There is story after story after story about this place, even from way before I was born. And every story reminds us of how God never abandoned our family, not even in the darkest and most trying days, not ever. It’s these stories that laid a map down for my faith in God and that shaped my capacity to hope – for they are stories that are my history, not fairy tales or make believe. You have stories like these in your life. Do not tire of recalling or retelling them. They are the stories that will lead you home, stories that will help you put one foot in front of the other, in front of the other, in front of the other, even when the last thing you think you are able to do is stand.
All I want to do is be a responsible, respectful pedestrian.
I’m grateful for the traffic lights that help maintain order in messy street intersections. I’m also grateful for the improvements that the my village has been working on in terms of the sidewalks – replacing tiles, smoothening sidewalks and installing more covered areas. (Thank you, Legazpi Village!)
However, the traffic light changes that were made to the Salcedo/Gamboa Street intersection are very frustrating for a pedestrian. Tonight, in particular, I crossed this street a number of times and my sustained discomfort finally pushed me to write out my thoughts and feelings at length. The concern may seem like a small matter, but I’ve seen the lights at the intersection put motorists and pedestrians in danger (or anger) enough times to feel like this needs attention.
It’s only been a few months since the lights were installed, but I cross Gamboa Street (from the corner with the BPI toward Legazpi Active Park/Legazpi Parking Lot and back) very often. On foot, this intersection gets me to most places I go on a regular basis, so the past weeks have allowed me lots of opportunity to observe and draw some agitating conclusions:
(If you are not living in Manila, this may be a good time for you to proceed to other more useful, happy, relevant reading, as I am about to break down my observations and recommendations regarding a pedestrian/traffic matter in the Philippines.)
1. It seems like the pedestrian never gets a go signal.
The pedestrian light on my usual crossing barely ever turns to WALK (in reality, the white-light walking man). This particular crossing is on Gamboa street, on the Legazpi park side of Salcedo Street.
On many, many occasions, I have stood at the corner for a long time, trying to be obedient to the light. An orange hand signalling STOP is ever-present. I understand that is there to keep me safe. But often, you are held in this spot long enough to wonder if it will ever be your turn to cross. (I have also tried the “push to cross” button, but have not yet experienced the actual effects of this on the lights.., perhaps I’ve been too impatient?)
2. The traffic enforcer, during every occasion I’ve experienced, helps to move vehicular traffic in this intersection, with little mind to the pedestrians.
On many busy times of the day, the traffic lights are supplemented by a human traffic enforcer who keeps the vehicles moving. This is all well for those that ride in cars, making sure there are no bottlenecks or not-so-smart-or-respectful cars that block the backed up intersection. But this it is not well for pedestrians, it seems the human traffic enforcer often forgets them as they stand waiting their turn. I have tried waiting.
3. The traffic lights assist cars, but not pedestrians. The current program of the traffic lights puts pedestrians in danger of getting run over.
Because of instances 1 and 2, and their often simultaneous occurrence (no pedestrian go signal + human traffic enforcer forgetting humans traveling on foot), pedestrians awkwardly and dangerously try to find their way across a street.
It gets agitating when there is actually a legitimate pedestrian crossing but no properly allotted time programmed for human beings to cross it safely. Cars also do not tend to give way, as they are simply following the traffic lights themselves. Drivers also will tend to get mad at pedestrians that try to cross whenever they can, without knowing that the pedestrians are not being provided a safe and timely moment to cross.
If pedestrians are conscientious, or shy street-crossers, they will do their best to wait. I see many try. I often do. But often the wait is just too long for it to make sense. You notice the lights go through their full cycle, all the cars have been let through, and yet you are still standing there waiting.
4. The traffic lights themselves are confusing for drivers.
Not only is it dangerous for pedestrians, but this Gamboa Street, traveling in the direction of Amorsolo street, has two stop lights that have the following:
- a green and yellow light for cars going straight,
- a green and yellow arrow light for cars turning left and
- one red light.
This is a pretty new set of traffic lights, so many drivers are not familiar with it. They are particularly unfamiliar with the arrangement that they cannot turn left unless there is a left-turn green arrow. Most drivers assume that when there is a green light, they can go straight and also turn left without any problems. The problem with this assumption is that the opposing lanes have a green light at the same time. There is no left-turn red arrow to keep cars from turning left when it’s not their turn.
This is actually pretty dangerous. I’ve seen a couple of near accidents when cars turn left into Salcedo Street without knowing that the cars on the opposite lane are still allowed to keep going straight. The left-turning cars are not aware that they need to wait for a left-turn green arrow.
I’ve also seen drivers trying to wait patiently for the green left arrow, but impatient cars behind them honk without ceasing. In one specific occasion, the first car finally turned because the second car was pounding on his horn. First car turned safely, but the second car (the honking one) almost got hit by an oncoming car. The oncoming car had a proper green light. He honked back and wouldn’t let that second car go through.
You know that for many years there were no lights in this intersection?
5. Pedestrians can follow their walk light at their own risk.
I was talking to myself as I crossed the street for the last time today, does the pedestrian light ever allow anyone to cross? Does it ever turn white, or is that orange hand just always lit up?
I paused and waited. And then, ta-daaa! the walk light finally signaled that I could walk across the street! (I was coming from the Legazpi park side.)
For a moment, I was very happy! And then:
a. I realized the left turn arrow for cars on Salcedo (turning into Gamboa) was green, at the same time that my light (crossing Gamboa) told me to walk.
b. There was a vehicle turning left as I was trying to cross. Both our traffic/pedestrian lights told us we could proceed safely. Not true!
c. The driver didn’t see my pedestrian light and he was simply following his light.
d. I was also simply following my light.
e. I had to stop in the middle of the street/pedestrian crossing to not get run over by the car. I let it go ahead.
f. While I stood there midway, waiting for the vehicle to pass, my pedestrian light turned to a STOP light. That orange hand again. It had been barely a few seconds since I left the sidewalk.
g. Thankfully there was only one vehicle turning left, so I made it across safely. I noticed though that left turn green arrow into Gamboa was still green. Had there been more cars on the road, I still would not have been able to cross. I would’ve gotten stuck in the middle of the road as the cars on Gamboa get their green light to go straight. (This has happened to me before.)
6. This intersection is not fair.
I really want to follow the rules. I understand how pedestrians crossing at random times and random places cause accidents and more unwanted traffic. But intersections like these make it difficult to follow the rules because the rules were programmed unfairly.
Because I hate to just complain, here are a few suggestions for how to improve the current situation:
A. Post clear signage that say help motorists know what’s going on (especially for instances where a special left-turn green light is required for turning left). Also post signage as changes are being made, to warn motorists in advance.
B. Adjust the programming of the lights to accommodate pedestrians. (Three seconds is hardly enough time to make it across the road, especially for senior citizens or children).
C. If a human traffic enforcer will be working the intersection, make sure they wear lots of reflective gear. (They are sometimes almost invisible!) Perhaps the traffic lights can flash rather than stick to regular programming, so motorists know to proceed with caution. Remind traffic enforcers to also allow pedestrians to cross at certain intervals.
Now, how to get this feedback to the folks that can make some changes?
I’ve prepared a taste of my past year through the music that has moved me through an adventure-filled 2016.
This is a little annual tradition that has swung me into the past four new years: making a playlist to tie up the stories of my year. 2016 has added up to a generous helping of 31 songs. (My longest end-of-the-year playlist so far!)
You can also check out the playlist here: “Open Doors // SpeakSoon’s 2016 in Music”. A list of songs/artists also at the end of this post.
This year, I’ve added a new challenge. As a final piece and creative writing exercise, I borrowed words from all the songs of my 2016 and built a poem. You’ll find lines from all the different songs strung together with a bit of play from me. Does my year sound a lot like yours?
In these moments, I lose focus.
I don’t remember when we decided we could fly.
Put your head on my shoulders,
If you’re lost and you’re lonely, go and figure out why.
How do we mend a million pieces
strung out across the ground?
Hear the healing in your bones,
Sit in stillness for the silence of this sound.
Cry, my friend, no more,
you’ve seen your stars aligning I’m sure.
We all fear the sound of a closing door,
only your faith will prove to bring a cure.
All these vultures that surround you,
with cowardice speak their lies out loud.
Take my hand, I’ll give you strength,
just when you think all the streets have emptied out.
La soledad viene sin patria, have you missed the lonely call?
Leave what’s heavy.
Leave what’s heavy behind,
but I keep running for a soft place to fall.
A light against a darkened sky,
your truth must outshine all the lies,
You let your feet run wild and try
to tell the world that fiction is falling from up high.
The cross we bear is all we’ve got
para você vem dançar,
It’s like a bit of light in a touch of dark,
do you dare to look your losses right in the eyes?
While you were sleeping, I thought of you.
We might make it further if we learned to stay.
We’re here, eyes open, catching and releasing
what builds up throughout the day.
Live to dance in a hurricane,
find your heart standing in the eye,
I just hope you’ll stop me
before I build a world around me.
We are waiting on their sunshine and the morning dew,
for we live where the war is raging and where we miss the moon,
We’re all lonely together, no matter what we choose to do.
We can tell each other secrets, til we remember how to love.
I was listening to the ocean. I was dancing in the rain.
Words are so easy to say, we speak as though nothing could fall,
Slow down when you can, we’re not exempt from all pain,
This story’s a long one, take a deep breath, then five more. Stand tall.
Throw your arms in the air tonight. I won’t be no runaway.
I’ll go braving everything through the shine of the sun.
Darling, don’t be afraid when it’s time to stay,
but the doors are open. Run!
Playlists from previous years:
I’ve also just realized that I never shared 2015’s playlist, now also public on Spotify: “SpeakSoon: 2015 in Music”
And finally, a simple rundown of my 2016’s lovely playlist:
- Run – Lost Frequencies Radio Edit // Emma Bale
- On Our Knees (Feat. R.O) // Konoba
- I’ll Move Mountains // Roo Panes
- Tomorrow’s Song // Olafur Arnalds
- Tightropes // Robyn Sherwell
- Gorgeous // X Ambassadors
- Falling Faster // Andrew Ripp
- Moments – Acoustic Live // Kidnap Kid
- Spaceship – Popvilla Sessions // Comet Blue
- You’re Mine – Radio Edit // Raving George
- Deep End // Birdy
- No Angel // Birdy
- We Can Be Heroes // Ozark Henry
- The Eye // Brandi Carlie
- I Need a Forest Fire – feat Justin Vernon // James Blake
- Friends feat Bon Iver // Francis and the Lights
- Summer’s Almost Gone // The Temper Trap
- Lost // The Temper Trap
- New Afro Spanish Generation // Buika
- Light it Up (feat Nyla & Fuse ODG) // Major Lazer
- Dark Necessities // Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Sunset Lover // Petit Biscuit
- Way Down We Go – Recorded at Spotify Studios NYC // Kaleo
- Para Voce // Gregor Salto
- Forever With You // Nathan Roberts
- Heavy // Birdtalker
- Good Together // HONNE
- Catch & Release – Deepend Mix // Matt Simons
- Show Me Love // Sam Feldt
- Runaway // AURORA
- Runaway // The National
2017, I’ll be listening for you!
My books from my childhood and adolescence now boast the smell I love so much — the toasty, musty scent of old books. On Christmas day, standing in the bedroom I grew up in, I scanned my shelf looking for a good book to re-read as a Christmas treat. I pulled out Lois Lowry’s The Giver, which I hadn’t opened in over ten years.
Even as a young reader, I already knew this book was one I would have to revisit as an adult. When the movie came out not too long ago, I purposefully missed it, remembering the promise I had made when my copy of the book still smelled clean and bookstore-fresh.
So on this Christmas Day, to satisfy the hope of my younger self, I opened up the pages, already browning and spotted with a bit of age. This hope was that as I grew up and grew older, I would continue to open my heart to precious stories like these; that I would revisit their chapters and let their wisdom reveal something new with each reading.
The incredible thing is that the moment I finished the book this time, soon after waking this morning, I ached to read it over. It is a perfectly-timed read, as I continue to wrestle with the polarizing impressions of the daily news — safety and violence, injustice and the eager Christmas spirit.
In The Giver, Lois Lowry brings us to a version of our world that lives in Sameness. It is a safer, more organized world where people feel no pain, where everyone has their duty and place in society at any given time. Those that do not, due to weakness at birth or old age, or because of disobedience of the rules, were released from the community.
It was a secure society, where people shared their feelings, offered and accepted verbal apologies when wrong was committed, and never found themselves wanting.
While all of that made for a peaceful “life,” these people could not see colors, had never heard music, and more painfully to consider, had never known love. Could we still call this living? They had no knowledge of sunshine, of snow, of flowers or of birds. They had unknowingly traded the splendor of these simple, lovely things, for the absence of any discomfort, ache or inadequacy.
Only one member of their community held all memory and history — really he was the only one that knew of and lived with the beauty, pleasure, sorrow and pain that ever existed. That person was the Receiver of Memory. Jonas, our twelve-year old protagonist, was selected to be the new Receiver, by the former one, now known as the Giver.
And right in the pages of this book sits a beautiful memory of Christmas:
“Jonas felt the joy of it as soon as the memory began. Sometimes it took a while for him to get his bearings, to find his place. But this time he fit right in and felt the happiness that pervaded the memory.
He was in a room filled with people, and it was warm, with firelight glowing on a hearth. He could see through a window that outside it was night, and snowing. There were colored lights: red and green and yellow, twinkling from a tree which was, oddly, inside the room. On a table, lighted candles stood in a polished golden holder and cast a soft, flickering glow. He could smell things cooking, and he heard soft laughter. A golden-haired dog lay sleeping on the floor.
On the floor there were packages wrapped in brightly colored paper and tied with gleaming ribbons. As Jonas watched, a small child began to pick up the packages and pass them around the room…. While Jonas watched, the people began one by one to untie the ribbons on the packages, to unwrap the bright papers, open the boxes and reveal toys and clothing and books. There were cries of delight. They hugged one another….
Jonas opened his eyes and lay contentedly on the bed, still luxuriating in the warm and comforting memory. It had all been there, all the things he had learned to treasure.
“What did you perceive,” The Giver asked.
“Warmth,” Jonas replied, “and happiness. And — let me think. Family.”*
On this stormy day after Christmas, I think of all those around the world who are not surrounded by the ideal Christmas or holiday. There are many among us who sit in evacuation centers, crowd in refugee camps, cower in the fear or aftermath of violence, run breathless in search for peace, shrink in hunger, or face their grief alone. Even as many of us have joyfully celebrated in the company of loved ones this Christmas, safe by a glowing fire, bathed in sweet sunlight, or in the embrace of joy, there are too many in the world that live the exact opposite of this story.
Though we raise our banners of generosity and cheer this holiday season, there is no denying the hatred, suffering, and overwhelming grief that runs in the bloodstream of humanity. It seems our love is not enough to heal the wounds, to ease the torment, or to undo the wrongs that have been committed in our generation alone. I fear our own hypocrisy.
And yet, I find myself still clinging to hope, even with the deafening noise and discouragement of reality. I cling to the true Gift of this season — the Love that heals, the Love that saves. The Hope in Whom Christmas began.
Because we are human, we will continue to carry the weight of anguish and heartache, but with it, the lightness of love and compassion. In a time when justice can feel like a sad, mocking idea to the suffering multitudes around the world, I insist that there is still a fighting army of us who can love, forgive and heal. Help me prove that this is true. These are the days when we must courageously show up in defense, in solidarity, out of love for others.
“… Jonas, the community will be left with no one to help them. They’ll be thrown into chaos. They’ll destroy themselves. I can’t go.
“Giver,” Jonas suggested, “you and I don’t need to care about the rest of them.”
The Giver looked at him with a questioning smile. Jonas hung his head. Of course they needed to care. It was the meaning of everything.”*
As I closed the pages of The Giver, I held on to these words. It is simple, but far from easy place to begin.
We start by caring. Truly caring for one another. We may not live in the Sameness of Jonas’ community, but the need for us to care is even greater today. It is so important that we reflect on how we are tangibly called to do this today and that we act on it with purpose and urgency.
May we never let our colors mute to gray, our music unravel into silence, our dancing slow down to stillness, our love disfigure into hatred, or our sense of justice crumble into indifference.
[*Quotes in italics are from the novel, The Giver, by Lois Lowry, published in 1993, by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers in New York.]
Now here’s more on what fills up these beautiful baskets:
Signature Baa-Baa-Basket Php2499