WHEN and where do Filipinos practically see and feel the fruits of the taxes they pay for? Most probably when they are on the streets, or marooned on the streets especially when there’s a traffic jam due to public works construction or renovation.

One Sunday night, I was on my way back to Manila riding a bus, when I found myself stuck in traffic at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Thinking that it would only take some minutes, I decided to read a thin book titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum, which coincidentally started with the line, “Each Spring, for many years, I have set myself the task of writing a personal statement of belief: a Credo.” But nearly an hour passed, and the bus that I was riding had not moved a kilometer.

Almost halfway through the work, my eyes got tired so I turned to watch TV just in time to catch a State of the Nation Address (SONA) primer advertisement, saying that the infrastructures that we see like roads and highways are exemplary proofs of the fulfillment of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s convictions–her credo I suppose.

Akin to that in the book I was reading back then, Arroyo, like other politicians, has been promising the same things over and over again. She knows very well what must be done, but as Fulghum says, knowing is so different from living what one thinks.

I have no objections to constructions but as far as I could remember, it was just last summer when parts of the NLEX were repaired–a disappointment, considering that the total plan for the superhighway has not yet been completed. What an exemplary reference for fulfillment!

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Aside from the NLEX, which was included in the technical report of the 2008 SONA, the republic still has 128 ongoing infrastructure projects. From the looks of the table posted in the official website of the Philippine Government, hefty would be a euphemism to describe the costs that government would shell out–we’re not just talking of billions of pesos here. This makes me ask: Would that already include repair expenditures because, as I have observed, refurbishing are done yearly or even twice or thrice a year?

The book has now brought me to my senses. Before ending his work, Fulghum, after contemplating whether there are things included in his text that are not written through pen, suggests: “But this is a place to pause. If the fabric of existence is truly seamless, the weavers still must sleep.”

Although some projects are promising and picture-perfect, or at least have been intentionally exposed to be “ongoing” to let the public say that there is something happening, people must still think and examine whether or not such signs of progress are deceptive in the long run.

Why do politicians seem to equate progress and accomplishment with infrastructure development? Why the fixation with expensive projects?

Like highways that are repaired every now and then, the government, although taking pride of a latent improvement in the economy, still is in limbo, standing on shaky grounds, since the people now protest the lack of basic necessities such as food.

Now let me end with the words of the one who accompanied me during that irritating night: “Now I suppose you are wondering why on earth I am telling all this. Well, I get tired of hearing it’s a crummy world and that people are no damned good.”

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