6 hours on the road: Crutch-user commutes for a 30-minute errand
This is the second part of a series on persons with disabilities (PWDs) commuting in the Philippines. Read the first part here: How’s your commute? A journey from the perspective of a visually impaired person
Will you commute for 6 hours to accomplish a 30-minute volunteer work?
For mobility-impaired Gloria Antuerfia, despite having to encounter lack of elevators, high steps on jeepneys, and long waits, the answer was yes.
The 60-year-old rights advocate and medical assistant volunteer prepared herself to commute from her residence in Rizal to a recording studio in Makati, a 30-kilometer travel distance.
Why was Antuerfia so motivated to spend that much time on the road for volunteer work? For her, it was a way to make the most out of a childhood dream.
She has always wanted to become a voice artist, being an avid fan of radio dramas when she was younger. However, such dreams were put to a halt when she suddenly contracted typhoid fever at 5-years-old.
“Naging bed-ridden ako for 1 year, [naging] vegetable... Kapag kinakausap daw nila ako, wala daw akong source of communication,” she shared.
Throughout the years of recovering and growing weaker due to age, she eventually lost control of her left leg. In the past three years, she has relied on her crutches to move around.
Prior to the ABS-CBN News team covering Antuerfia on her commute, she would often use a transportation service app from Cubao, Quezon City to visit the recording studio.
She explained it would usually cost P500 to P800 per ride, depending on the demand. This would total around P1100 to P1700 on a roundtrip, adding the P50 jeepney fare from her residence to Cubao.
Considering the increasing fares due to skyrocketing fuel prices, Antuerfia said she would need to learn alternatives in visiting the studio. After recently receiving her certification to become a voice artist, she remains eager to polish her skills as much as possible.
"Kaya pinag-aaralan ko ‘yung commute kasi nga, mag-oobserve [ako sa studio],” she explained.
In Antuerfia’s long journey ahead, she would have to ride four jeepneys, two metro trains, and a tricycle, all without a companion. With this in mind, she left her home at 7 a.m., telling her daughter and husband she would be back before sundown.
The crutch-user navigated her way on muddy floors and cracked pavements to go to the waiting area for jeepneys. She complained that on rainy days, it would be nearly impossible for her to do so without a guide.
Successfully arriving at the waiting area, she immediately hailed a jeepney going to LRT2 Marikina station for her next ride. Due to the high steps, she had to boost herself up to safely aboard the e-jeep. It took nearly an hour before she arrived at her next destination.
With a working elevator and expecting personnel for her arrival, she was escorted to the car train and assisted up to the PWDs waiting area. There, she safely and conveniently arrived at the end of the LRT2, Recto station.
LRT2 Public Relations Officer Rino Romero mentioned that the special assistance given to Antuerfia is not so common on regular days. He said it’s because some PWDs prefer to travel on their own without any assistance from the personnel.
A sentiment echoed by Antuerfia, she said some PWDs might have been too hesitant to ask. After experiencing this, she urged them to take advantage of the help to ease their commute.
“Kasi ‘yung iba na hindi na-aavail, sasabihin nila na na-didiscriminate pero meron naman talagang pagkakataon na na-aavail natin,” she said.
Given a wheelchair upon her arrival, she easily travelled from LRT2 Recto to LRT1 Doroteo Jose using the connecting bridge of the two stations. In a smooth ride so far, what awaited her in LRT1 was not short of a surprise.
No longer having the privilege of using a wheelchair, Antuerfia had to walk quite a distance from the ticketing area to the designated waiting area for women at the other end of the station. As she rides the train going to Gil Puyat, two hours have already passed by since she left her home.
The carriage itself had no specific area for PWDs to which the lack of barriers between able-bodied women and PWDs meant more crowding in the vehicle.
As she arrived at the LRT1 Gil Puyat station, Antuerfia asked the personnel if there were any elevators going down, to which they confirmed there were none.
After realizing this, she confronted the idea of having to go down three flights of stairs on her own, with no assistance. She said she wouldn’t want to inconvenience the personnel after having already done so earlier in LRT2.
Through a difficult descent, Antuerfia stopped at a nearby store to take a breath, having been exhausted from going down the stairs. “Kapag walang elevator, malaking challenge talaga sa akin ‘yon,” she said.
At the 2-hour-and-30-minute mark, she only had to ride one more jeepney and a tricycle to arrive at the recording studio.
“Ayoko diyan, mahirap sumakay,” Antuerfia uttered as she saw the height of the steps to aboard the jeepney. Despite her hesitation, the barker encouraged her to board and boosted her up the vehicle. This was the same reason, she said, why she avoided commuting and why it also would take her a long time to get a ride in Metro Manila.
Errol Barba of the MMDA Task Force on Accessibility said that in 2017, there was a proposal for the design of modern jeepneys that could promote inclusive features for PWDs such as ramps, braille signages, address systems, and other audio-visual components. The same proposal even made its way in the 17th Congress.
However, five years later, there are no notable changes in the design of modern jeepneys to make them accessible to PWDs. The only observed changes were air-conditioning, CCTV cameras, and an automatic door.
For now, Antuerfia was left enduring the inaccessibility of transportation on her commute. The 30-kilometer travel was estimated to be only for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Antuerfia’s commute, however, took a little more than 3 hours, double the estimated time for travelling.
Upon her arrival in Dian Street in Makati. No zebra crossings were painted on the supposed crossing area. This became a slight hiccup for Antuerfia as she raised her hand for vehicles to halt while she crossed the street.
Arriving at the recording studio, she was warmly greeted by her colleagues. Soon, she was asked to go into the recording booth and dub a scene from a client. In no more than 30 minutes, she finished her task and was ready to go back home.
Using the same route going back home, Antuerfia rode a jeepney, climbed the stairs of LRT1 Gil Puyat station, travelled back to LRT1 Doroteo Jose station, transferred to LRT2 Recto station, and arrived again in LRT2 Marikina station.
Compared to the morning commute, all of these took no more than an hour and a half.
Unexpectedly, however, the last jeepney ride that she had to take was scarce to pass by. For almost an hour, she was left standing at the foot of Marikina station waiting for one.
Missing out on riding the first jeepney she needed to hail, it took her a longer wait for another to pass by. With no benches or chairs for her to sit on, she stood there as she waited.
There, she remembered other instances wherein hailing of jeepneys and long waits were the most challenging parts of the commute.
“May time na kapag sumasakay ako, minsan nilalagpasan ako ng driver. Hindi ako tinitigilan,” she recalled.
Eventually, she was able to hail a jeepney and board it safely. Two hours have passed by since she left the recording studio in Makati. This would mean it would take her another hour to arrive back home, totaling her journey to 6 hours on the road.
How was the long commute? Antuerfia had this to say:
“As a whole, ‘yung biyahe namin... nakakapagod, lalo na sa amin. Kung ‘yung mga walang kapansanan nga nagrereklamo, may mga sinasabi sila. So how much more sa amin na may mga kapansanan. Napakahirap.”
She emphasized that this experience showed the lack of importance in implementing the Batas Pambansa 344 or the Accessibility Law, a law signed almost 30 years ago.
“Dapat ipatupad. Maraming establishment, infrastructures, na in-aapprove na hindi naman pinapatupad so marami pa ring inaccessible na areas lalo na sa transportation,” she said.
On the traverse to become an icon in the voice artist industry, a lifelong dream of hers, Antuerfia will have to endure long commutes to the recording studio.
She hopes, however, that her story would resonate with the powers that be which would hopefully improve accessibility for all commuters in the Philippines.
“Sana po mabigyan ng pansin... napakaimportante po nito. Sino po ba ang makikinabang nito?” she asked.
The 44th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week was celebrated on July 17 to 23, 2022. The advocacy week was led by the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA).