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A car show in a country where public transportation sucks

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Don’t Drink And Write

Manila International Auto Show (MIAS)
More than 128,000 people flocked to the Manila International Auto Show last year. The 2018 edition promises to top that. -- MANILA INTERNATIONAL AUTO SHOW FACEBOOK PAGE

Metro Manila had become so clogged — so crowded — that President Duterte declared in December that the megalopolis could be dead in 25 years. It seems that a big part of the problem is the fact that there are now too many cars on the road. Last year, our local auto industry sold some 470,000 brand-new passenger vehicles, many of them winding up in the already-congested National Capital Region.

In this scenario — in which transport authorities are encouraging everyone to carpool or ride point-to-point buses — it looks like a motor show is an anachronism. And this week, from tomorrow (April 5) until Sunday (April 8), most roads will lead to World Trade Center in Pasay City for the annual Manila International Auto Show (MIAS), where some of the country’s leading car brands are expected to flaunt their latest product offerings in hopes of tempting Filipino motorists to purchase shiny new wheels. Which will further aggravate our so-called Carmageddon predicament.

In a time when Metro Manila could certainly benefit from a significant decrease in car sales, both the industry and the MIAS organizer have no interest in letting up and taking their right foot off the pedal. The show — and the sales — must go on.

But who can blame them? They’re only meeting (and admittedly profiting from) a basic need our government can’t seem to adequately serve — the need to travel. The need to travel to offices to work, the need to travel to churches to worship, the need to travel to hospitals to get medical care, even the need to go to malls to unwind. Decent and accessible public transportation is very limited. Pass by any MRT station in the morning and you’re sure to witness a kilometric line snaking all the way down to the sidewalk. That’s no way to live one’s life on a daily basis.

So it’s not a coincidence that the theme of this year’s MIAS is “Work and Play.”

“We chose this theme because we continue to see our cars play an important role in two of our most basic activities — our livelihood and leisure,” MIAS organizer Alvin A. Uy explains to me. “As we consider the automobile as an extension of ourselves, we’re excited to showcase the newest models of vehicles which people can use for their work and play.”

Spoken like an event organizer and marketer whose main goal is to surpass last year’s visitor count of 128,000, for sure, but what he’s saying is irrefutable — at least in the Philippine setting. And its simplest translation is this: As long as Filipino commuters have no access to convenient and efficient modes of transportation, the car industry will be more than happy to provide them with new vehicles, road traffic be damned.

“This year, we look forward to the public debuts of the new Ford Mustang, the Mitsubishi Xpander, the new SUV models from Hyundai, the all-new Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab, the newly refined Mercedes-Benz GLC, and Subaru’s new models with the EyeSight feature, as well as the brand debut of GAZ from Russia and JAC’s introduction of its automobile models,” Mr. Uy shares. “Some brands prefer not to give out details beforehand, so you can expect a few more surprises at the show.”

That’s on top of special displays like a 1960s Porsche 356 Coupe to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the German brand’s first production car; a five-unit fleet of Mercedes-Benz G-Wagens at the Motul booth; a classic Rolls-Royce restored by Alex Isip; and dozens of other show cars.

In the past, crowds flocked to car shows to drool. These days, they do so to dream. And I’m not referring to dream cars. I’m talking about the dream of a better life, which includes traveling in safe, comfortable and privately owned vehicles as opposed to jostling for that rare UV Express seat every morning.

This weekend, bring the family to MIAS not just for the requisite selfies beside gleaming cars, but more so for a vision of a better future. Give your kids something to aspire to when they grow up. Instill in them the desire to work hard and play responsibly so they can one day acquire a vehicle of their own. Not to show off to their peers, but to get to their destination unharmed and in reasonable comfort. Road traffic be damned.