I have lived in the Mega Metropolis of Manila for many years, but I have not once been caught jaywalking.
This is not to say that I have not jaywalked in my entire life ever. I have, on several occasions, but I have never been caught. It’s just that no traffic cop seems to have the enthusiasm to enforce the jaywalking law in Metro Manila.
In Cebu City, I found out to my chagrin, they do enforce it, perhaps more vigorously than in other parts of the Philippines,
I and my assistant Allan were not only caught but also cited and fined for jaywalking less than 24 hours of our arrival in the Queen City of the South.
The morning after our show at Parklane Hotel (before an audience of over 100 doctors), Allan and I decided to stroll on Colon street, the revered oldest main thoroughfare of the city. My son Kevin, exhausted from previous night’s show, declined the opportunity to enjoy downtown Cebu. He chose to curl up in bed to catch up on his sleep.
And so Allan and I hied off to Colon. We were careful not break any laws, as we hated the prospect of being detained and missing our 3:45 PM flight back to Manila.
Police visibility on Colon was outrageous, maybe overkill. In one corner alone, there was a swarm of uniformed men keeping order of the never-ending traffic of pedestrians and vehicles. Every time Allan and I would cross the street, we made sure the red light was on, and that we walked on the painted pedestrian lane.We also read and re-read traffic signs like “No Loading, Unloading”, “No Parking”, “No Left Turn”, “No U Turn”, “No Right Turn”, and, of course, “No Jaywalking.”
Still, we missed one “No Jaywalking” sign. So when we hailed a taxi to bring us back to the hotel, that’s when we inadvertently broke a traffic law.
The taxi suddenly stopped in the middle of the street, because the traffic light changed to red. We thought it stopped to pick us up. What Allan and I did was to dash to the taxi and hopped in. Immediately a cop knocked on the window, ordered us to get off, and detained us on the sidewalk.
“What have we done wrong, sir?” I asked him.
“Illegal embarkation of a taxi,” he said in an authoritative voice.
Our violation sounded so profound I broke into a smile. I even had this urge to laugh, were it not for my fear I would irk the arresting officer and aggravate our situation.
Illegal embarkation of a taxi, what the heck is that?
As I remembered the incident, the taxi driver opened the door for us. I didn’t stick a knife in his rib cage to let us in. So how could we illegally “embark” his taxi?
The cop could be a psychic. Seemingly able to read my mind, he pointed to a “No Jaywalking” sign posted inconspicuously on the second story of a building behind us. One has to crane his neck and scan the stratosphere to spot the sign.
“You jaywalked, therefore your embarkation of the taxi was illegal,” he said, or words to that effect.
I pleaded with him to let us off the hook. I told him we’re not from Cebu City and unfamiliar with the traffic rules.
He would hear none of my pleas. Instead he lowered the boom on us by telling us of our ominous fate. “You have two options. One, I’ll bring you to a re-education camp for a seminar…”
My mind screamed, “No, you can’t hold us for a seminar. We will miss our 3:45 PM flight back to Manila.”
“Or two…” the cop continued, “you’ll pay a fine.”
I gulped a mouthful of saliva. I braced for the inevitable outrageous amount he was to slap me with.
“It’s P50 for each of you, or a total of P100.”
I puffed a sigh of relief. The fine he imposed on us would not bust my wallet contrary to my expectation.
I hurriedly paid it.
To the cop’s credit, he hailed a taxi for us, so that, in his words, “You wouldn’t jaywalk again catching one.”
Thanks, officer, for your thoughtfulness, but that doesn’t change the brutal fact. I got caught jaywalking in Cebu less than 24 hours after I arrived there. And I have the ticket to prove it.