Commuting: Struggles and Lessons Learned

Are you a commuter?

Do you take public transportation to get to work?

Well, welcome to this article. This will show you the ups and downs of commuting in the Philippines.

I guess we all know how our public transportation system works – It is BAD. It is not convenient. It is not easy. It will give you the haggard-look-make-up when you get to the office.

But hey, there is always a bright side. I believe that everything has a silver lining no matter how deep or shallow it may be. As a commuter myself, I have learned these valuable lessons from the daily grind.


  1. Taking the Tricycle

Every day, I take the tricycle to get to the terminal near our village. I guess I am now a professional tricycle rider. However, every professional began as an amateur. This happened a long time ago when I was still a noob in riding the three-wheeled wonder. Are you familiar with the “Charity Seat” – That luxurious and spacious seat inside in between the driver and the two other passengers? (Can you smell my sarcasm now?) Well, I never took that seat because I hated it. But sometimes, you just wouldn’t have a choice, so I took it. Without knowing that I am completely wrong, I entered the tricycle facing forward. Given that the space inside is very small I wouldn’t be able to fit and sit properly. Since I had no other choice, I turned around inside the tricycle like a contortionist assistant of a magician hoping that it would be quick and easy. I thought that I was doing a good job until this passenger tapped my butt and said “Huy! Ano ba yan?!” (Not knowing that my behind was already harassing his face). Being ashamed of myself at that very moment I just pushed through and said to myself “Bahala na! Napasubo na eh!” Fortunately, I was able to sit down. Although, I had my face covered the whole trip. Yes.

I have learned from this experience that there will come a time, we will face an unfamiliar challenge that will require us to use a different approach from what we are used to. The experience itself might seem shallow, but the learning I gained was significantly useful. Some challenges in our life will force us to use our unorthodox stance – figuratively speaking, and we will have to adjust. In this simple example, instead of going inside face first, it should have been butt first. Take it from me guys, I learned it the hard way.

  1. Taking the Jeep

In my every day journey to work, I seldom take the jeep. However, I prefer taking the jeep rather than the tricycle because it is more comfortable and cheaper.

What I learned from taking the jeep is courtesy and respect. You will always hear this inside the jeep – “Makikisuyo po ng bayad” or sometimes “Kuya/Ate, paki abot naman po ng bayad”. Everyone who takes the jeepney will surely use these lines more often times than not – Regardless if this is just a force of habit or not, it is still a good practice. Everyone is your kuya or ate inside the jeep! Snatchers not included though.

  1. Taking the Van

It really is uncomfortable to take the UV Express vans for me or any commuter van at all. It is always jam-packed and most of the times the air conditioner do not work. Given that the humidity in our country is sky-high, you will all end up sticky and slimy. You’re all exchanging body heat with people you have never seen before, complete strangers. How weird is that, right? You’ll often hear them (barkers) say, “Maluwag pa po! Konti na lang ba-biyahe na” and that’s often a lie. Maluwag does not exist in the UV Express dictionary.  However! There is always a silver lining.

The average capacity of a commuter van is 14 people, including the driver. Interestingly enough, these UV Express franchisers can load up to 18 passengers inside their magical vans – excluding the driver himself. It’s amazing, right? What I’ve learn from this is that, sometimes you have to push your capacities to the limit. You’ll never know your full potential until you push yourself to your breaking point. You have to step out your comfort zone and extend your range. In this case, the vans are pushed to their limits. Go vans!

*UV Express is a famous commuter van franchise in the Philippines

  1. Taking the MRT/LRT

Oh yes, the infamous MRT/LRT. I would refrain from taking this as much as I can. I have experienced MRT several times already from my previous work and it is extremely inconvenient. The long lines will kill you and the actual ride will kill you more. It is literally a sea of people and you’ll be dragged by the wave. Always prepare your nose when taking the MRT/LRT since everyone is sweaty and haggard. As of the latest news, only 8 trains work out of the 20 that should be operating. Simple logic, fewer trains mean more congestion of passengers – The perfect recipe for long waiting time and hellish experience in the train itself.

The experience in taking the MRT will make you a tougher person – figuratively and literally. It requires barbaric strength just to get inside. It is a frenzy whenever the train arrives at the station. This is due to the long waiting time in a long line. As they say, “What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” I guess that taking the MRT requires endurance and dedication. It is that hard and inconvenient. Imagine going through this every day and it might just help you become immune to anything inconvenient.

*Scenario taken during rush hours.

  1. Taking the Bus

I always take the bus going to work. Since I do not ride from the terminal, I’m always in the “Standing Ovation Aisle”. You will stand for the whole duration of the trip. If the traffic is terrible, then, wish your feet good luck. Most often times than not, the aisle of the busses are narrow. Sobrang sikip and given the situation is already hard, the conductor will have to pass through no matter how cramped up the bus is.

In this every day experience, I learned how to be flexible and adaptive.

You’ll learn how to fit in. You’ll learn how to tip toe your way out of a moving bus. You’ll learn out to squeeze in your body for the conductor to pass through. You’ll learn how to give way to other passengers even if it seems like there is no way through. You will find yourself more flexible than you know.

You will also improve your balancing skills, especially when the drivers do not know how to use the brakes properly.

  1. Taking the Taxi

So we are down to this. I am not a fan of taking the taxi because it is expensive and crime-friendly. I often hear crime stories regarding taxis. Fortunately, Uber and GrabTaxi can now provide safer services, not a hundred percent though. But, this is the most convenient, I should say. It is like having a private driver and a car all to yourself.

From my experiences in riding the taxi, I have learned how to be patient and vigilant. You have to have patience whenever the driver tells you “Ay ma’am/sir, wala po akong barya pang sukli.” What kind of a businessman are you if you don’t have change? Are you expecting your customers to have exact amounts in their pockets all the time? We all know that they only do that so that you wouldn’t have any choice but to say “Keep the change.” It is frustrating since they are taking advantage. In cases in which you will have no choice but to give in to this semi-modus-operandi, it will require you to have a long strand of patience not to get mad and ruin your whole day.

You also have to be extremely vigilant. You have to be careful and mindful of the taxis you are taking. You have to be familiar of the routes your taxis are going to take. Get the plate number or take a picture of the ID of the driver and let your family/friends know. Prevention is always better than cure. When you smell something fishy – figuratively or literally, step out and get out. Be aware of what is happening and if you feel that something is unusual, again, step out and get out.


Those are the practical life lessons I got from commuting. Sometimes, I feel like, it only takes a matter of time before you get used to commuting. It is hard and inconvenient at first but you’ll get the hang of it. Remember, commuting is still the cheapest way to get to where you want to go.

They say that a country is prosperous and well developed when its rich people use the public transportation.  The Philippines still has a long, long way to go but all hopes are up. I know someday we will reach that kind of development.

How about you?

Are you a commuter yourself?

What have you experienced and learned so far?

Feel free to share it in the comments section!


© Credits to the owners of the images above

® RamjoTejada

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