Of vital signs

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Sunday, August 10, 2014

WITH an officemate behind the wheel, we drove out from the University of San Carlos after a quick research work at the Cebuano Studies Center and thought we were using the road just at the right time before the traffic jam at the Ban-Tal area. Or I thought my officemate, who lives there, knew the traffic condition better than I did.

But we reached a point when the traffic decelerated because of the work of a team trimming old trees, or so photographer Ruel said it was.

I saw no sign that said work was going on at the roadside, that at some distance from where we started out was a tree-trimming team at work. Or as usual, we didn’t read signs.


Road signs mostly written in English are always an interesting topic in the life of an urban community, or sources of painful memories in road accidents. There are (or there aren’t) enough danger warning signs, priority signs, restrictive signs, direction signs, regulatory signs, and more signs. In signs, I can’t help seeing the Filipino public (and private?) driver.

What signs? he’d ask.

Then there’s the matter of sign colors—the English words and pictograms in black, regulatory signs in white with red borders, directional signs colored green with white lettering, and so on. But do we get it?

An American brother-in-law would say, with a smile, that Filipinos are messy drivers.

It’s a matter of “don’t” (or “won’t”) in terms of rules, if the Citom isn’t looking or isn’t around. We Filipino drivers don’t take the safer long way if there’s a short cut. And any vacant space by the road is attractive for parking, (or even a land area for squatting or a bare wall by the road for messy painting games by the boys in the neighborhood).

Some years back on Morales street there was a road sign which read, “Sunod lang ta, ba.” This was to prevent vehicles from overtaking and to get rid of the scene where in a two-lane corridor are three vehicles abreast, all three barely breathing in a space for only two.
The sign went unread (or unheeded).

But I came across traffic 2007 updates reporting that on road accidents, “there are pleasingly few fatalities in the Philippines,” comparing it to some other countries.

Of faults, Filipino drivers tend to drive close to the sides and the rear of vehicles around them, which is scary. But they are cool, according to American friends. They are not hot heads and so there are no cases of fatal road rage.”

Compared with other countries, especially in the West, the Philippines sticks to low travel speeds. There aren’t speed limit signs (or I don’t read them), except in some highways in Manila.

When a friend and I drove along the Manila North Expressway, it was in a speed trying to reach the limit of 100 km/h. I’d stay quiet the whole time and listen to the velocity of the giant sweep of the wind with the striking roar of the car. This speed is the highest in the country.

But the important thing is the safety of pedestrians who should also take note of signs, if it’s true in a research that more than half in cases of fatalities in Manila are pedestrians. Even while transportation owners need to protect pedestrians, the pedestrians must protect themselves.

There was a time when I used the Arlington Pond road daily from Osmeña Blvd. on my way to the office. Then I’d watch the road. It is tight, good for only two lanes.

Here, I see how we people haven’t learned to walk on the correct side of the road to prevent pedestrian accidents which are common fatalities.

When we get lazy about crossing, we can’t (don’t) walk on the left side of the road and so we can’t see the vehicles passing, the car could hit us as we are completely unaware of the fatal blow coming from behind.

We’re too lazy to cross to the left side and are set to make shortcuts at our own expense.

Have we ever read a sign on safe walking?



Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 10, 2014.


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