The curse of the cochero continues

Buddy Gomez

Posted at Apr 06 2016 11:03 PM

Over the past several weeks, ABS-CBN News, through its TV Patrol and its internet platform, has been featuring video shots (with concerned commentaries) of public thoroughfare/highway occurrences that graphically capture many instances of uncivility and evidence of anarchy in the operation of motor vehicles.

VIRAL: Nova bus swerving sa Commonwealth Ave

Could this be the unyielding, stubbornly unconquered genetic deficiency in the Filipino bloodline?

The absence of mature responsibility and civilized behavior when behind the wheel has bloody consequences! There is road-hogging, dare-devil racing and taunting among and between drivers, refusal to yield rights of way. Road rage, even. And most certainly in many instances, property damage, physical harm and unfortunate deaths. Lives disrupted all because of uncivilized behavior! Surely, it is not the fault of the other driver, much less the motor vehicle itself!

VIRAL: Bus, nanggitgit ng kotse sa SLEx

Very much in common and in full display in those ABS-CBN videos are blatantly inconsiderate vehicular maneuvers, weaving in and out of designated lanes, bullying by heavier buses of smaller cars and even closed delivery vans, all utter examples of an obviously uncorrected facet of the Filipino character, a sheer incapacity to conform to basic civilized norms of behavior. The videos I have seen are painful reminders of what an absence of common courtesy in our roads can inevitably lead to. To the gates of misfortune and hell.

PANOORIN: Bus at closed van, naggirian sa C5 Libis

The instances captured by netizens’ social media and contributed to TV Patrol covered incidents that occur, perhaps even on an hourly basis, all over Metro Manila. There was one in the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEx) along Alabang. Some in C-5, Commonwealth Avenue and even in the inner city streets. These are only instances of what social media was able to record.

COCHEROS AND TAFT

“No Filipino…likes to have another…pass him, and the result is constant, indiscriminate racing on any kind of street, under any circumstances and never mind the…”

With reference to vehicles, the quote continues: “….they are overloaded and over driven….”

With reference to the driver: “….they drive with courage and dash. Sometimes minus all care and discretion.” (The story-teller and her children unfortunately figured in one vehicular accident. Fortunately, non-fatal although badly bruised.)

The preceding is neither current nor contemporary. It is an observation over a hundred years old. The quotation refers to cocheros (horse-rig drivers), carromatas and horses of a time long gone by in old, old Manila when vehicles were animal-drawn. That observation was borrowed from the memoirs of an American lady who brought her three pre-teen children and a younger sister to Manila in 1900. She joined her husband, Judge William Howard Taft.

(Very few Americans and Filipinos know that Judge Taft of Ohio, appointed by Pres. William McKinley as the first civilian Governor General of the Philippines, subsequently served as Secretary of War, succeeded Pres. Theodore Roosevelt as President of the US. And served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The only American to have served in such singular exaltation.)

“No Filipino cochero likes to have another cochero pass him, and the result is constant, indiscriminate racing on any kind of street, under any circumstances and never mind the horse.” That is the exact and complete quote from Mrs. Taft. And the curse of the cochero continues! Don’t you think so?

While we are at it, let me continue with another anecdote of old Manila. Also from the pen of Mrs. William Howard Taft (nee Helen Herron, familiarly called Nellie.--“Recollections of Full Years” Dodd, Mead & Co., 1914).

Escolta, which is really an adjunct of our Binondo/Chinatown commercial district, had always been the shopping mecca for Manila’s well-born, genteel and better-heeled, even after the Americans came when an added feature was introduced to accommodate a commercial opportunity to service the presence of soldiers.

The fashionable street was narrow and had two-storey, rickety, timber-built structures with ground floor space for shops selling all necessities and sundries. At one end where Plaza Moraga still exists, by the foot of Jones Bridge (then known as Puente de Espana), one would find stores with hallowed memories like La Puerta del Sol, Estrella del Norte, Levy Hermanos (they were still in business before WW II when my ‘comerciante’ grandmother used to take me to Ongpin, Gandara, Rosario, Nueva and of course, Escolta).

During Mrs. Taft’s time, she wrote: “The Escolta at that time was full of saloons, camp followers of a large army…..a beery odour pervades the atmosphere…..” (Enterprising American businessmen, mustered out of the Military staking out Manila and staying, plus some local entrepreneurs opened up businesses that catered to the burgeoning presence of pleasure-seeking American soldiers stationed in Manila.)

She continues: “Mr. Taft decided that as long as this was the only street (Escolta, that is) in town where women could go shopping, the saloons would have to go.” And go they had to and did, but not without objections, arguments and lobbying. The Philippine Commission which the Governor General headed prevailed. The Commission was a legislative-executive governing body, formulating laws and priming the Philippine territory for democratic self-government, (in the American image, of course).

I take a critical and special notice of this event because it is perhaps the very first municipal regulatory ordinance that covers, and introduced, the concept ‘urban zonification’ in the Philippines. There have been many such similar instances that followed , resulting in a civilly well-ordered lifestyle in pre-war Commonwealth Manila. A period referred to as “Peace Time,” by those of a fast dwindling population who can still remember.

I am certain, pieces of evidence of a more sensible and intelligent municipal administration might still be dug up from the archives of the city council of Manila, if only to vainly recall that sanity, sense and sensitivity once held court.

But what for? We know damn well that much of Metro Manila is one incomparable zonal catastrophe, with building and utilities codes observed more on the sly than for the sake of civic order and a fail-safe human habitation. With the exception of the 21st century vintage Central Business Districts, there is hardly ever any street in Metro Manila that displays a sensible uniformity of coordinated, non-clashing occupancies and standards of property utilization.
          
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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.