With San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority approving the Transit Effectiveness Project last 28 March 2014, San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) will now push through with the multitude of improvements that range from adding buses during peak periods to improving streetscapes on at least two locations to optimizing the transit network to allow quicker journeys for the over 700,000 riders who use Muni everyday. However, the plan also involves cancellation of one bus line and putting on hold a few others that would enhance the riding experience for passengers, particularly for those living and working in the Outer Mission, Potrero Hill, and Twin Peaks neighborhoods.
On 28 March, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority Board of Directors met with the public to determine the fate of the agency's Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP), in which it will become one of the most comprehensive changes to San Francisco's mass transit network in three decades. I have personally attended the board meeting (which can be way too early, but necessary) to listen to the discussions made by the Directors, the Policy and Governance (PAG) Committee and the general public to understand how transportation planning actually works in a formal setting.
Away we go with another topic I would love to revisit very often: food. Lately, I've been to my favorite ramen shop in San Francisco called Ajisen Ramen, and I had one of their new menu items called Tam-Tam Men (above). Can you guess the "secret" flavor of the brand new ramen?
Facebook has been way too familiar for me to work on, so why not take a new challenge and work on LinkedIn? I have started my own LinkedIn last month, and I want your help and opinion on how to build a network on it! Transportation is my game indeed, so is city planning and urban development.
Follow me on LinkedIn here today!
"Nasa Diyos ang awa; nasa tao ang gawa."
Rough translation: God provides us wonders, we work to make them happen.
First of all, I would like to congratulate two of my friends who got married this week: Peter Villarosa and Mike Gonzales. I want to wish both of them and their partners happy and stable marriages toward each other, as well as keeping faithful and true to the vows and promises bestowed upon them on marriage.
I believe that marriage is a sacred ritual where two people unite in love, mutual compassion, and happiness, in sickness and in health, in trials and in triumphs, until death do them apart. I am for both traditional and same-sex marriages because I believe that every man and woman deserves someone who will love him or her to the best of their ability, and I believe that despite my strong Catholic faith, I believe in giving each person a choice to be his or her partner for life. This does not necessarily mean that I am a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer either; I am a person then who believes that having a great and strong relationship between a man and a man, and conversely a woman and a woman, should one chooses to, is a freedom that we have, and that neither the Bible nor other religious texts have made "harsh" comments about it. Rather, it is through human interpretation over time that pushes and pulls through this controversial issue, and I am willing to say that I am a pro-choice person on the terms of marriage.
The main concern that I have for myself is that for the past several years--make that four years--I have been single. Not that I am very desperate to find someone, but as I look through my friends getting married, it makes me wonder, when will I walk the aisle like three of my friends? It's like the recurring question of, "does the perfect companion come out of luck, attraction, or some combination of the two?" I understand that opposites attract pretty well, but as I continue my soul searching through traveling and photography, it seems like both are not in my favor at the moment. Is it because of how I groom myself? Is it because I am pursuing a major that only a few care about? Is it because I lack time for socializing that I miss opportunities to hang out with girls and focus instead on commuting 50 miles round trip everyday? I just wonder when I will post my own marriage announcement on the newspaper, or let alone Facebook... I just don't know when, but for now, I feel happy that I'm single since I have nothing to commit to. But, staying single can be agonizing, to say the least, let alone having a few friends out here.
Lately, I've read an editorial article on the Philippine Star that mentioned a sad fact: for over five years, the Philippines continues to languish on the Federal Aviation Authority's (FAA) Category 2 status. It means that Filipino carriers, like Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, AirAsia Philippines, etc. cannot add more flights to the United States (including Guam and the Marianas), or switch aircraft to better suit passenger loads or airline needs, like PAL wanting to switch its North American flights from Boeing 747-400s to Boeing 777-300ERs which are fuel-efficient and can fly longer range. On top of that punitive move made in 2007, the European Union blacklisted our carriers in 2010, while the International Civil Aviation Organization placed the Philippines in its "Serious Safety Concerns" list in 2009. What is going on here?
In the article, Boo Chanco said that "What these agencies are saying is that our country’s aviation regulatory set-up is highly deficient or unsafe [...] so unsafe that the Europeans who come here as tourists and ride Philippine-registered aircrafts do so at their own risk." It is very sad to see our aviation industry take off on hollowed wings that while our domestic operations keep rising, international perspectives on our aviation safety remains grim.
I then wonder myself, why has the previous government let its aviation systems fail to miserable lows? Why is it that when other countries have seen us take off in the 1990s, we slide down into peril so quickly as how we took off initially? Why is it that Filipinos love to miss golden opportunities when other countries praise us for our own efforts?
I'll give you an example: when I left the Philippines in 2006 to move to San Francisco, I passed through NAIA Terminal 2 for the last time before settling in California. I saw long queues on the departure tax counters, as well as inconsistencies at the terminal itself (especially lack of decent amenities and features) that makes comparison to other more modern airports leave little to be desired. I mean, my family of three paid the P550 departure fee for each one of us, and I saw little, if no changes, made at the airport, let alone visit their toilets. It's ridiculous that I see that money heading instead to some politician who has a lion's share of the property rather than repair and rehabilitate the terminals, runways, and navigational aids.
I just wonder why Filipinos love to miss opportunities when given to them. I mean, right now, the FAA is firm on keeping the Category 2 rating on the country until the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) finally wakes up to the reality of the harrowing pains our carriers have endured to keep their services moving. Japan has taken the call of the FAA and prevented Filipino carriers to mount more flights to the country; however, South Korea--and now Canada--have been fortunate to us that we can expand our services to their airports to keep Filipino and foreign goods moving. Is it because that our identity as being "deprived" of something rather than "rich" with something that hinders us from making our goals? Is it because national agenda is being placed on the front burner nearly constantly without looking foresight into what a connected global market can bring the Philippines into? Is it because our "bahala na" habit constantly drags us to do things later without realizing the costs it brings us to our economy and security? I think it is stressful to think of just one concrete reason that puts our country on the spotlight for the wrong reasons, but I believe that with other countries putting us on the spotlight, for good or bad, the Philippines and the Filipino people should take each one of those spotlights as opportunities, in which many of them would not return should we miss them for even a day or an hour. Why? Time is precious, especially nowadays when economic competition has become fiercer and more fast-paced than ever before. People want more things done in a shorter amount of time. Companies want smart and innovative first impressions that would want them to make business with. And governments have the responsibility of keeping up with what other nations are doing to maintain peace and order while achieving economic success.
The Philippines has been on the spotlight lately, in good and bad publicity. Good because the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) has projected the country to become the 16th largest in the world by 2050, with sky-rocketing GDP on its trajectory. And Moody's, Standard and Poors (S&P), and Fitch are inching the country closer to Investment grade status that would put the country into a great economic power. However, with poor infrastructure, especially at our airports, compounded with economic and social inequalities, and a decreasing-yet-still-pervasive corruption in government, I think the Philippines is in a crossroads of economic prosperity and social healing. If the country chooses to succeed, then I believe it should seek help and guidance from other nations, including Singapore, Japan, the United States, and members of ASEAN and the EU, so that they can provide sustainable solutions and develop projects that can benefit not only the poor, but also the middle- and upper-classes.
My ideas to make the country get out of the dreaded Category 2 by the FAA and the EU Blacklist: go down to the basics first.
- Survey our country's airports for more services in the near-term.
- Add runway lights and taxiways where possible.
- Reconstruct aging airport terminals and modernize them to have a shopping mall feel while waiting for flights. Use what SM and Robinson's have done and put those concepts into our airports to improve passenger satisfaction.
- Improve safety by purchasing more emergency vehicles and constructing airport emergency stations on-site to deal with emergencies quicker.
- Take off all departure tax counters (even on the international terminals) and put the departure fee on all airline tickets to lessen the lines and cut bureaucratic red tape.
- Improve wages for airline traffic controllers, aircraft engineers, airline pilots, and other aviation-related industries so that they can be enticed to stay in the country and keep our airports safe.
- A most controversial solution: put the Department of Transportation and Communication responsible for airport safety and development by establishing the Airports Authority of the Philippines (or some derivative of it) that would be responsible for airports throughout the Philippines.
I just hate to see the Philippines miss golden opportunities when given to them. The current government has taken advantage of the abundance of opportunities given to them so far to good effect, but I think it should do more, and quickly, to make the effects more noticeable. And I think that the curtain that shadows our aviation industry should be considered as a golden opportunity for us to pressure the CAAP and keep its promise of reforming our Philippine aviation sector, no matter how long, controversial, or difficult it takes. And I also believe that such reforms should end up, not as a "ningas cogon" thing, but as a continual and sustainable process in which we will finally adhere to international standards so that our aviation industry will finally rise to the challenges of today's fast-paced world.
So, as you may have heard last week, I went on a road trip with my aunt, sister, mother, and a friend of mine to Las Vegas and San Diego, and I am happy to share with you the highlights of my wonderful four-day experience. As an aside, I ended up taking over 1,700 photos throughout the trip, and I covered over 1,500 miles using twenty-one (yes, I mean it) highways and freeways in California and Nevada to make the trip possible, not to mention endless cups of hot chocolate in the process.
Finalizing my plans for next week's trip to San Diego and Las Vegas is a bit of a challenge, especially with a plan to head instead to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, close to the coast. However, checking the admission fee and tour for the castle, we, being my mom, my aunt, and I, opt instead to head to San Diego and bask under the sun and enjoy the coast even more (comparing it as well to here in the Bay Area) before heading inland to sun-scorched yet ever-evolving Las Vegas.