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7 Habits of the Highly Effective MRT Commuters

7:03 AM by Metro Manila Directions · 405 comments

-- Many thanks to Cris Evert Callueng for letting us share this article!

The MRT (Metro Rail Transit) is one of the Philippines’ most convenient public transport systems. Stretching along the span of EDSA, it spares us from the long traffic, expensive cab fares, bumpy bus rides, reckless drivers, and sweltering hot jeepney rides. During rush hour, however, the MRT transforms itself into a jungle.

Here are Seven Habits that will help you endure the MRT rush hour experience.  

Habit 1: Manage Your Time Wisely While the MRT reduces travel time, commuters still need to allot a good 30 minutes to wrestle your way inside the station. Your litany begins when you see a crowd or a line gathering outside the station. Tailgate the person in front of you and do not ever let anyone else cut you in line. It would be best to have a Stored Value Ticket handy. If not, join the seemingly endless snake-like formation just before the ticket gate entrance. For round trips, buy two one-way tickets at once, to avoid going through the same experience on your return trip. Do note however that one-way tickets are only valid on the day they were bought. Lastly, do not expect that you can get in the train on the first try, or the second for that matter. Getting into a train on the first try during rush hour takes lots of practice, energy, talent and tact.

Habit 2: Mind Your Belongings Baggage checking is our country's "efficient" way to ensure the public's safety from terrorist bombings and other criminal acts. Before entering the station, security guards use their trusty stick to poke into your belongings and check for bombs and weapons. (Cavemen were able to stay safe by poking everything with this wonderful tool after all.) To hasten this ordeal, aim to carry just one bag and open it before getting in line. Avoid bringing beautifully wrapped items – you are not bringing them for the guards to open. As a favor to the rest of the commuters, please do not take the train after shopping. Imagine the bottleneck you will cause at the entrance when they have to check each purchase.

Habit 3: Play Offense and Defense When waiting for the train, place yourself in a strategic location – a place where you can easily get into the train without hurting yourself. Brace yourself from the shoving and elbowing that is most likely to happen. The best thing that can happen is that you will eventually enter the train from all the pushing. However, when things get physical, go on the offensive - nudge your opponent using your bottom or elbow them discreetly. Chances are they will never know it is from you. Of course, before joining the stampede, have the courtesy of letting passengers get off the train first.

Habit 4: Keep Yourself Entertained Expert commuters are armed with MP3 players, portable radios, reading materials, or even rosaries; on the other hand, you are singing along to the tunes of a fast food chain jingle. To avoid having the MRT playlist as your LSS (Last Song Syndrome), use the resources at hand to create your own entertainment. For example, when seated beside someone with a reading material, subtly scan the article before your neighbor turns the pages. Others humor themselves with graphic and printed tees, while fashion police are on the lookout for the most glamorous or most hideous outfits. The most resourceful passengers listen to the dialogue and true-to-life stories of their co-passengers. Do not think of it as eavesdropping, especially if the conversations are heard by everyone else. Be involved and provide your own creative commentary to the drama at hand, but please, do keep them to yourself. (Saying it aloud will be very awkward.)

Habit 5: Dress Appropriately In order to execute Habit 3 excellently, weigh your pros and cons when deciding on an outfit. For ladies’ footwear, for instance, stilettos are secret weapons when you have to step on people’s toes. However, you run the risk of tripping or falling off balance when entering the train. Flip flops, while very comfortable, are prone to being stepped upon, or even snapped. Perhaps, steel-toed footwear provides the best balance and defense in this situation. While comfort is a good gauge for an outfit, the MRT is not your second home. Sandos (sleeveless undershirts) or basketball jerseys, no matter how comfortable when worn, are downright inappropriate in a public place where rubbing against the person beside you is quite inevitable.

Habit 6: Be Discreet Subtlety is essential to avoid being the subject of Habit 4. In conversations, a low volume voice is highly encouraged. And if possible, save the personal stories for conversations over coffee instead – even in your lowest tones, the person beside you can still probably hear. As specified earlier, discretion is also important in making an offensive play to enter the train (Habit 3). While we do acknowledge that the MRT is a jungle, a catfight or brawl is not necessary in this environment. Lastly, there will be inevitable instances when your health, hygiene and sense of smell will be compromised. In cases such as this, try not to be too obvious when covering your nose.

Habit 7: Keep the End in Mind Getting off the train also takes as much energy as getting in. When you are a couple of minutes away from your destination, take a deep breath, keep it in and squeeze your way to the exit. Only at this instance is your outdoor voice permitted inside the train. Polite phrases such as “excuse me” and “makikiraan po” (“passing through!”) are indeed helpful, especially when a sarcastic and exasperated tone is used (if needed). Pokes and nudges, albeit usually unnecessary, make exiting easier. After being immersed in a diverse set of people, sometimes with pungent smells, it is wise to bring hygienic essentials to freshen up after a train ride. Tissues, hand wipes, alcohol, and colognes are necessities when traveling. Women are naturally inclined to retouch their make-up after a stressful experience. Men are advised to bring extra tops, as their section is more prone to sweat and other undesirable elements.

Learning the 7 Habits of the Highly Effective MRT Commuters is a short process. However, there are instances when new habits are introduced to make the riding experience more tolerable. Lastly, the mastery of the 7 Habits develops an 8th habit for the commuters: Learning to balance yourself on one foot. 

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