Is Manila City a shining beacon of mobility? No, not yet. At the very least, however, the current local government is taking steps to try and make it one.
Over the past two years, Manila has made strides in trying to improve the state of mobility for its constituents—not through flyers and slogans, but through infrastructure. The old Lagusnilad underpass? It’s been cleaned up and renovated, and is now rid of broken tiles and the unmistakable smell of piss on its walls. España Boulevard? It’s been lit up. Several parks and public spaces in the area have also undergone complete overhauls.
The push toward this goal, though, isn’t one that’s without its challenges. And according to Manila City mayor Isko Moreno, the biggest challenge his government faces isn’t in the form of budget constraints or red tape, but people’s habits.
“Habit. Habit ng tao. The biggest challenge. Correct me if I’m wrong,” Moreno told Top Gear Philippines during a recent interview, adding that Divisoria was once the perfect example of what he’s referring to.
“There is a habit of corruption in the area. Alam naman natin pare-pareho. Hindi naman kayo mga tolonges na hindi niyo alam paano nag-exist yan nang walang nakakausap na may kapangyarihan. Kasi blatant na mali, pero nag-exist. Maling-mali, technically and morally, tapos nag-exist—alam mo na ang ibig sabihin.”
According to Moreno, getting people to change their ways is a matter of taking initiative and putting constituents in a position to demand from their government.
“Kaya palang mawala in 48 hours yung 30-year-old problem. I put you in a situation to demand from your government. Kasi kaya naman pala. Eh bakit nga habits? Kasi yung mali na nakasanayan na ay naging tama. So ang ginawa ko, ibinalik ko lang yung lumang tama,” Moreno explained, adding that the reason wrong habits are normalized in the first place is that people grow accustomed to seeing them on a daily basis.
This mindset is the same reason Moreno used to explain why Manila is in no rush to implement its bike lanes. From his position, he sees that rushing into it without first addressing the underlying problem of normalized wrong habits will only lead to more accidents.
“Sabi ko, ‘Teka muna, easy lang tayo sa bike lane. Eh yun nga yung bangketa hindi pa bumabalik ang tamang ugali ng tao eh—bike lane pa?’ And I was correct in the beginning,” Moreno stressed.
“Hindi pa nababago ang habits eh—na ang bisikleta, hindi pang-kalsada or main road like on a major highway. Like Taft Avenue—imagine mo yun running at 30-40kph. Then you have a bike lane [and road users who don’t] understand rules and where to put themselves, including two-wheeled motorized vehicles. Diyos ko, gustong-gusto pa gamitin ang bike lane kasi mabilis, eh hindi naman para sa kanya. So may maling habits.”
More important than leading by example, though, is ensuring that bad habits aren’t passed on to the next generation. Moreno recalled an old Nestle commercial from the ’80s—which he’s sure many have seen already—that highlighted how susceptible young people are to following in older peoples’ footsteps.
“I remember it vividly, yung commercial ng Nestle. Ang ginagawa ng matanda ay ginagaya ng bata. So kung ang nakikita ng bata ay mali, tatanda rin na mali ang ginagawa,” Moreno shared.
“If the saying is true that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks, kaya may mga matatandang leader na matigas ang ulo because they cannot adapt, then let’s go after their children. So we are now changing to an environment of good habits in the city.”
It isn’t just Manila that’s playing catch-up with the rest of the world in regards to mobility—the entire country is, too. Do you think other local governments would do well to adopt an approach similar to Moreno’s? Let us know in the comments.