Tuesday, October 21, 2008
SLEX. South Luzon EXpressway. This major Philippine thoroughfare, which connects CALABARZON to Imperial Manila, has been and always be part of my life. Why not? As a kid growing in a province, I look forward going to the 'big city' whenever my family goes for Christmas shopping or to experience the things only the city can offer. After high school, I can't wait to take that first bus heading to my dream of higher learning. You see, most Filipinos have this notion that studying in one of the colleges/universities in Manila gives one a certain prestige back home. Not to mention being enrolled in those well-known institutions with their pride colors, animal mascots and basketball teams. And going to the city means traversing SLEX. So the recent editorial cartoon in the Inquirer didn't have a hard time getting my attention. I'm aware of the ongoing SLEX upgrading and rehabilitation project since May 2006, and I well remember the stressful bus rides due to these stone control devices/barricades that re-route traffic in a haphazard fashion. The usual one-and-a-half-hour San Pablo-Manila trip becomes a two- to three-hour butt torture. I bet the 1956 Ten Commandments or The Sound of Music or Titanic can be played on-board JAC Liner from the start and be able to finish it. But the cartoon depicts it a bit creepy: Death welcoming motorists to an unwelcoming SLEX; at least the coniferous trees are still there amidst the morbidness. This might be due to the hazardous nature of the recent construction works and the increasing probability of a vehicular accident. The editorial cartoon might want to tell those people involved that they are not doing a satisfactory job specially in traffic flow management and safety. Well, I already told myself that sooner or later the ongoing project will be messy since SLEX is always expecting a huge volume of motorists (CALABARZON, afterall, is on the rise). An irritated and exhausted driver sometimes looses sound road decision-making. Anyway, they say the project is set to finish by March 2009 and, like in the NLEX (it's northern counterpart rehabilitated by 2005), the temporary nuisance is a trade off to a much modernized highway. Just expect higher toll fees though. Haha! From one nuisance to another. Welcome to the Philippines!
The ominous caricature is far from the nostalgic picture in my mind. I still want to imagine SLEX with its tree-lined highway, the Mt. Makiling from the distant southern end and the rice field on either side that boasts of its lushness and of the fresh air waiting to be inhaled. This picture will stay even with the rice fields being bulldozed to make way for future subdivisions. It will stay. At least a fantasy of one who used to be a probinsyano (a Pinoy word concoction of "someone from the province") kid who takes joy traversing the SLEX en route the big city. At least a comforting bus ride of one who used to be a student then a professional working in the city en route a place for the weekend respite. And as I outgrow that childhood fantasy, traversing SLEX seems to reduce to traversing a one-way path – a direction that shall only lead me beyond the greens and blues of Mt. Makiling – back home. Yes, I had a change of heart. If after graduating high school I planned of getting the best education, build a successful career and then settling in Manila, today it remains the same but not the place to settle. If my adolescent impulse is to leave that place I consider lame and boring, now I like to go back and redefine those words: simple and quiet. I guess the smog and congestion succeeded in diminishing the value of being a Manileño on a personal level. Besides there are lots of Pinoys who are still city bound. I might as well be one less of that count. I don't hate Manila, don't get me wrong. I still love going to the malls and other places of interest (haven't been in Intramuros actually). But if I were to fulfill one of the things in my bucket list – that is, having a house overlooking Mother Nature at one of her glories (see the full list on the side frame) – I love it to be back in my hometown. I don't mind being far from the political, economic and cultural capital; I'll build my own version in San Pablo. The plans, however, may still change. Anything can happen in the next years specially now that working means traveling. I might end up somewhere else but I bet it would be due mainly to the future Mrs. Brosas. But for now, I would love to turn right to that exit at the far south end where the coconuts grow.
The kid had grown, the probinsyano is now homeward bound and an all-new SLEX will be there paving the way.
GMT -3 DST Sao Paulo, Brazil