Ever since that post about making Manila a walkable city, I realized that I too have been doing the same, making this city a walkable city for me. I know it isn’t advisable given the state of the city’s air or the lack of sidewalks, but I have been walking and honestly it isn’t so bad.
I started walking every other day a month ago. The reason? I started feeling my body’s weight and noticing my clothes tightening. Shaking my head I decided that it was time to revive my habit of walking home, be it 3kms away or 5kms away. The results aren’t as physically obvious but in a lot of ways I can feel the change.
Since September I have walked a total of 70.94 kilometers, to the marathoner or runner, this might seem small. However I feel that that growing number is a personal achievement for me. It represents that I can do something as crazy as walking the nearly entire stretch of Shaw Boulevard, it represents that our city is indeed walkable albeit the obvious hazards.
So what I have learned from this?
Well I will start out with the most obvious one: our urban planners are idiots and city governments don’t really care for the millions who don’t own cars. We are a car loving metropolis and nothing can change that. Damn whatever environmental regulations our country has, damn the environment and damn inconvenience, people will buy more cars just to save their butts from having to walk.
Sidewalks? Doc Brown said “where we’re going we don’t need roads” for me “where I am walking…well I will just walk”. Hand in hand with poor urban planning is the total lack and respect for commuter safety. Sidewalks are just placeholders for light posts, sidewalk vendors, and parking spaces. In Mandaluyong sidewalks don’t exist and if there are, well they’re about as thin as that lacy thong the next Victoria’s Secret model wears every time she struts down the catwalk. Pasig on the other hand tries to do something, their sidewalks are larger and at least there is enough space for cars, light posts, vendors, and commuters to coexist together.
Walking really opens up the lungs and then pollution becomes a b*tch and makes you nauseous. There are so few green spots in the city, even less in Mandaluyong. Not that I hate Mandaluyong but the city hates being environmentally friendly. The only green spot I saw was Wack-Wack Park and a few reed-thin trees on the verge of dying. The same can also be said for Pasig but at least there is an effort to try and make the environs “green”. It’s a bit sad but I guess our country is tired of seeing trees and plants all over the place.
Pollution means traffic or a build up of it somewhere along the road. In the past I would allow myself to sit lazily inside a noxiously filled jeep while grinding my teeth from 9 de Pebrero to my place. Traffic is unbearable, irritating and really drains whatever energy I have left. If I leave the office later than 4:30 I would bid whatever semblance of a seat goodbye and squeeze my oversized frame in whatever (un)believable yogic pose I can possibly muster…for the next 30 minutes. Terrible. Whereas if I walk it, double the time but hey at least I get to move at my own pace and see my destination get closer and closer.
Walking may not be appealing for a lot of people accustomed to staying inside their air-conditioned vehicles, but for a lot of people it is a way to take matters into their own hands. On my own I get to save Php. 12, I get to have a road where my thoughts wander around, let me blow off steam (especially if the day has been especially long), and scoff at all those drivers stuck (and most likely grinding their teeth) in traffic. Walking is fun and physically I don’t see any changes…yet. But what I have noticed are: my legs don’t cramp up nor do I sweat as much.
At the end of the day and all 70kms of walking, it is a proven fact that any city, however poorly planned it is, is walkable. Our facilities suck but that shouldn’t hinder us from wasting time on that fabled jeep/fx/bus during the height of rush hour.