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Commuting in The Philippines: The New Normal

Experts say that the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 is to stay at home. But not everyone can and has the option to work from home. A lot of people in the workforce still need to go out and commute to work—like me. 

As someone who works in the broadcasting industry, my job requires me to report every other day at the office because I assist producers in creating content for the required news item. My usual travel time would take around 2 hours from Cainta to Quezon City. I would be lucky if it takes an hour and a half. The daily commute here makes one a warrior on a regular day and even more so in the face of a pandemic.

This is what it looks like to brave the commuting in the new normal



Wear your face shield and face mask at all times

Commuting 101: Do not forget your face shield and face mask. This is very important when in a public setting. All public transport vehicles require passengers to have this to protect themselves and others from the virus. You can’t ride any PUV’s without it so have an extra ready inside your bag. Practice proper hygiene and good coughing etiquette when outside. Always sanitize your hands and belongings like your wallet, mobile phone, and stored value card after arriving at your destination. 



Be ready for the long walks and high flights of stairs

Taking public transportation has become even more problematic since this pandemic began. And it remains a challenge as the commute routine we know now changed. The MRT-3 Bus Augmentation Program is an initiative of the DOTr and MRT-3 since the National Capital Region was placed on General Community Quarantine. What’s the catch? The new bus augmentation scheme gave MRT-3 passengers alternative transportation but the designated bus lanes on EDSA made it hard for some as they have to take high flights of stairs just to make it to the middle of the bus bay.



Mandatory temperature checks everywhere you go

Safety and preventive measures are in place whatever establishments you go to. Entrances are equipped with thermal checks by security guards and disinfecting foot mats. Those with temperatures above 37.6 degrees celsius are not allowed within the premises and advised to seek medical help. People are also encouraged to provide the complete information required in the health declaration form to help in the government’s effort to curb the COVID-19 transmission.



Bring your own pen

Public Mass Transportations like the MRT-3 and LRT-1 require passengers to fill out health declaration forms after a temperature check. The health declaration form asks for the basic personal information of each passenger. After observing, I noticed that some don’t have a pen of their own and would use the pen provided at the station. A lot of passengers use it, and who knows if the pens are sanitized before and after use? (Probably not.) So I highly recommend the other contract tracing methods such as the QR codes that some establishments are currently using. Take note that malls also require you to accomplish a health declaration form so better bring your own pen for safety.

Check these new normal essentials that you must bring with you wherever you go so you can stay safe and protected at all times.



Train rides are better than before

Gone are the days when the majority of the MRT-3 commuters wait 30 minutes to 1 hour to board the train and no more crowding a la sardines inside the trains. I enjoy riding the MRT-3 now because it’s comparably better than it used to be in the past few years. The good news? The inside of the train looks clean, all MRT-3 personnel wears full personal protective equipment, markers have been put in place to identify where passengers can line-up, stand, or sit. The bad news? The MRT-3 has begun accepting more passengers despite still being in the pandemic.



Social distancing is no longer observed on buses, jeepneys, and UV Express

When you’re in a cramped, enclosed space like a bus, it’s inevitable to be in close contact with others. Last October 13, executives approved of increased public transport capacity to one seat apart from the full meter-long physical distance. Passengers are now allowed to sit beside each other provided that plastic barriers are separating them. With my experience in riding a bus, you can hardly see the plastic barriers between the seats. I’m almost shoulder to shoulder with a stranger and the mere thought of going through it every other day already exhausts me.  



If you commute regularly and develop any of the common symptoms of COVID-19–including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing–get tested for the coronavirus as soon as possible. 



What do you think about commuting in the new normal? Share with us below!



Words and Photos by Hannah Viray