This one is for the Metro Manila Mayors Association, the MMDA, DOT and DOTC:
If you think “disability” is just some politically correct word, try breaking a leg!
For instance, “dumb luck” or the attack of the enemy is the only explanation I could think of why my friend “Kelly” Austria who happens to be a very skilled and experienced trekker, would accidentally slip on a muddy patch and slam her leg on a tree breaking it in two. Knowing that Kelly has devoted so much time trekking to far flung mountain communities to donate and deliver books and school supplies, I assumed that the devil was simply knocking her down for her good works. Recently, I learned the full story of Kelly’s bone-breaking adventure, and being a veteran of various orthopedic hospitals it sounded par for the course until her friend Khnowell told me about the lack of “PWD” friendly facilities in Baguio City, particularly at the hotel they stayed at.
Being in a cast was a problem for traveling, but when hotels in one of the country’s premier tourist destinations don’t have basic equipment for PWDs or the elderly, such as wheel chairs and the appropriate ramps, then you know that some people in the Department of Tourism and Baguio City have not been looking at the total picture. This discovery actually makes me wonder just how PWD or “elderly friendly” our airports and airlines are. I remember that horrible story where a PWD allegedly had to “crawl” down the stairs from a flight. Seems like fiction, but if it happened in front of me, I can assure you that I would have been screaming at both airport and airline personnel!
You don’t necessarily have to be handicapped or an actual person with disability to appreciate the challenges they face. Take for instance 83-year-old “Mama Rosita” who called me recently to point out that IN SPITE of a law mandating local governments to enforce PWD friendly architecture and facilities, many places in the country, even the most modern and the newest, do not enforce or maintain such ramps, railings, access points and public toilets. Unlike their elders who simply stayed home until their ancestors came to fetch them, we now find more and more elderly people in their 80s being active or doing their best to spend as much time outdoors as indoors.
However the absence of handicap friendly facilities and designs hamper their mobility. When Mama Rosita mentioned that she often relied on a taxi to get around, it reminded me of how “inappropriate” or ill-designed cabs are for the elderly. When my own Mom who’s 78 years old recently got into her car, an old model urban SUV, she had difficulty lifting herself up into her seat. Since then, I’ve required her driver to bring an honest to goodness step stool similar to what they use in hospitals. DO NOT use those plastic step stools! A good place to find these would be at hospital supply stores. As far as transport is concerned anybody looking for a small but sure business ought to study setting up an “elderly” passenger taxi or transport service especially one equipped to carry one or several wheel chair bound passengers. There are so many “senior citizens associations “ in the country and many of them have a common need for appropriately designed vehicles that do not strain, bend or break them in the process.
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Reacting to our suggestion that a special railway system should be installed at the ports of Manila to the Calabarzon, our reader Gabriel Peren sent us this email confirming that such a rail system existed:
“Rail system was installed from Manila Port to Calamba years ago. It actually operated for a while, but for a very Filipino phenomenon, it became a great idea gone kaput!
Remember Home Along the Riles?
From Manila Port, the long train wiggled through the rail-side barangays up to Calamba. To the residents, these trains became their waste disposal system. You can imagine what kind of garbage is thrown on them. When they reach Calamba, they had to clean the containers before the container yard personnel can even go near them. On the trains’ journey back to the harbor, equal amount of filth are collected and again the trains had to be cleaned.
After a few weeks, mountains of stinking garbage accumulated at the ends of the railway lines. In Sta. Rosa, we received… still so dirty, one could throw up.
Soon they gave up on this great idea. But now that railway settlers have been relocated, they should try again.”
Unless someone excavated the tracks, chances are the railway is still there and would not require hundreds of millions to reconnect it with the existing lines heading to Sta. Rosa. Since the PNR or DOTC has launched their Manila-Sta. Rosa commuter train, which is very useful in the face of Metro Manila’s traffic congestion, The DOTC and PNR officials should seriously restudy the railway at the shipyards.
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Chairman Francis Tolentino’s version of a “Ferry” boat ride was not pretty but it certainly showed what a “Can Do” attitude can do. The MMDA head was clearly trying to send the message down the Pasig River that we need the ferry system and it can be done if the administration simply prioritized it. In the meantime, I would suggest to Chairman Tolentino to unload the van and replace them with monobloc benches that can be bolted on to the floor of the tug. Then he can go to Shell Canvass or to Divisoria and buy gauge 200 tarp, a few 3/4” GI pipes and have a canopy made. I’ll even volunteer to supervise it!
Government officials who display a willingness to listen as well as a “Can Do” attitude deserve our support. Keep it up Chairman.