MANILA - Call center agent Jeff Fajardo walks to work on an elevated bridge, high above a cramped highway where thousands other pedestrians used to risk their lives everyday just to cross the street.
Three walkways opened recently in Ortigas Center, part of efforts by the private sector and local governments to make urban centers more pedestrian friendly, as a larger infrastructure rebuilding gets rolling.
"Mas madali tsaka mas mabilis kasi ngayon tawid-tawid na lang," Fajardo, 27, told ABS-CBN News.
(Crossing the street now is much easier and much faster.)
Having security guards in the walkways helps make pedestrians feel secure, said consulting company employee Kefner Vargas.
"Syempre mas safe and mas masarap maglakad kasi mausok sa pedestrian lane," Vargas said.
(Of course, it's safer and more enjoyable, unlike in the pedestrian lane where there's smoke.)
High pedestrian volume prompted Robinsons Land to allow one of the walkways to connect to its Galleria mall, said its spokeswoman, Roseann Villegas.
The Ortigas district is also home to hotels, corporate offices, business process outsourcing hubs and the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank.
FIRST MODE OF TRANSPORTATION
In a country where owning a car is seen as a status symbol, building pedestrian-friendly spaces has been sidetracked to road widening projects that reduce sidewalks.
Recent studies ranked the Philippine capital as among the most stressful cities in the world and among the least safe due to traffic jams and the lack of green spaces.
Building elevated pedestrian walkways will encourage more people to walk short distances instead of scrambling for space on the bus or the MRT, said architect and urban planner Felino Palafox.
"We have to reeducate our leaders that walking is the first mode of transportation, not cars," he said.
Walkways should also have bicycle lanes, elevators and escalators for persons with disability and should be connected to shopping malls, he said.
Across Ortigas Center, on the other side of EDSA, San Juan City had also started building interconnected walkways and more defined sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists.
Last year, Makati City opened the extension of an elevated walkway that now runs almost the entire length of Ayala Avenue, home to one of the country's oldest financial centers.
In Quezon City, a dedicated bike lane was opened along the stretch of Tomas Morato Avenue.
Palafox said connecting Metro Manila's cities through walkways is "very viable."
"Building pedestrian overpasses is much cheaper than any other infrastructure... Walking is faster, and more convenient especially on a Friday, payday, and umuulan (during the rain)," Palafox said.
For the meantime, pedestrians like Fajardo and Vargas could only hope for more relief in their daily commute.
"Kung magtatayo pa ng mas marami bakit hindi diba?" Fajardo said.
(If they will construct more, why not?)