It’s almost that time of the year when Metro Manila literally purges, or cleanses, itself (depending on how bad you think we all are) for Holy Week 2019. The metropolis is almost equidistant to the farthest tip of Luzon north and south, so driving is a great option.
While ‘Build, Build, Build’ is still in progress, exiting it is little tricky for now. So for the grizzled vets and the road rookies, we’ve put together this primer to set you up nicely for the long drive ahead.
Prep the car
This actually has to go without saying but we still do because some motorists just like jumping in the car and driving off.
Check your tires. These keep you connected to the road and to achieve that, it must have traction, which comes from tread (those grooves you see on the tires). Use a ruler and make sure depth is at least 1.6 millimeters.
Clean your air filters so your engine sucks up more air than dust and soot for optimal performance and high fuel efficiency.
All spark plugs should be firing because even if just one is a dud, you’ll be slower, use up more fuel, and overall, it’ll feel like you’re driving an asthmatic car.
All engine belts should show markers. Have it changed if it’s faded because you’re not moving an inch if it snaps.
Top up all vehicle fluids and double check the radiator because overheating is a common problem. The heat index just last Saturday was already at a scorching 40.8° C. Trust me; it’s just going to get hotter.
Make sure all lights are working and because traffic could keep you driving well through the night.
Have your spare tire checked to make sure it’s inflated with the right amount of pressure.
Car batteries usually have a two-year lifespan. Using it any day after 24 months, even if the voltmeter says it still puts out the correct voltage, is a risk. Either replace it or have cables ready for a jumpstart just to be sure.
Fan motors should be quietly working. Replace them otherwise because if it conks out during the drive, your engine runs the risk of overheating.
Brake pads are measured by thickness. If you can’t tell, have your trusted mechanic give it a look.
What to bring?
In this day and age, chargers and cables would be number 1 on the list. Next would be food and drinks because unless you can tell the future, only He knows how long you’ll be on the road. A very close third are disposable urine/pee bags, unless you’re cheap and would rather use a water bottle. Either way, if you get caught in traffic along NLEX or SLEX, you’re using one of those whether you like it or not.
Bring your trusted playlist or just Spotify it. Just make sure the music is of the right tempo and mood because research has shown that these affect your driving demeanor. So ditch ‘Welcome to the jungle’ and go with ‘Versace on the floor’.
Got kids? Bring entertainment: a couple of tablets and a whole lot of songs and movies.
If senior citizens are with you, make sure they’re comfortable, and have the right food and maintenance meds with them.
Expect carmageddon-level traffic because that’s what you’ll most assuredly encounter if you hit the rush hours of Maundy Thursday, which is around 4 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Last year, gas stations along NLEX were so overloaded that you couldn’t even drive in anymore. People parked their vehicles by the side of the expressway and walked in to pee. Those who couldn’t find parking anywhere within a kilometer before or after any of the gas stations just stopped wherever they could and relieved themselves right there, by the roadside.
Needless to say, buying any food item will be arduous because of the long queues so just bring baon. Knowing these may happen lowers your expectations, which should help you keep your cool even before things turn bad.
Learn to use GPS because taking the roads less travelled might just be your key to a less stressful drive. If you’re headed south of Luzon, you might want to take the scenic route using Radial Road 5 or R-5 from Cainta through Binangonan, Morong, Pangil before connecting to the National Highway in Pagsanjan. This is just an option and isn’t guaranteed to be traffic-free.
Northbound? Quirino Highway can take you along the La Mesa Watershed to Del Monte-Norzagaray Road all the way to the Plaridel Bypass Road and then NLEX but the ongoing MRT-7 construction there may pose a big problem.
My tip is leave early, like late Tuesday or early Wednesday or much, much later, like say late Thursday night or Friday morning. Traffic along major roads may have subsided by then.
Enjoy the drive people and most of all, be safe!
By Eric Tipan
Tags: Holy Week