Illustration by ARIANA MARALIT

Ailla Marie Santos, 23, woke up earlier than usual for her first day back at work as project coordinator in a construction site. She was feeling anxious after over two months without work. Like many others, she needed the money to support her family.

She knew that commuting wouldn’t be a walk in the park—as it always was even before the pandemic. If anything, she expected worse conditions on the road for passengers.

A few days before the quarantine, she bought a new e-bike and charged it to full capacity. Thanks to an uncle who has a car and was also going to work, she was able to hitch a ride to Anonas in Quezon City from her residence in Antipolo.

The 30-minute car ride was smooth and it was the first time that Ailla saw so many commuters who weren’t so lucky like her. She could see the impatience etched in the faces, even with their masks on. Many were waiting for any ride that could take them where they needed to go. A lot of people just walked, as if an Alay Lakad event was ongoing.

As she waved goodbye to her uncle, Ailla prepped herself for the second part of the journey, where she needed to “e-bike” her way for the first time to reach the construction site on Visayas Avenue.

Much of her 30-minute bike ride was under the sun. She made a mental note to apply sunscreen. While there were bike lanes, the Elliptical Road experience scared Ailla. She felt at that moment that she could be dragged by one of those speeding buses or cars. She soldiered on, though, like other people around her who were determined to reach their destinations if they had to walk, jog, bike, or hitch a free ride on a military truck.

She was not surprised that people on the road were not observing physical distancing. They were all in dire need to go to work as fast as they could. Ailla realized that people were willing to sacrifice leg and limb (and lungs) for their family.

Even before Metro Manila was put under GCQ, Enrico Belga, Jr., 30, an information officer, was already reporting to work. As his boss’ assistant could not come to work, he offered to help.

From his residence near Mendiola, Enrico biked his way to Quezon City. The journey took 45 minutes, but it was fun for him. He is a cyclist, after all, just like many of members of his family. This was a hobby for him ever since he was in grade school, but this was the first time he biked along the busy roads of the metro.

Complete with protective gear, gloves, a bottle of water, and a spare shirt, Enrico felt ready for the road. There were fewer cars and no jeepneys. That meant less competition for limited space.

During his bike ride, he saw a large number of bikers or e-scooter riders. Like him, they were probably commuters who biked for the first time just to get to work. There were also a lot of people on foot.

His ride to work was filled with some “adventures,” some pleasant, some head-scratching. Enrico was unsure if Metro Manila was really ready to become a bike-friendly metropolis. Yes, he saw the efforts done to create better and safer bike lanes. But he also saw bikers who did not follow the road signs or were not “dressed” properly, making him appear “overdressed.” Accidents, God forbid, might happen to bikers once the road welcomed more four-wheel machines, Enrico says, unless authorities would put bikers’ welfare as priority in the new normal.


Since she was young, Mary Ann Rivera, 34, was conscious of her weight. Like any young professional, she tried all the diets touted as the “next best thing.” Eventually, she accepted the reality she could never be like those Instagram models. She is happy at work and satisfied with her personal life. She even has a steady boyfriend who’s 10 years younger than her.

Mary Ann works at the HR department of a gaming firm. When it was announced that it was already okay to go back to work, the first thing that entered her mind was how everyone would get to work. A lot of her colleagues had no cars, so it was decided that they would rent a van (with each one chipping in at least P300 for a day) instead, and agree on a pick up and drop off point.

The solution seemed convenient at first. But she calculated the cost of spending P300 a day, which would amount to P1,800 a week, or at least P8,000 a month. It would be fine for her if the pick up point were near her residence in Malabon. But it would be at SM North Edsa, almost nine kilometers away.

On the first day of work, she took a cab, which brought her to SM North Edsa. She paid P200. Going home, it was another P200. After five days, she had spent P3,500.

Walking in Monumento, she stumbled upon a bike shop. The cheapest bike she saw was retailing at P8,000, which came with some freebies such as a bike helmet. She didn’t even think twice, though she had absolutely no biking experience. She just quipped that maybe this was “God’s way of forcing me to exercise!”

The next morning, she didn’t care if she was among the few ladies on two wheels. Even with cars and buses beside her, she just biked on, maintained her balance, and looked straight at the road. She never felt more empowered and exhilarated than when she arrived at the pick-up point, with her officemates clapping their hands at her feat.



Source: Manila Bulletin (