Majority of jeepney drivers in the metropolis are a bunch of rascals who have no regard for traffic rules and pedestrian rights. Anywhere I go, I notice they are of the same mold – rough, reckless, desensitized. They might as well have been racing toward death’s door every time they speed off and blow a whirr of black, stinky smoke that mercilessly engulfs and chokes poor pedestrians like me. Often I find myself mentally cursing these drivers and giving them long deadly stares as if by doing so, they would lessen the pressure on their pedals and use the brakes often.

Just last night, while I was with my son after closing a mall for the umpteenth time, I had another encounter with some hooligan drivers. We had just alighted from a jeepney and were about to cross the pedestrian lane when from out of the gates of hell, a loadful of PUJ came rushing through, like a flying bullet determined to finish off its target. Worse, my son and I were exactly in the pedestrian lane, my son having insisted we follow traffic signs just to be sure we were on the right side of the law. Having perceived that the driver did not have any intention of slowing down, I grabbed my son by the arm and pulled him as we rushed back toward the side of the road where we came from, even as we had already walked midway along the pedestrian lane. I was both scared and seething. For a moment, I thought our precious lives would be cut short only by a rusty roadmachine driven by some sweaty rascal. Whew, that was as close as close could be.

As I looked at my son after again giving the back of the speeding jeepney my trademark stare, I could see suppressed anger in his countenance. His right cheek twitched and his eyes were morose. For a moment I saw angry bird standing on two feet.”Mom, I want to go back to Singapore,” his tone was firm and his voice, waspy. “It is very different there.”

I bit my lip. I couldn’t blame him for comparing his experiences. He had lived in Singapore for barely six months but he knew for sure the gnawing chasm separating the two cultures he had the privilege of experiencing. Singapore is light years away from the Philippines with the primitive, primal and decadent values held by the kings of the road here. In that tiny city-state, traffic rules are followed by heart. Drivers stop at red lights and pedestrian lanes. They let you pass, waiting patiently, sometimes with a nod and smile. This uncanny discipline in so simple as obedience to traffic rules is what I so admire in Singaporean drivers. It may sound so trivial but the discipline in seemingly trivial matters speaks volumes about the character of the nation. No wonder it belongs to a community of first-world nations. It is simply first class.This discipline spills over and permeates every societal fiber creating an order that is eerily repugnant to the uncivilized- the kind of order I could only wish for my beloved country.

My experience with the speeding mix of rusty metal and heartless brawn in one of the busiest if not traffic-jammed roads in the Metropolis is a microcosm of our country’s downhill drive toward the pits. If this one segment of our society – the PUJ drivers could not be disciplined, if they could not recognize the pedestrian lane as that- a pedestrian lane where people and pets should and could pass without fear of being hit, then it bears asking how many other sectors or segments of our society need be disciplined? Whose fault could it be that the rule of law to include as mundane as traffic regulations, is taken lightly? Hey, drivers, why be in mad rush anyway and sow fear among passers by when in so doing, accident is not far off, and consequently, unnecessary costs accompanying this accident could badly dent your pocket? Doesn’t haste make waste?

So much for brooding. At least my son and I came out unscathed. Physically, that is. Emotionally and psychologically, we’re both in the ICU. It’s time for our nation’s surgeons – our leaders to peer closely to the gangrenous wound caused by apathy and lack of discipline. It would not take long before tiny PHil, as once-upon-a-time emerging tiger of asia, is wheeled from the emergency room to the OR. Now defanged and maimed, it could only whimper as it starts to eat the dust shaken off by overtaking neighbors. By the time we realize our need to shape up, all that we hope for and dream about for our country as a haven of the future generation, would lie cold in the wasteland. Pray the King of kings would intervene and touch cold hearts…starting off with those of PUJ drivers who mightily act as though they were kings of the road!

Postscript:
Yah, it is only in this country where the pedestrians are the ones who give way to the passing cars, especially the jeepneys. Is this “deference” attributive to the jeepney’s title as “King of the Road?” Nope. It’s a life-saving move. Being hit and run over by a coughing, smut-covered, insurance-less vehicle is a shame.