8 things you can do while stuck in traffic in the Philippines

Updated Mar 25, 2020

You’re not as helpless as you think.

The Philippines is known for lot of things: hospitality, warm smiles, good food. Okay, even texting and social media.

One thing that’s been catching up in the past years: horrendous traffic, especially in these times where infrastructure projects are coming up left and right.

A study done by global firm Boston Consulting Group (BCG) reveals that Philippine traffic conditions, particularly those in the National Capital Region, are the third-worst in Southeast Asia. If you’re driving in Metro Manila, chances are you spend an average of 66 minutes stuck in traffic, next to Bangkok, Thailand (72 minutes) and Jakarta, Indonesia (68 minutes).

traffic jam at night in the philippines

Bad traffic conditions are becoming a way of life for Filipinos

Worse, the inconvenience comes at an economic cost: another study, this time by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) estimates that the same traffic conditions cost us PhP3.5 billion in lost opportunities every day. Money goes up in smoke through our idling tailpipes. The rise of transport network companies seems to have relieved our traffic problems to a degree (or aggravated it, depending on your point of view).

Being stuck in traffic means we’re late for interviews, meetings, appointments. It means going nowhere even as we pointlessly burn up the fuel we paid for. It means having our cars run hellishly longer than they should, significantly accelerating wear and tear on critical components. It also means stressing ourselves out with the endless gridlock, putting our health at risk, in addition to our already non-existent productivity.

That last part is especially important since it entails a certain kind of mind-set. With the fast-paced world we live in, anything that hinders more than helps our harried lifestyle is bound to give us a negative attitude.

daytime traffic jam in metro manila, philippines

If you’re driving in Metro Manila, chances are you spend an average of 66 minutes stuck in traffic

It’s difficult to do anything about the larger implications of bad traffic management, particularly the ones involving policy. But consider that adjusting how we see traffic can do a measure of good, both for our physical well-being and sanity.

Yes, we lose time from our original plans for the day. But in exchange, we get this idle time on the road which we can use to take our minds off the fact that we have idle time on the road, whether it’s for meditating, improving yourself, or even extra time to prepare for a particularly important event.

Here are a number of things that Philkotse.com believes you should try doing, the next time you find yourself stuck in a slow-moving queue.

>>> More helpful driving tips for Pinoy motorists:

1. Listen to the radio

This might be an obvious suggestion, but finding something good to listen to the radio is more of a challenge than ever.

A lot of radio stations have pretty repetitive playlists that can get tiring before long, while others are plagued by corny punch lines in a futile attempt to be funny. Try to look for radio stations that have a wider selection of songs so the variety keeps you awake.

tuning radio in a car

Listen to music, or better yet, a talk show with intelligent discussions

Better yet, scan for radio stations and look for talk shows that interest you, whether it’s the DJ sharing lively banter with an in-studio guest or fielding calls from listeners phoning in. If the exchanges are intelligent and substantive enough, then you will have learned something new or gained some added insights on an issue you feel passionate about, which is a good sign of time well-spent.

2. Clean up your space

Old parking and toll tickets. Food wrappings. Used plastic bottles. Scattered CDs and papers.

They’ve all littered your interior at some point, and you haven’t really noticed since you’re too busy getting from one destination to another. Now that you find yourself crawling at 2 kph in rush hour traffic , they’ve got your attention front and center.

This is the perfect opportunity for you to tidy up your personal space and organize your stuff. Clear out your wallets, purses, bags and cabins of stuff you no longer need.

3. Get some literature going

This isn’t to suggest that you actually read a book while waiting for the car in front of you to move. Technology being what it is today, you can probably find an audiobook of your favorite book title (or one that you’ve been dying to read but never had the chance).

playing audio in a car

You can probably find an audiobook of your favorite book to listen to while stuck in traffic

Whether it’s romance novels, science fiction tomes, biographies or self-help books, there’s an audiobook you can listen to behind the wheel. It doesn’t distract from your line of sight, and you’re bound to be a captive audience.

4. Use your smartphone for productivity

The Anti-Distracted Driving Law severely limits what you can do with a smartphone when you’re driving, with a view to improving road safety. However, that’s not to say that your phone becomes completely useless while you’re driving.

Use your phone’s voice record feature to jot down your next blog post. It also comes in handy when you need to make a to-do list of your chores and errands for the day, when a sudden idea or inspiration hits you that you need to write down before it disappears, or when you simply want to blurt out random thoughts, like the ones about the traffic in front of you.

>>> View more: Top 6 must-have apps for Filipino drivers

5. Learn the lyrics to a new song

If there’s a song out there with a melody that you just can’t seem to get out of your head, then might as well embrace it completely by memorizing the words. And if it happens to be particularly danceable, then you can take the extra step of coming up with your very own choreography. Next, try memorizing the lyrics to songs in an entire album, just to up the ante. Songs from musicals are especially challenging to memorize (and fulfilling if you’re successful).

6. Stay in shape

Sedentary behavior, or prolonged periods of sitting, can significantly increase your chances of critical illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes. And it so happens that navigating Metro Manila traffic often means sitting for hours on end on a low-slung driver’s seat, compressing your spine and generally affecting your health in the long run.

Fortunately, there are simple exercises you can do even without having to get out of the car, when it’s raining for example.

doing exercises in car

There are simple exercises you can do even without having to get out of the car

Ab crunches

Sitting behind the wheel, expand and contract your abdomen as if someone was hitting you in the stomach. Bring the shoulders closer to the hips (right shoulder on left hip, then left shoulder on right hip), then sit tall to straighten your back. That’s one rep. You can do three sets, comprised of 20 repetitions each.

For stretching, sit tall and turn your torso to the right, wait three seconds, then turn to the left. Afterwards, sit tall and reach for your headrest with raised elbows, then arch your back slightly as you push your hands on the headrest.

Wheel push-ins

Place your hands at the 3 o’clock and 9 o’clock positions on the steering wheel, then squeeze with your hands pressing towards each other. Hold for one second. Do three sets of 20 repetitions. When stretching, sit tall, locking your fingers together behind the hips, then push your chest and shoulder blades together forward. Hold it for 10 seconds.

Bicep wheel pull

Grip the steering wheel at the 5 o’clock and 7 o’clock positions with the palms facing you. Pull against the wheel, hold for one second then release. Do three sets comprised of 20 reps. To stretch, extend your arms with the palms up, pushing fingers toward the floor with the other hand.

Calf and glute raises

While seated with your feet on car floor, lift and lower heels as you put weight in the balls of your feet and toes. Lower your heels to the floor and engage your glutes, lifting your backside off the seat. That’s one rep. You can do 3 sets of 20 reps.

Stretch yourself after the exercise by straightening your legs off the floor. Flexing the feet while pointing the toes, then repeat for 10 seconds. Another way would be to place the right ankle over the left knee, while gently pressing the right leg toward the seat with your hands. Repeat on the other side.

7. Talk to a friendly voice

Given your busy lifestyle, you might have very little time for social gatherings to connect with your friends or family members. Use voice dial on your phone to call him/her, then patch the call to your Bluetooth headset, head unit or just use the speakerphone. Catch up with what’s been happening to each of your lives.

8. Just bask in the solitude

Sometimes, we need to be somehow forced into moments of solitude that will make us stop and take stock of what we’ve been through, for better or worse. Especially if the only time you’re ever alone is in your car. Instead of cursing the traffic, reflect on your life and all the blessings you’ve received thus far. You might find that you’re even luckier than you think.

a make driver inside his car

If all else fails, just enjoy the added personal time that traffic brings

Hopefully our post today on Philkotse.com has given you some ideas of things to do while stuck in traffic in the Philippines and how to turn this nightmare into an enjoyable experience. Click here if you are interested in learning more helpful driving tips on Philkotse.com.

>>> Also check out: You are not a cool Pinoy driver if you haven't tried the 10 following things during traffic jam

Joseph Paolo Estabillo

Joseph Paolo Estabillo


Joseph holds a degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines Diliman and has been writing professionally since 1999. He has written episodes for CNN Philippines' motoring show Drive, and has worked on corporate projects for MG Philippines and Pilipinas Shell. Aside from being Philkotse.com’s Content Lead, he also writes content for numerous car dealerships in the U.S., spanning multiple brands such as Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and Maserati, among others.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kapatilya

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