Crossing the Street in the Philippines

I should say, rather, crossing the street in Davao. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere in the country. I know this. There are, I am told, laws about jay-walking. They are almost never enforced. Periodically there will be a kind of a crackdown and in that case there will be an announcement, word of mouth will spread the announcement and people will be more careful. But mostly, this is how it works:

I am told that a couple years ago all of the children in one of the lower classes missed the same question on an American normed standardized test- whether they were American or not. The question was: Where do you cross the street?

You stand wherever it is you need to cross the street, corners are favored, particularly the busier the road and possibly if there are streetlights you would go to the corner, but otherwise, they are not required. You look for, not exactly a gap in traffic, but a vehicle that will have time to stop when you cross the road. You do not wait for traffic to stop! That is important. You don’t wait for them to stop, you just look for the gap you trust will give them time to stop. Then you hold up your hand facing the driver you wish to stop for you while simultaneously getting some quick eye contact as you go ahead and step into the road and through the traffic in a very slightly bowed posture, and you cross the street- that arm up, or rather out, most of the time. It doesn’t have to be over your head. Your arm could be bent at the elbow. It’s a gesture of thanks, supplication, acknowledgement, intention, I am not exactly sure which of these or maybe all of them. What it is not, is a command. Your hand out, head slightly bowed and feet moving through, traffic will stop. Nobody will honk at you for crossing the street without a crosswalk. (if you are walking down the road sometimes a motorcyclist or driver *behind* you will give a quick tap to the horn, not in anger or disdain, but to let you know of his presence so you can move over to the side of the road and make sure you’re safe).

If you have a child like the Cherub, slower and clearly unable to help it, sometimes a driver in the front might even maneuver a bit diagonally so as to block passing cars (not always, just sometimes), or another bystander will step out to hold up a hand for traffic for you, since both hands may be occupied with keeping your Cherub upright and on the move.

NOw, this may take you only to the middle of the road- traffic coming the other direction will not stop until you get to the halfway point. A couple of times, not often, but on very, very busy traffic days, I’ve had to stand in the middle of the road another minute or so before I feel confidant about stopping traffic with just my supplicatory hand.

Here’s the other thing that amazes me- if there are puddles in the road, you will *not* be splashed. There is a short stretch of the busy main road we have to walk between school and home where there is no sidewalk. We have to walk on the road. There are often deep puddles there because of the nearly daily rains and the bad drainage. I braced myself the first dozen times we had to walk there, expecting to be sprayed by the wake of passing traffic. They slow down and swerve a bit to avoid the puddles when there are pedestrians nearby.

Now think about what this means for people who move from here to any country with western style traffic laws and patterns.
And think about what it means for standardized testing at international schools.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 30, 2017 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Interesting!

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