Last October, I wrote about one of the most striking instances of “culture clash” witnessed since moving to the Philippines, the way in which pedestrians seem to enjoy walking in the middle of the road, completely oblivious to the cars zooming around them. The other day, encountered a rather lively specimen while entering a local subdivision.
While approaching the gate, a tricycle was letting off a passenger. While it is not exactly clear if the tricycle operator intentionally dropped off the passenger in the middle of the street or if the passenger voluntarily exited the vehicle at that particular location, it should be fairly obvious, if in the middle of the road, one must be aware of their surroundings and get to a sidewalk as quickly as possible—however, that is coming from a mindset developed from growing up in the west.
Their subsequent action (something regularly witnessed along the roads of Bacolod City) was to leisurely stroll across the wide road and completely ignore the fact there was a car a couple feet away—out of sight, out of mind. Given the jaywalker was literally inches from the bumper, tapped the horn to let them know a car was literally at an arm’s length, and they jumped.
The person turned to the car and went berserk! An interesting reaction since I’m watching out for their safety by letting them know there’s a car coming and they respond with rage?
Opened the window to hear exactly what they were saying but it made no difference. They were screaming wildly in unintelligible gibberish. Offered a reminder that the road is for vehicles and pedestrians should use the sidewalk if they want to leisurely wander, to which they responded with profanity—that was very much audible.
In the earlier column, I also discussed a similar encounter at a shopping center.
“While approaching one of the local malls, was driving towards the entrance ramp and a girl was standing directly in the middle waiting to cross the highway. While her initial assumption to stand in the middle of the entrance ramp was already wrong, it should be automatic to move out of the way—what did she do? She gave the car an angry look and lethargically moved aside in disgust.”
However, despite this clear ignorance and disregard for personal safety presumably being the prevailing attitude, there is no excuse for it since, as mentioned in the previous column: “According to RA 4136, or the Land Transportation and Traffic Code, ‘Every pedestrian crossing a highway within a business or residential district at any point other than a crosswalk shall yield the right of way to vehicles upon the highway.’”
Whenever such an encounter occurs, it boggles my mind because these are situations I would never find myself in—I would never wait to cross the street by standing in the center of an onramp nor would I blindly dawdle across the street—consequently, when I see others doing it (and it is still amazing how frequently it happens), I am at a loss in trying to figure out how one develops the belief that pedestrians are free to walk in the middle of the road or block entry for vehicles. All I can do is fall back on: “I didn’t grow up in this culture”—or as it’s been said all-too-often, “Welcome to the Philippines!”
Plus, it’s not a generational issue either, the girl at the mall looked to be in her early twenties and the individual slinking across the streets of the subdivision was of a certain age.
In the United States, the only people spotted wandering aimlessly in the middle of the road are the severely mentally ill (or those who are heavily impaired); sometimes there are also the volunteers going car-to-car seeking donations for a certain cause but, at least, they wait for a red light./WDJ