Originally, I was supposed to go about this project with my friends, observing the interactions made by men and women at Cafe Havana in Greenbelt (you’ll see their interesting observations in the other blog entries). Our plan was very much settled until I realized on the day itself that I had made another commitment that would be in conflict with our plan. Although our Cafe Havana agenda would have been a really great opportunity to experience and an interesting story to tell, I had to pick the other because I would have to abandon a friend had I chosen otherwise (and truth be told, I might have wanted to see Zac Efron in person as well).
It was during our last NSTP session when all of this dawned upon me. Aside from reflecting on whether giving up Cafe Havana for Zac Efron was a good idea or not, I had to think of a way to go back home as well. My uncle usually drives me home but he unfortunately had somewhere else to be at as well. I have a few options – take a cab (which is probably the most convenient), ride the jeepney (very hassle and would take too much of my time), or use the train (not as comfortable as the cab, not as time-consuming as the jeepney either). One of my friends was going to Araneta for the game, so my other friend and I decided to take the MRT in the end, only to realize, when we reached Cubao station’s concourse area, how regrettable this idea was.
I am not a first-time commuter. I usually take the train once or twice a week, but never have I seen the line to the ticket booth that long, and the concourse area to be that crowded (probably because it was on a Saturday, during a much-anticipated Ateneo-La Salle game). After about 15-20 minutes of waiting in line, my friend and I thought of a way of turning this wasted time into something fruitful. My friend said to me, “Uy, pwede ‘to para sa SA project oh”, to which I reply, “Ahh, nice nice”. On this train ride, I only got to ride through 3 stations (from Cubao to Shaw Blvd), ergo I decided to go on another trip.
My second attempt at observing how interaction takes place in this kind of set-up went on from my trip from Cubao to Taft Avenue. The line this time around wasn’t as long as the one we experienced before. There were at least three ticket booths you can choose from – one was especially for people with exact fares, while another one prioritized senior citizens. This actually made me feel somehow relieved – to see that respect for the elderly still remains alive in the hearts of Filipinos.
The platform area where people wait for the train to arrive wasn’t as full of people as it was the previous time either. People seem to be more organized, as they created two lines in front of each door. The people who make up the population of those who ride the MRT are mostly middle-class workers – usually those who work in the malls (since some of the stations are near or are directly connected to shopping centers), and college students especially from the universities down South of the Metro. Although the majority are part of the middle class, we could still say that the MRT is home to anyone – we can still see hints of people probably from the upper end of the economic spectrum (basing it on the way they dress and the gadgets they possess, and because some of the universities of the students who ride the MRT have high tuition fees as well), since riding the MRT does not only let you avoid the congestion of traffic along EDSA, but it also covers the four major cities in Manila (Pasay, Makati, Quezon, and Mandaluyong) in a relatively cheaper price.
As there are hints of the well-off people in this set-up, we can also see here people who belong to the lower class of the society – children asking for food/alms, the disabled showing off their talents to obtain donations, and the elderly asking for spare coins. Since MRT stations are public open spaces, they become a place for interaction to occur among the different classes of the society, and how they attempt to help each other, maybe not in permanent, long-term ways, but at least in ways sufficient enough for them to live for the night.
Even though it can be observed that the middle-class makes up the majority of the MRT-riding population, we can say that compared to the importance of the socioeconomic status of the people, gender is much more prioritized. When you look closely, you can see a much more specific organization – men and women are actually segregated. Women usually stays on one end of the train, while the male population stays on the other. The primary reason for this is probably to avoid incidents that may involve both sexes, but i think it also shows how much we value respect. I believe gender equality is practiced here, since both are given equal chances to get in the train and acquire a seat since they are given separate compartments, but there are instances when men willingly give up their seats for women, which I think is a great sign of courtesy and respect.
The MRT isn’t really an unfamiliar place to me, but somehow each time I decide to ride it, there’s always something worthy of being seen – like an old lady asking for alms with the biggest smile on her face, couples getting into an argument but eventually working it out in the end of the trip, or even the littlest things like an old man giving up his seat for a student. To ride the MRT is to experience all kinds of cultural and social forms – great harshness and even more generosity, annoyance and wonder, greed and charity, the very young and the very old – all these are here, and I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of observing with my friends at Cafe Havana, but I guess my experience riding the MRT was a worthwhile experience as well.
– Kim Marcelo