MANILA— Despite the pandemic and the closure of cemeteries from October 30 to November 2 over COVID-19 caution, some Filipinos proceeded with plans to spend the long weekend in their respective provinces.
Foot traffic at the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange has already breached 50,000 since Wednesday. This is double the usual average of 20,000 to 25,000 during stricter lockdowns.
PITX Spokeperson Jason Salvador said they expect 60,000 to 65,000 daily passengers this weekend.
But bus companies say that the uptick in passenger arrivals is still not enough to recover previous losses brought about by the pandemic. This is because buses are only allowed up to 50 percent capacity to ensure observance of physical distancing. But drivers and dispatchers say even filling half of their vehicles' capacity is hard to obtain.
Bus driver Domeng Tuanda's 44-passenger bus, which is allowed to accommodate up to 22 people, only had 7 people on board.
Tuanda explained they can only wait for a maximum of 30 minutes and had to leave once their time is up, regardless of whether they have enough passengers or not.
"Wala pa kaming magandang sure na kita eh hindi pa sigurado kung mabuhay ang pamilya namin nito... Mula nung mag-umpisa ang biyahe, eh nagtitiis kami sa P200 ang bale namin pangkain araw-araw... lugi sa diesel saka sa toll gate," Tuanda said.
(We don't have sure income yet. We're unsure if this (income) is enough to sustain our families. Since they started to travel, we've had to make do with an income of P200 for our food every day. It's just for diesel and toll.)
Meanwhile, passengers who pushed through with their travel plans explained that their lives have been put on hold for far too long and that they could no longer forego visiting family this time around.
This includes 62-year-old Mer Adriano and her husband Geddy, who said that not even their children could stop them from visiting Naga City.
The couple brought with them "pasalubong" and gifts for relatives like clothes and chicharon from Bulacan, where they had come from, saying their visit will also serve as an early Christmas surprise.
"Nami-miss ko kasi mga kapatid ko kasi syempre habang malalakas pa kami dapat magkita kita kami...kako hindi niyo ko mapipigil, tiwala lang tayo sa Diyos saka may bakuna na kami," Mer Adriano said.
(I miss my siblings, of course while we're still healthy we should make it a point to see them. Just trust God, and we're already vaccinated.)
They complained, however, that they had to spend so much for the trip due to requirements such as antigen testing, which they took prior to travel and had to retake before going back home.
It costs P850 per person, so the couple will be spending a total of P3,500 for the tests alone. They also didn't like how long-haul buses were been transferred to PITX, since they are from Sta. Maria, Bulacan.
Long haul trips like those from Manila to Quezon, Pangasinan and Bicol have all been transferred to PITX. The Araneta City Bus Station in Cubao, which used to serve as terminal for these routes, have been limited to buses bound for Dau and Angeles in Pampanga.
And just like those in PITX, drivers and dispatchers in Araneta City also complain of the passenger turnout, which is way different from what they're used to during holidays such as All Saint's Day.
The situation now is "incomparable" to pre-pandemic times, according to Araneta City Bus Station Manager, Mon Legaspi.
Currently, only 2 bus companies have trips going to and from Pampanga from the said terminal, averaging 45 to 50 trips compared to 100 to 120 trips before the pandemic.
Even the Ninoy Aquino International Airport has an unusually low passenger turnout despite the prevailing Alert Level 3 in Metro Manila, which allows travel outside the region.
According to the Manila International Airport Authority, foot traffic at NAIA today is only at 12 to 14 percent. They said this is due to varying local government restrictions for domestic flights.