BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
The way traffic is “managed” in La Ciudad Muy Noble y Leal can drive even a local crazy. I put the word between quotation marks for the obvious reason that “mismanaged” is the better term.
Loading/unloading areas continue to shift like sand. A stop sign today is ticketing area tomorrow. By “ticketing area” means the junction is no longer a jeepney stop and any driver taking or disgorging passengers gets a citation ticket and his/her license seized. For strangers, don’t be tricked by waiting sheds.
These structures used to live up to that name: they sheltered commuters who were waiting for rides. In those yonder years, waiting sheds were legit symbols for loading and unloading. Not so now. Try waiting for a ride at waiting sheds and you’ll rot there.
Loading and unloading areas today are identified by signs or a line of yellow paint on the shoulder of the road. However, one must have a good memory because not all stops bear those signs. You have to be good in sleuthing around where to discover those “secret” loading/unloading areas.
One morning, the vehicle I was riding was flagged down by a traffic enforcer. The driver’s license was earlier seized by the police so the officer took the driver’s temporary permit and scribbled a warning on it. The site was in front of the Mandurriao Elementary School and incidentally, a regular loading/unloading area.
We were baffled. The driver rightly did what he did – picking up a passenger at the right place. The vehicle stopped at the proper place, right after the sign that read “no loading/unloading before this sign”.
Yours truly asked the enforcer why he apprehended the driver when the place was in fact a jeepney stop. The traffic aide replied: “Indi na ni subong loading/unloading area; ginmiting na namon ang asosasyon (This is no longer a loading/unloading area; we have already briefed the (drivers’) association)”.
The incident happened June 8; the traffic enforcer was wearing a jacket that covered his name plate. The passenger who caused the misfortune, apologized. “Tani ginhambalan nila ako nga indi pwede. Dugay tindog ko, ginatulok man lang nila ako. Diri gid man ako gabantay kada aga”.
The lady regularly waited for her ride at that junction. She had been waiting there for minutes but the traffic enforcers did not bother to inform her of the new twist in the regulation. Surprisingly, the next day, June 9, the place was once again a loading/unloading sign, a terminal even, replete with a dispatcher.
Being issued a traffic ticket is a misfortune. A violation makes one poorer by P200 for first offense. It can balloon to P300 or even double for succeeding violations, which the poor driver’s average daily take of P250 can’t offset.
One cited for traffic violation further incurs income loss of at least half a day that must be spend at the traffic office to pay the fine imposed. The traffic office fleeces drivers: it collects the fine and issues a paper called “receipt” but requires the driver to surrender the paper to the custodian to claim back his/her confiscated license.
The driver gets back his/her license and leaves minus the receipt. The thieves once more recycle the document. In Molo, meanwhile, there’s one spot there at the vicinity of St. Anne’s church which is designated loading/unloading area.
But things can go awry as the whims and caprices of traffic enforcers shift like dunes in the desert. The same hapless driver apprehended while stopping in a loading/unloading area in Mandurriao was also a victim in Molo. He dropped and picked passengers there in the morning and got the traffic enforcers’ nod. In the afternoon, however, while picking up commuters, he was issued a ticket.
He remonstrated to the officer and was answered: “Lain man atong sa morning shift; kami iya nga shift sa panghapon, lain man”. That does it: it’s the whim of the traffic office that dictates. Loading/unloading is allowed there because the traffic enforcers who are in the morning shift allowed it. The group in the afternoon are of different breed and prohibit drivers from taking or disgorging passengers.
We are supposed to be “premier city” being bruited around by you-know-who.
Iloilo, my city, my shame.