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  • Metro Manila Traffic Is Creating a Crisis Within Filipino Families

    Family time is suffering because of the long commutes parents face every day.
    by Kitty Elicay .
Metro Manila Traffic Is Creating a Crisis Within Filipino Families
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • In August of 2018, one of Drew Arellano’s Instagram stories went viral when the travel show host ran through EDSA just so he could come home and play with his son Primo before his bedtime at 7:30 p.m. According to a report by GMA News, he was stuck in Ayala at 6:46 p.m. when he started running. Fortunately, he got to their house in Ortigas Center around 40 minutes later and was even able to put Primo to bed.

    Drew’s plight is something every Pinoy parent working in Metro Manila can relate to — traffic in the metro is so bad that parents are forcibly stuck in long commutes, taking up a ton of time away from their kids. In a 2017 survey done by Boston Consulting Group, Metro Manila has the third worst traffic in Southeast Asia with an average of 66 minutes stuck in traffic daily. An additional 24 minutes per day is allotted to the time you need to search for parking.

    As the holiday season comes into full swing, expect traffic to worsen. The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) projects a 20% increase in the number of vehicles plying Metro Manila roads.

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    Long commutes mean lost time with family

    Long commutes can affect a person’s health, causing weight gain, neck and back pain, and added stress. But for new parents, time spent on the road is time lost experiencing their baby’s milestones. Those with older kids miss out on events and activities in school. Many have no qualms about taking leave from work, but it's not something every parent can do.

    On our Facebook group, Smart Parenting Village, we asked moms and dads how their daily commutes affect their time with the family. Cha Cambe, who spends 30 minutes traveling from home to work shares she’s already missed out on her baby’s first crawl and steps.

    Abby Lacanaria, whose commute takes up to two hours on regular days and five hours on Friday has had the same experiences. “From his first laugh to first solid food and more, na-miss ko because I’m a working mom,” she shares.

    The first-time-mom travels from Batangas to her workplace in Makati every day. The distance can really take a toll because she has no control over the traffic situation. “The thought of getting a job that’s near our home is far from reality [because] as a tenured employee, the benefits are worth considering.”

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    Shell Vocal, a mom of three, expressed her disappointment that she can’t even help her sons with their homework. If they are struggling with a particular assignment, she has to help them by phone. “’Pag uwi ko ng house mas madalas tulog na sila. Sa morning naman, lahat kami nag-p-prepare ng sarili for work, then sila for school,” she shares.

    Cindy Escarilla admits that she has missed out on a lot of milestones already. “My vacation leaves are not automatically approved, and madalas declined due to staffing. Nakakaiyak na lang ‘pag naaalala ko na kailangan kong pumasok kahit birthday ng anak ko, then the following day pa ako makakauwi dahil 11 p.m. ang out ko at alanganin nang umuwi,” she shares.

    And it’s not just moms. One mom in the Village shares that her husband has been disappointed for missing their son’s monthly check ups and vaccines. Since he has a morning shift, he also can’t wake up beside their son. “Sabi niya, the best pa naman ang smile ng baby namin ‘pag gigising umaga,” she says.

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    How working parents are coping with Metro Manila traffic

    Pinoys are known for their resilience, but the traffic has become so challenging that parents will jump at jobs that offer flexible working times or near their homes. Some of the moms we spoke to said they were willing to resign in a heartbeat if it was financially viable.

    Escarilla shares that the long commute already took an emotional and physical toll that she eventually resigned after coming back from maternity leave. “Mas marami pa akong nailaan na oras sa biyahe kaysa sa anak ko,” she says. “Unemployed ako ngayon, but I cherish every moment na nasa bahay ako until I find another job na mas malapit.”

    Another mom, Cindy VC says she only works within the Ortigas area because the commute time and traffic is a little bit more manageable compared to other cities. Grazeeh de los Reyes is lucky since she can bring her baby to work. “I’ve been tagging my son along in the office since he was 5 months old,” she shares in the group. “Now he is already 14 months and still a ‘working’ baby!”

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    Others sacrifice compensation for a job that’s nearer to the home. “I used to work in the city, and I would leave my two kids with my parents. I couldn’t attend PTA and other school activities because I can’t be excused from work. The one time I was able to attend [a school event], the other parents mistook me as their ‘lola,’” Abby Punzalan shares. “I decided to look for a job near home so I can be with my kids every night. It was a tough decision considering the vast difference in compensation. But it’s worth it.”

    Other times, all it takes is a bit of teamwork between mom and dad. “We are both working parents. Hubby works in the morning in a bank near our house, while I work the night shift,” shares Dane Formento. “Wala pa naman kami nami-miss na milestone ni baby since we are trying to be full-time parents as well. Siguro kung may nami-miss kami, tulog at pahinga, which is sulit kasi napapanindigan naming ‘yung pagiging independent namin.”

    A bit of reprieve: The Telecommuting Act of 2017 or the “work-from-home” bill is already awaiting the President’s signature to become a law. Hopefully, it can help working parents achieve increased productivity, a better work-life balance, and more time for their family.

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