Metro Manila · Squeezing into the MRT train

MRT Guadalupe Station "/var/ezdemo_site/storage/images/media/manila/images-manila/unnamed-and-untagged/mrt-guadalupe-station/345638-1-eng-GB/MRT-Guadalupe-Station_zoom_image.jpg" 2000 1015 MRT Guadalupe Station

One fine Saturday I felt the urge to leave Makati behind and go up north of the Megacity, where you find some green oases such as the campus of UP Diliman and the Quezon Circle. Traffic on EDSA was quite heavy, so I decided to take the the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) for the first time.

The tickets cost only a handful of pesos. At the platform of MRT Buendia people are already lining up in small sections that mark where the doors of the incoming train will be located. One end of the station is a designated 'Loading area for Elderly, Children, Female and Disabled Passengers'. A car is reserved for these groups to spare them from harassment and from the squeeze. During rush hour it is often just as crowded as the others, though. I am male, still quite young, childless and of good health, so I have to try to get into one of the regular cars.

This is harder than I thought. Against my expectation, the incoming train is already filled to bursting. Passengers try to squeeze out while others are already squeezing in and yet others just try to defend their position near the door. I decide to take the next train. With the advantage of being in front of the line now I am able to wedge myself right into the train when it arrives ten minutes later. I am sure I trod on several people's feet, but everybody looks relaxed and friendly. I merely get some glances because I seem to be the only foreigner in the whole train. Standing in the tightly packed crowd, I cling to some pole and to my belongings. I tied my backpack around my front, as the MRT is notorious for pickpockets.

The trains are relatively old, a gift from the Czech government. Fortunately the air condition still works quite well anyway. Through the window I can see the Pasig River, Shangri-La, SM and other shopping malls we pass by, and the endless lines of cars below us. The MRT rail track rests on massive concrete pillars between the lanes of EDSA, several meters high. The train rushes forward above the cars that are stuck in the daily traffic. North of Cubao station the train finally gets emptier, I even find a seat and can enjoy the rest of my journey.