published 24 Aug 2007, MST
Valenzuela, my hometown, is not famous for anything special. It does not have a peculiar local product or delicacy. It does not boast of a scenic spot. Not many people know that the man it was named after, Dr. Pio Valenzuela, was the official physician of the society founded by Andres Bonifacio during the revolution.
A lot of people, too, are still under the impression that Valenzuela is still part of Bulacan. Probinsya na. But at some point between the today and the time I was born, it has become a municipality of the National Capital Region and later on a city. Hey, we even have an SM there now—albeit one so small even children, with their eyes closed, can tell where each shop is located on which floor.
Practically the only thing people know about my side of town is how bad things can get in the rainy season. The Tullahan River in the southern portion overflows. Most streets get flooded and people get stranded. Living in this city has even become a standard excuse of some employees when they don’t show up for work, for valid reasons or not.
Well, almost the only thing. Nowadays, there is another thing my hometown is famous for—and it still is not flattering. The ongoing rehabilitation of the bridge over that same Tullahan River has been the subject of numerous reports and complaints.
Actually, the complaints are not unfounded. Construction started on March 16, more than five months ago. It was then the beginning of summer. The public was told the project would be done by August. Then, all of us didn’t mind. It was a given that the bridge needed attention. Certainly, no one wanted an accident; it was better to be on the safe side.
Since then, however, city residents have had their patience tested and stretche—it seemed, a bit further each day.
When the bridge was closed, the city was cut off from the stretch of McArthur Highway that led to Monumento. It was a major thoroughfare, a primary road, and the alternate route had a single lane and nunerous twists. It crossed the river through another bridge and skirted a posh village. Imagine how bad things were during rush hours.
Those with private vehicles said their cars hardly provided comfort anymore. For one, they had to factor in an additional one and a half hours EACH WAY to their travel time. Which means, assuming they had a typical 8 to 5 workday, they needed to leave the house earlier and get back much later than they had been used to.
I had one such experience, when I had a meeting with a fellow columnist in Makati City. We were scheduled to talk at 10 in the morning, and I left the house at 6 a.m., believing I had more than ample time to go to church in Greenbelt and perhaps visit old officemates. With all the twists and stops, alas, I arrived in Makati just in time.
Most agree that taking public transport seems to be the better option. At least, when the inertia becomes unbearable, you can always rely on your own two feet and walk until the traffic actually gets moving. This is especially good for those of us who don’t have to wear suits and high heels or beat the bundy clock to the office.
It’s easier that way because all public vehicles cut their trips to either end of the bridge. Commuters then have to alight from the vehicles and cross a makeshift bridge to the other side, before taking another ride. As a result, the queue of vehicles stretches to about half a kilometer from either side of the construction site.
Now it’s nearing the end of August and we are told the deadline has been moved to October. Fine, as if people have a choice. And, anyway, they seem to be coping just fine with all the inconveniences brought about by the bridge’s rehabilitation. In fact, they don’t complain anymore—in spite of the apparent slow pace of the works, the quality of the makeshift bridges and issues surrounding the contractor.
In fact, the area has become a playground for entrepreneurs. At any given time, the place teems with trade: boiled corn, street calamari, tokneneng, lugaw, vegetables, towels, shades, cell phone chargers, to name a few.
I hope I don’t come across as whining, because that’s not my intention. I think the situation at the Malabon-Valenzuela boundary is a microcosm of Filipinos’ attitude in less than favorable or inconvenient situations. It’s a management problem, first and foremost, and those who feel they can’t do anything about it do the next best thing—grin and bear it. With a few pluses to earn a few quick bucks.
And when the construction is, heavens, finally completed, would not anyone feel like throwing a street party? That was a much-needed rehabilitation, anyway—if only it did not take too long.
When the public works is over, you can bet people are only too willing to shed memories of their hardships and enjoy the free-flowing traffic as though it were there for the first time. All that trouble now water under the bridge, so the cliché goes.
Oh, and one last point. Most of the trash has been removed. Before there was a solid mass of garbage on the river’s surface. Now there’s only water—as it should be.