Making Traffic More Productive — For You

I drive to work everyday except Tuesdays, because we have number coding here in the Philippines, where your car isn’t allowed on the roads from 7 AM to 8 PM.

I commute on some days, usually jeep, or by rail transit (MRT) or I hitch a ride on a motorcycle, which isn’t possible now since the LTRFB has stopped Angkas, the uber for motorcycles, from operating. 

Traffic from my POV
A night scene in Manila depicting traffic

What frustrates me beyond end is the time wasted in traffic. Work has been cancelled because of the 2017 ASEAN Summit, and the roads are clear these days. It takes me 20 minutes to get home. 20 minutes! On a normal day, I spend anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a day commuting. That’s over a thousand hours wasted!

Finding a solution to traffic is problem that needs to be addressed by different sectors and in different ways. I’m not going to go into it. Right now, traffic is a reality we face everyday.

I’m sharing with you some ways I have found to help make better use of my time while stuck in traffic, waiting in traffic, etc.

Traffic at 10:44 PM :)

I am aware that some of these things cost money in terms of data use or subscription fees. Whenever possible, I’ve linked to free options, too! I hope that helps.

“Read” Audiobooks

I wasn’t a huge fan of audiobooks or thought I wouldn’t be, but I can’t drive and read at the same time. Reading books while stuck on the train is barely possible given that you’re pressed body to body, or even a jeep can be a bit of a hassle, especially if you are prone to bouts of dizziness. I have a Scribd subscription, which I tried out initially as a skeptic but so far I’m loving it. Before I bit the paid bullet, I also downloaded public domain audiobooks for free, and legally, on Librivox. The upside is it’s not as heavy as a book. It’s great for classics and poetry.

Listen to Podcasts

Another audio option, you may say? I will confess that I love talk radio, and I love podcasts. Spotify has a great list of offerings for free if you have the app on your phone, and you can download beforehand if you have a subscription. Here’s a list of the best podcasts to listen to. There are loads of different topics, and it’s a great substitute for when your playlists get boring. Right now, I’m listening to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History series. 


I don’t really do this. I’m lying. I occasionally stretch, but I realize it may be good to sneak in a few calf raises while standing in line, or some sit-ups while you’re stuck in that inevitable never-ending line after the Magallanes flyover, heading into Villamor.


Whipping out your phone/tablet in the middle of a commute may not be the smartest thing safety wise, but if you are in a place where you can, writing on your phone is something I used to do even when my phone was still a Nokia 3310.  You could also bring a pen and paper, especially if you take the bus and have a little space to yourself (and also if you don’t get dizzy). Writing while moving is a difficult skill to master though.

Embrace your Weirdness

I talk to myself. Well, I record myself talking. It’s weird, right? But I find it therapeutic. I talk out loud about random things. Like what I plan to write for this blog, tomorrow’s work schedule, or practicing what I should have said to the person I was pissed at yesterday.

I should point out then that I am mostly alone when I drive home, though. Most people have friends or spouses or children to talk to.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

If your friends aren’t the sort to be offended, and you have a hands-free phone, give them a call. It helps to pass the time, and keeps you and your friend entertained.

Kid Friendly Activities

I don’t have kids who need to be entertained in the backseat. So if you have some good suggestions, games or apps that help keep kids quiet and engaged during the long battle of going through traffic, let me know!


After the Life Altering Break-Up (henceforth dubbed LABU). I went through the mandatory soul-searching Activities.

I drank a lot of bad craft beer and a few good ones, a lot of whiskey, oodles of Black Label, and Double Black. I ran a 10k, tried a few new hobbies, and gave up some others.

Once, in an effort to acquire [redacted], I met up with  L –, a good friend from Baguio at a nearby mall. L — played guitar very well, but also sold [redacted] on the side for extra cash.  As I waited by the tiny Ferris Wheel, listened to the inane loop of children’s songs (these places always seem to have children nursery rhymes sung in little irritating voices). I thought. Hurrah! This is my life. My friend showed up next to me the way spies do in movies, materializing from the nether.

“Uy.” Followed by a friendly shove. L — was gaunt, but carried a beer belly around like a favorite kid.

“Beer tayo?” My treat, since I was buying.


Sometimes when I look back at periods in my life they come back like snapshots.

There was this one sad/happy day when I went to eat with A — at this cute little restaurant in Taft. It was raining, I think, but I don’t really remember. I don’t remember the food because I spent most of the meal with my head on the table, crying. I don’t remember why  (we usually have a purpose, like a gig or an inuman) we met up, but that wasn’t really important.

A lot of the snapshots involve cab drivers. Mostly because I wasn’t driving in the city yet and Manila has snarly, horrid traffic that gets exponentially worse as the weather worsens.

I once sat through a terrific lecture from this old cab driver who happened to be probably the most devoted member of Iglesia ni Kristo. First, he tried to invite me to service. When I demurred, he said. “Iha, sa simbahan mo mahahanap true love mo.*” He proceeded to tell me about his first wife, who passed away and how he met his second wife, and how lucky he was in love.

I was really sad when I got home that day, let me tell you that.

The next week or so, I was stuck in three hour traffic with an utterly insane cab driver who told me how he caught his wife cheating.

He had been deeply suspicious of an affair between wifey and neighbor, who was also one of his closest friends. It was his birthday. They had a little celebration, which became a drinking session for the adults. In time, the number dwindled as various party goers said goodbye until only the three of them remained.

Kuya Driver feigned extreme drunkenness and told them that he was tired and needed to sleep, but that they could keep drinking if they wanted. His wife even tucked him into bed and gave him a good night kiss.

Imaginin mo yun!”**

An hour later, he caught them in-flagrante delicto, on the sofa in the living room. The neighbor ran for his life, disappearing so fast he left his pants and shirt behind.

He then proceeded to drag his wife out of the house to beat her senseless in front of all their neighbors. So badly he knocked out most of her teeth! The guy was also their neighbor, and it turned out everybody knew about the affair except him.

During this cab ride, I was mostly quiet, except the horrified gasps that kept coming out of my mouth. I kept wishing that I hadn’t forgotten my headphones at the office or engaged this particular driver in conversation at all.

I think he noticed, because he tried to console me with: “I had her teeth fixed, don’t worry.”


* You will find your true love in a church. or more colloquially, I was mostly evil and wouldn’t find a good man in a bar, so I better like save myself by hanging around in a church. 

**Imagine that! 

Market Trips

The best kind, where you can take photos and look forward to later eating.


The market was next to a line of seafood restaurants and along Manila Bay.



Select what you like, how many kilos of this and that, have them cook it for you and then chow down.

I love markets, the glistening rows of fish and squid, the lobster tanks, the shrimp.



(The eating, later, was also delicious.)

Looking at home, from here

Some months it’s hard to write not because I cannot, but because I feel drained at the end of the day. 

I write this from the corner of a tiny apartment in the hottest city in the world, famously referred to as the Gates of Hell. To make myself happy, I show you photographs of my hometown and my home. The city I love. I’ve been away for a month and I feel sucker punched. Homesickness is a punch to the gut. Manila makes me feel like I want different things, that other people don’t want.


I miss the sound of the bamboo. The wind literally runs its fingers through bamboo, and you can feel it shiver on those long windy days.


The trees. This city has no trees. They exist like afterthoughts, or discoveries. Carefully cultivated into parks. Sequestered. 


The mountains

It’s the mountains and the city, and the never ending rain. 



Thank you Yas for the idea. 




October in my hometown feels like fall, but without the crunchy potato-chip leaves. There’s a certain day in October when the wind turns, bites and starts to bring in the cold. The wind becomes moody, happily shreds your lungs on the way in. It’s menthol candy wind, the kind that slaps a person awake.

That day, I think, was today.  Today I brought my warmest jackets out of storage, shook out my scarves and rooted around my closet for my leg warmers. I also thought vaguely about cleaning my boots and stamping the mud out from the grooves of the soles.

Sometimes it rains and when twilight falls the world shrugs the eerie on, donning it like a fog cloak. The rains, I know, will stop soon, hushing quietly into the mountains. By October the cold has pretty much moved in and has been sleeping on the couch and secretly drinking all your booze because that’s what October does. October will also quietly consume all of the cookies you’ve been saving for Christmas.


People start to huddle up, to walk in groups and team up to smoke under awnings. Smoking is banned in town these days, but I still see people lighting up. I’ve been battling the urge to smoke. I quit four months ago, but there’s nothing like smoking when the cold is dramatic like this. There really is nothing like drawing up your hood, tucking your scarf firmly around your neck and cupping the stick in your freezing hands and flicking that lighter.

It’s cold enough now for roaring fires, hot chocolate with a generous shot of whiskey and brewed, strong coffee. The kind that I drink with an arm wrapped around my stomach, so hot I can actually feel  life drain into me as the last of the night leaves me.

It’s cold enough now to stop drinking beer and start drinking brandy to warm up. I start dreaming about soup recipes and freshly baked bread. I also start to quietly get fatter, because all that freshly baked bread has to go somewhere. Like my hips.

Some days I forget why I love my hometown and then the cold comes in and kicks down the door and snuggles up with me in bed. October also means Christmas is near — from the looks of it this Christmas is going to be freezing.

I’m already in love with it.


First off, this was my first reaction to this law.

Here’s a quick guide to the best law ever enacted in the Philippines. Epic blogger Raissa Robles has a lot to say about it, so go over there and read her post. Also, this is my interpretation of the law. Feel free to engage me in active, spirited discussion.


Quickie: suing because of stuff said online isn’t a new thing. The blogger who went after columnist Celine Lopez and her cartel had some legal issues that quickly died out because, apparently, you can’t sue someone for online libel if they don’t live in the Philippines. Also, I read up on libel until I was cross-eyed and here’s my non-legal take on it:

No matter what you say, the law can say you did it with malicious intent. You’re malicioso until proven innocent.



Annnnd, this wonderful politician admits signing it was a huge mistake. THIS is what we have, people. SENATORS who DON’T READ before they sign. I mean, seriously. I read everything I sign.  Cause you know, stuff happens when you don’t read.

The senators who actually signed the bill into law are now “start[ing] to disassociate themselves from it, even claiming they did not read the provision on libel.” GMANews Online says in this article. I’d be running for the proverbial hills. I’d roll my eyes, but you can’t put that online.

I love how our freaking SENATORS SIGN STUFF THEY DIDN’T READ CAUSE IT’S BORING AND THE AIDES DID IT FOR THEM AND I HAD CLIFF NOTES AND LOOK PLAGIARISM. Ya’ll know WHY Sotto decided to put the provision in, right? I mean, did the widdle senator get hurt by all the Internet backlash?

Joker Image

Unrelated image, kuno. 

It penalizes Internet defamation.

So get your IP blockers and troll usernames all up on your shiznit.

Your (our) government can now legally spy on US through our online activities.

I have no idea why anyone would want to do this. I mean, seriously, ask the CIA, FBI and Secret Service people who listen to hours and hours of babble over wiretaps so they can catch fundamentalist terrorists. I bet those guys hate their job. I bet they have an algorithm that searches for trigger words so they don’t have to do it manually.

Whoever ends up actually doing this (I hope they post a job opening on Jobstreet or something) will probably end up seeing people play a lot of Tetris Battle, download cyberpr0n, play endless rounds of DOTA and complain about their lovelives. They will also see a TON of Facebook, seeing as we’re the Facebook capital of the world. If you spy on me, for example, you will note that I spend a lot of time on Cracked, Buzzfeed and occasionally read gossip columns, usually if it pertains to Hugh Jackman posing shirtless on a beach somewhere.

I also read a lot of game reviews and watch a lot of YouTube videos where pets eat lemons, dogs do cute stuff and then I go off and send my weekly donation to the terrorists I support. In the event that this is read by the Authorities, I was being sarcastic about the last part.

The Implications are Disturbing

Restricting freedom of speech and punishing people when they say the truth is always the first cornerstone of a successful dictatorship. One must limit citizen’s minds by instilling fear and then punish outspoken truths. This way, you can crush opposition in your fist and laugh evilly while you do so.

– The Evil Dictator’s Guide to Dictating, Fifth Edition*


Tweet that you didn’t bother to read the bill but are opposing it anyway.


Break the law, OG. Break it till it burns. Don’t forget to wear your V for Vendatta mask.

This one.

Don’t let this law curb what you have to say. Although I must admit, half of what we say online is useless — I mean, it’s human detritus. Your FB newsfeed is proof of that.

I defend my right to say useless things. I defend the right to voice my opinion about what matters to me without fear. I will take action. I will sign petitions. I will actually read the damn law before I say anything about it (seriously Twitterkids, just because the hashtags are trending doesn’t mean you join the bandwagon without arming yourself with information).  Look, I even linked it to a nice article that basically sums it all up. Here’s another one. 

You should also be pissed. Smoldering-Hulk-Smash-I’m-totally-gonna-get-drunk-discussing-this-in-bars-over-beer because I can totally still talk shit offline MAD.

* Not a real book, obviously.