.

As regards a useful, fast, and at present inexpensive way to get across Metro Manila then the Rapid Transit meets that standard. There are 3 lines, LRT1 LRT2 and MRT3.

MRT3 and LRT1 are the worst as regards volume of travelers and LRT2 is a little easier. It’s the most recent addition and they had the good sense to use bigger trains which definitely helps.

The positive aspect to this story is that the two agencies that manage the railways are now beginning to address the problems. It is only a start and there is a long way to go and much more that could be done to improve things, but a start it is, and I’m hopeful we will be able to add safe to a list of credits for the rapid transit train service soon.

The service itself is fine. It reaches to many parts of the capital. Many stations have tricycles or pedicabs outside for local needs as well as jeepneys and the rapid transit train service is without a doubt the fastest way to get across the city.

They invite suggestions online and they seem to have the best of intentions, I think that’s undeniable. Now with some changes being implemented, it may suggest they actually mean it and do listen. Only time will tell.

Rapid Transit Trauma

LRT Line 2To give you a fuller picture of what I’m talking about, I will give an account of how it used to be.

Before the introduction of these new rules, the people were killing a good thing. They made it so hard not just for others, but for themselves too. What qualifies this statement? I will set out to describe a mad rush hour ride on the MRT/LRT service, and you decide if I was right to be very concerned, frustrated, and in the main, totally disappointed with people.

You expect it to be busy and you expect a little pushing and shoving when there is such a high volume of travelers all catching trains at the same time. But if you wanted to make it an even more stressful and difficult experience than it already was, as well as dangerous, there were many here that were well-qualified to show you how.

First off, there was no control on numbers either on the train or even scarier in some respects, on the platform. Throngs of people and passing trains don’t make a good mix.

When the train arrives, the fun really begins. When people try to get on a train, you would see a battle going on at every door. People are getting on while people are getting off? Result: they couldn’t get on, they couldn’t get off = mayhem!

Not only that, those on the train would pack themselves around the doors to guarantee they could get off when they reach their station. Sometimes, the middle part of the carriage would be relatively sparse of people, but at the doors, they would be nose to nose and no matter how squashed they were, they would not give up their place near the door. This effectively blocks the exits and the chaos is easy to imagine.

When it’s your turn to get off, it could be a fearsome experience. You simply couldn’t get through the throngs of door-huggers and it can be one hell of a battle to make it to the door. If you succeeded, then the moment the door opens, you will be greeted by a wall of crazed, rabid commuters whose single purpose was to get on that train. So after you had succeeded through the first stage of getting to the door, you then had to depart the train against a tsunami of mental passengers getting on with no intention of waiting for anyone to step off first. Consequence, you can’t get off the train, and it would be equally difficult to get on. You don’t need a university course to realize that that cannot work, but so many just don’t get it. They made train travel hell and I cannot find the words to express the sheer and utter stupidity of it.

There was nothing like enough guards to prevent it and the ones that were manning the platform were simply overwhelmed and there was little to no attempt to prevent an impending disaster. How there weren’t fist fights every day, I don’t know. Apart from blow whistles to warn people to not get near the edge of the platform or stop men from getting in the all-women’s carriage, guards did little to control the crazed hordes of commuters despite the obvious danger. Even if they were to try, there was never enough of them.

I have witnessed families get split because of the crazy commuters from hell pushing, someone often gets left behind. If anyone was stupid enough to bring small kids with them at those times, that would be reckless and irresponsible to say the least, even if they take the first carriage which is strictly for pregnant women, the elderly, the disabled, and people with small children.

I’ve seen people transported with feet off the ground in crushes of people and seen many sandals and shoes on the floor where people have lost them being carried by the crowd.

It’s a like a dog eat dog mentality, and as in so many cases with things here in Manila, people end up going backwards for the want of going forward. It defies all logic and is without doubt, the moment you are most likely to want to bang people’s heads together.

I wont try to analyze as to why people think such behaviour can help them advance, but I will say that with the huge amount of daily commuters using trains in a massively overpopulated collection of cities like Metro Manila, then train travel can not be expected to be easy. I fully appreciated the enormity of the task when it comes to changing people’s behaviour. But when it becomes as dangerous as it was, and still is, with it being such a stressful and even frightening experience, something had to give, and at last they are doing something. I’m not sure it’s working that well on the MRT line, but the LRT are having a little more success.

Outside of rush hour, it is a far less unpleasant experience. Rush hour in Metro Manila starts at around 6:00 AM and goes on till around 10:00 AM and probably at its worse between 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM. Then from around 4:00 PM till around 9:00 PM, it’s all happening again perhaps starting to ease from around 8:00 PM. Rush hour here is a very long hour. It is a much nicer experience outside of these times and an obvious tip would be to avoid rush hour.

On the way into the stations, people start well enough and form orderly queues awaiting security to check their bags. It continues in the ticket queues which are usually long during busy times and people would be comparatively sane and form mostly orderly queues. To prevent delays, most people purchase stored value tickets where you can buy 100 pesos worth of rides on one ticket which saves a long time in queues. After you have got your ticket, it was into the fire. The everyday battle of the commuters is about to begin; you need to be ready.

No people are perfect, and I’m sure most railway providers around the world have their problems, too. But seeing it so vividly here was to me a little scary. Scary because so many can be so out of control with their manners and thinking and obvious total lack of concern for anything other than themselves, and the problems to others they cause.

On The Right Track

On the MRTThe rules and changes are in their infancy still, but at last they know they had to do something. The MRT took the lead and a little later, the LRT was playing their part, too, although it would appear that although the MRT line began the initiative, they haven’t quite managed the implementation as well as the LRT. The first thing the MRT did was to paint a yellow box positioned where each door of the train stops. Not long after, the LRT did the same. The idea being that people are supposed to not enter the yellow box until those wanting to exit the train was all off. In short, it’s being much better implemented by the LRT lines; MRT improvements in enforcing discipline seems to be not working too well, but let’s hope that is addressed soon.

I haven’t caught that many trains since these rules were implemented but from what I was told, people were, for the most part, following the instruction, but some were still rudely and thoughtlessly behaving in the same old manner as before. There were more guards around and they were doing their best to enforce the rules. But with such a volume of people on the platforms, I imagine it was an extremely difficult task. However, I see signs that the MRT is not managing the early changes so well which doesn’t give much hope for future improvements. Just this morning, I took an MRT train at a station where there was little to no enforcement that I could see and consequently, the people were behaving as badly as they always have and nobody was trying to prevent it.

I was delighted to discover that the safety aspect had been greatly improved, in theory at least. They now limit the amount of people allowed on the platform and now the platforms of the busier stations have fewer people on them which in turn means the people have less need to push and shove, making it a whole lot safer and making it easier to get on and off trains. Yet again, I have to say that the LRT are having more success with this and I see signs that the MRT is slipping back as enforcement isn’t that obvious.

There is of course a downside in so much as it means long queues outside the stations as they only let a measured amount of passengers onto the platform. I imagine this has added much journey time to commuters, and yes, I’m sure it’s very tiresome, but safety should always be the first concern. The rail authorities do not have the power to cut in half the population of Metro Manila, so without that power, it’s simply something they had to do.

It does seem to have made a difference at some stations at least, and my last few rides on the train in rush hour was certainly more tiresome, having to stand in a queue for such a long time; but the reward is when you get onto the platform. The battle of the commuters was far less savage.

I don’t want to overstate it as I still see problems and further need for improvement. It is only being implemented at the busier stations, which I think is a mistake. There are times that even the quieter stations are busy, and as they are not policed so well as the larger stations, you still witness some pushing and shoving around the doors.

I know they want to make profit but I have been on trains that were still much too overcrowded and they haven’t solved the problem of the door-huggers who simply refuse to stop blocking everyone’s exit and entry.

But I’m delighted to say that a start has been made and rules are being implemented even if not always too convincingly. There’s a long way to go but you see signs of improvement. Rush hour train travel isn’t easy still, but it’s getting better. My fear is that if they fail with these implementations, then further improvement simply won’t happen.

So how do you feel when catching trains around Metro Manila? Are you happy with the new changes even though it delays you? What do you see that could be done to improve things further?

For what a suggestion of mine is worth, I’d like to say that I really feel that you will never get people to change the way they have been all their life by painting a few arrows and boxes on the ground. That’s just not Filipino; it won’t happen. It needs actual implementation and on the MRT especially, I don’t see it being done at all convincingly and much of the old problems have not gone away.

I personally would like to see a full barrier the whole length of the station preventing anyone getting near the train doors before everyone has gotten off. When the exiting passengers are clear, then they could open gates to let people approach the doors and enter the train making it a far smoother and safer experience.

What was tending to happen was a large minority of people were spoiling things for the majority which in turn has the majority behaving in ways they wouldn’t normally behave, but if they didn’t join the pushing and shoving, they were simply going to get left behind and pushed out-of-place. The minority dictated the pattern forcing the better behaved majority to behave in the same manner as them. It brings out the worse of behaviour from those that in other situations would not dream of getting involved and adding to the mayhem.

I’m still not convinced that it’s going to work and only limiting the amount of people on the platform at selected stations, for me, is a mistake. I suspect economics are the reason why, but when it comes to putting people in such danger and making train travel hell, then they simply have to find the money. No amount of money can replace a lost life. It really can be that bad.

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