Cab Ride to Project 3
Driving in the cab I was able to ride along the main vein of Manila, EDSA, which is one of the main roadways for the city as well as a part of the revolutionary history of the Philippines as this is where hundreds of thousands of protesters, in 1986, marched and chanted down the dictatorial Marcos regime (this is called EDSA-1). This eventually lead to the first legitimate elections since Marcos declared martial law in the early 1970s.
As my cab driver weaved in and out of traffic, with his heavy hand constantly on the horn, I was able to soak in my surroundings. Through out the many jeepneys, buses, and taxis (and some private vehicles), I was able to see many of the slums along and near EDSA. There were ramshackle shacks, made from metal siding, paneling, and just about anything a person can get their hands on. Some of these narrow houses were two or three stories tall.
Along one road way, under the shadow of a free way, I saw a group of nine or ten children, all in a line, walking along a dirty trash strewn stream. I could barely make them out as they were crossing underneath a small bridge, with their heads held low to avoid bumping them, and their back backs shifting back and forth across their small backs as they carefully navigated their way to school.
Along the way, traveling down EDSA, the driver pointed out the notorious and corrupt AFP and PNP national headquarters, where, he pointed out, he used to live near during the EDSA-1 uprising against Marcos. As he was describing what the scene was like back then he told me he still remembered when some tear gas seeped into his families home stinging everyone’s eyes and lungs.
I asked him “innocently” (i.e., pretending I had no idea what I was talking about) about what the commotion was about “Cha-Cha,” or “Charter Change;’ which would turn the Philippine government into a parliamentary system instead of a U.S. based three branch (one house, one senate) system. The controversy around this is that it would hurt progressive organizations by getting rid of “party-list” slots in the House (voting for a party and then getting representation based on a percentage of the vote) and it would allow the now soon to be termed out and corrupt president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to continue to be the head of the country indefinetly by becoming a prime minister. So not only would you get a corrupt president a free pass and running the country possibly for at least another ten to fifteen years you would still have the same corrupt people in power, so, same system but under a different name.
“Oh, sir,” he said, “it’s not good.” He explained that everyone is against cha-cha and that it is only good for the president.
“So good for the president and bad for the people?” I ask.
“Oh, yes sir, very bad. We want a new president.”
As we got closer to the Project 3 section of Quezon City the streets began to get narrower and bumper. Instead of looking at the shanty towns from a distance I was engulfed by them. Surrounding me were sounds of horns honking, taxis screeching, and the loud smelly diesel engines of tricycle-taxis (motorcycles with small enclosed side cars attached to them) reeving along the streets and roads.
Not long after I found myself right in front of the offices of the KilusangUno Mayo and knocking at their large front gate.