When you’ve been living in one city for most of your life, it hard not to notice when things change.
Sometimes that change is fast, like when the city implements a new speed limit overnight. Suddenly you can’t go more than 80kph on J.P. Laurel Avenue anymore, only 30kph. Driving a hundred kilometers per hour on Diversion Road? Sorry, it’s only at sixty now.
Sometimes it’s slow—so slow that you won’t notice it until in hits you like a freight train. Just like Davao’s traffic.
If you’re a fellow Dabawenyo, you know that it wasn’t always like this.
Years ago, you could easily estimate your travel time from one point of the city to another without having to take the traffic into consideration. If you were riding a jeep from S&R in Matina to Coffeebot’s office in Bajada, it would have been a ten to fifteen-minute 4-kilometer ride. It would be much faster on a private vehicle. Nowadays, it would be considered a miracle if you got to your destination in between twenty to thirty. Sometimes it would take you even an hour if the traffic was particularly bad.
Traffic is at its worst during the rush hours, which is usually at 6-8 AM and 5-7 PM. You’ll be fighting against students headed to school. It’s one big reason why we set Coffeebot’s working hours at 10 AM to 7PM. The staff won’t have to worry about the traffic before and after work.
Ugh. Just thinking about the traffic that waits for me on the way home if I rode a jeepney instead of a private car or a taxi makes me cringe. I live in Lanang which is just, at best, a five to ten-minute ride from the office. On a jeepney, it would probably take me twenty or more minutes since we’d have to go through some tough chokepoints—a mall, a hospital, commercial centers…
…I’ve had to go through it a few times. I keep telling myself never to do it again.
To someone who is more accustomed to life in Metro Manila or Cebu, they might view all of these as child’s play. What’s thirty-plus minutes compared to an hour or more of traveling at a snail’s pace?
But to us Dabawenyos, this is no joke. The city’s current traffic situation isn’t something that happened overnight. This is the consequence of many mistakes, many factors, and we only have ourselves to blame.
One factor that isn’t exactly a mistake, but is nevertheless negative, is the population. The last census in 2015 mentioned that Davao City has 1.6 million people. It’s a number that’s still growing everyday. You’d think that the largest Philippine city in terms of land area would have no problem with having more than a million inhabitants. But you’re dead wrong. It’s not about the number. It’s about whether or not the city is equipped to deal with it.
Another problem is the lack of urban planning which is lacking in many Philippine cities. Most of the time, it’s just “build roads here” and “build highways there”.
Yes, there is city zoning, but it’s not properly implemented. You see residential, commercial, and industrial building popping up when they seem out of place. Did you know about the illegal buildings in Shrine Hills? Now you do.
One other issue is that we don’t even have a rail transit system yet, even though we’ve heard and read time and again that there are plans to build one here. But that’s a long term project and until then, we’ll have to make do with what we have, which is jeepneys and buses driven by, more often than not, undisciplined drivers.
Not that drivers with bad habits is problem within Davao City only. It’s prevalent in the rest of the Philippines too. But the thing is, don’t Dabawenyos pride themselves for being a disciplined people? For being neat and orderly? So why do we get on PUVs when the road sign clearly says “NO LOADING AND UNLOADING”? Why do we run red lights, don’t stop for pedestrians, and go past the speed limit?
Why do we let these big issues persist?
It’s because most of the time, we aren’t disciplined with the little things.
Like when someone doesn’t clean the dishes they used from the office pantry, or when they don’t clean up their table after the work day is done. When they’ve already been trained in standard operating procedures and still don’t follow them because they haven’t been caught and reprimanded yet.
Things like that pile up, and you become complacent. Once you fall into the trap of complacency, it’s hard to get out of it. Dabawenyos became complacent of our so-called discipline that we allowed for all this to happen.
But all is not lost, even though the damage has already been done. Even now, the city government is doing what it can to alleviate the problem. You’ve seen the roads being built, the bridges being widened, and the public transport system being planned. The city has even hired more traffic enforcers.
However, we citizens also have to play our part in fixing the problem too. Park and get your passengers at the designated areas. Obey the speed limit. Use the pedestrian overpass. Don’t be aggressive—the public road is not your personal racetrack.
Stop being selfish—it’s the first thing you should learn to become disciplined.
Even if the government can provide wider roads, a transit system, and implement more rules, unless we have the discipline to follow them, the traffic problem will always be here to stay.
In the mean time, here’s an illustration of the traffic violations and fines enforced by the CTTMO. Try very hard to not to commit any violations Davaoeños!