Politics

Here's Everything We Miss About Bayani Fernando

Bayani Fernando is the man who painted Metro Manila pink.
IMAGE Wikimedia Commons
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Bayani Fernando, former traffic czar and MMDA chairman, is a person everybody loved to hate when he was still helming his post. He earned the ire of street vendors, pedestrians, and motorists for simply enforcing the law. 

He was called to serve as the MMDA chair in 2002 in the hope that he would duplicate his transformation work in Marikina City and apply it to Metro Manila. 

Sometimes, he can be eccentric (He once put up a poster in Marikina City Hall that says “Ang bahay na walang kubeta ay hindi bahay”), but most times, he is pragmatic. As a mechanical engineer by profession, Fernando used scientific and practical approaches to solving Metro Manila’s urban problems.

In October 2019, Fernando proposed to replace the handshake as a gesture of greeting to avoid the spread of diseases. He filed a Lower House resolution encouraging Filipinos to lay the palm of their right hand over their chest and a slight head nod as a gesture of goodwill and praise. He called it “Pagbating Pilipino.” We didn’t realize how much foresight the bill had, because four months later, the pandemic happened.

Bayani Fernando's Pagbating Pilipino Gesture

Photo by Bayani Fernando.
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The Pagbating Pilipino is just one of the many initiatives of Fernando that were initially dismissed for apparent strangeness, but are appreciated later on.

We probably won’t miss the alarmingly pink footbridges and fences he put up around Metro Manila, but in hindsight, we realize that he did a fairly good job as the region’s chief traffic enforcer. Here are some of the things he did that we wish are still being done today.

1|  Lessening U-turn Slots

One of the ways Fernando tackled the traffic in Metro Manila was by comparing the roads to a water pipe. He visualized the cars as the water inside the pipe or road, with the goal of easing the flow of water or traffic. He figured that U-turn slots acted like funnels or bottlenecks that prevented cars from moving freely on the roads. He closed many U-turn slots around Metro Manila and chose to retain a few.

2|  Eliminating Traffic Lights

Fernando compared traffic lights to valves in a pipe, which hindered the flow of water. By eliminating traffic lights on highways and redirecting traffic by creating one-way roads, he dramatically increased the average speed of traffic in EDSA. The downside was some motorists needed to take longer routes, but the scheme proved beneficial to the majority of motorists.

3|  Sidewalk Clearing Operations

Whenever Fernando would clear sidewalks of illegal vendors at Baclaran, Divisoria, and other thoroughfares in Manila, his political opponents would quickly capitalize on the backlash and accuse him of being heartless. But he was just implementing the law. When Manila mayor Isko Moreno did the same, people applauded him but remembered little of what the former MMDA chief started.

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4|  Rapid Bus Lanes

In 2009, Fernando did not need to widen roads to ease traffic in EDSA. He simply enforced a 30-second loading and unloading rule for buses on EDSA. The MMDA also regularly apprehended public utility vehicles who picked up and unloaded passengers on undesignated areas. The result was a drastic improvement on the flow of vehicles on EDSA. In 2019, the PNP’s Highway Patrol Group tried to replicate this system and was successful for some time. Motorist returned to their old habits after a couple of weeks.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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