The Hopeless Light Rail Transit (LRT)
By Apolinario Villalobos
When I took the LRT to Sta. Cruz on the morning of January 10, 2016, I noticed that the driver was not making announcements about precautions and as we were approaching stations as part of their standard operating procedure. Instead of the announcement via the PA system, the security guard on board was making the announcement to the highest level of his voice that he could muster. I presumed the driver was not in the mood or just plain lazy, until I finally drew enough courage to ask the security guard why it was so. He told me that the PA system of the train I have taken was kaput…broken…wrecked, defunct – for several days.
While the LRT management may treat such breakdown a trivial matter, for the commuters, especially, those who are new in Manila, it is not. The announcement being made as the train approaches each station is an important information for the local and foreign visitors who are taking the “risk” of riding the LRT train despite the discouraging forewarnings from the media about its frequent breakdown. Without the announcement, those who are not familiar with the stations along the route must crane their neck to have a glimpse of the station signboard or ask other passengers, otherwise, they might overshoot their destination.
The joke today is that, if one plans to take the LRT or its “sister train of anguish”, the MRT, he or she must have an “allowance” of at least two hours. The two hours are for the trek along the rails to the nearest station when the train suddenly comes to a grinding stop….yes, grinding because of the frightening “metal to metal” screeching sound of the wheels. When there’s a downpour, pity are those without umbrella. When the sun is generous with its scorching rays, pity are those without the same contraption for shade.
The elevators are still out of order. The escalators are still resting. The toilets are still padlocked, except for one or two. But, fortunately, the employees are doing their best to be nice with their ever ready smile and uncomplaining stance even when four or five passengers one after another pay in crispy one thousand peso bill. These are the people in the lower rung of operation who are trying make up for the handicaps of the LRT system. Meanwhile, those at the top, including the DOTC secretary, Emilio Abaya, are so embarrassingly naïve to the situation that noisy calls for their resignation fall to deaf ears….theirs and those of the president of the nation, Benigno S. Aquino III.