As noted previously, Fr. Bernie Rosinski is in the Philippines assisting with English language instruction. In this post he writes about the adventure of travel in a nation made up of thousands of islands.
Travel in the Philippines is an adventure. The Philippines archipelago in Southeast Asia consists of more than 7,000 islands, of which, 800 or more are large enough to be inhabited. Travel among the islands and within an island is extremely important for this nation.
Frs. Francis, Jacek, and I recently traveled from the largest island at the northernmost end of the archipelago, Luzon, to the largest island at the southernmost end, Mindanao, where the SCJs have a college level seminary and a novitiate. Fr. Francis is the regional superior of the Philippines and conducts business from his office there. Fr. Jacek, a psychologist, gave the first week’s series of presentations to the men from the four entities of Asia who are preparing to make their final vows in May and went to visit his SCJ friends. I went to offer instruction in the English language to college-level seminarians.
To avoid interminable traffic jams on the streets leading from Dehon House in Quezon City to the inter-island airport in Manila and catch our flight, we had to leave the residence at 1:30 a.m. to catch a 5:20 a.m. flight to Mindanao.
What makes travel among the islands such an adventure? Inter-island travel is conducted necessarily by plane or boat, both of which ferry people between the various islands. Such traffic permits commerce, government administration, and the continuance of strong family ties. The mere frequency with which ferry boats conduct their operations and the high level of fishing and marine traffic in the surrounding seas almost invariably leads to boating accidents, of which there have been a number in recent years. Plane travel permits safer, more rapid service and even daily commuting.
What makes travel within single islands such an adventure? Within-island travel is conducted by bus, car, light rail, jeepneys, motorcycles, motorbikes, bicycles. Sometimes these smaller units have attachments with seating arrangements to carry passengers. The result is that the units serve much like public transportation to move people about. When all are traveling the same road (no matter how wide), these motorized devices travel at very uneven rates of speed. Furthermore, those units equipped for carrying passengers frequently halt rapidly and unexpectedly, putting great strain on their own safety from inattentive or speeding drivers. The possibility for tragedy increases greatly when, along with large trucks, pedestrians and draft animals are added to the traffic mix.
There are several expressways and toll roads that exclude all but trucks, buses, and autos. There are avenues and boulevards in Manila and its suburbs that permit six, even eight lanes of traffic. However, even these suffer from the constant threat of quick stops and starts by weaving buses, jeepneys, and passenger carriers. It seems to this foreigner and rank outsider that the only ingredient lacking to Filipino travel management is DISCIPLINE.