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By Gus Lagman, president of Automobile Association of the Philippines

The driving distance from Manila to Tagaytay is 60 kilometers, more or less. Add another 5-10 kilometers depending on where your destination is – to the left towards Tagaytay Highlands, or to the right towards the Twin Lakes area. It used to take 1-1/2 to 2 hours (30-45 kph average speed) to get there, or get back to Manila from there,  using either of the two usual routes–Aguinaldo Highway or Sta. Rosa Highway. Maybe add another 30 minutes when there’s a vehicular accident, or a stalled vehicle along your route.

But that driving time was before, like a year or two ago. Some friends who travelled the route the past month complained that to get back to Manila, it took them five hours; some even as long as six-and-a-half. 

The heavy traffic would start along the Tagaytay Road that spans the entire length from the left end of the city to the rotonda and from the Twin Lakes area to that same rotonda. And when you’re caught at either end of it, then you’re caught … for a very long time. And that’s because there’s no escape route – no parallel road that one could take.

There are some alternative routes to Manila, but some motorists may find them much too far a diversion to be practical. Still, it’s usually better to be driving along a longer, but smooth-flowing route than to be stuck in “stop-and-go” traffic. 

One such alternative route: At the far end on the left, between Tagaytay Highlands and Tagaytay Midlands, there is the road that goes down to Batino (Calamba area). But, of course, you have to be a member of Highlands to be able to enter and pass through the country club roads. Also, you have to be prepared to drive along the narrow barangay road, down in Batino. 

At the far end on the right, the road that goes to Nasugbu can connect to Cavitex, then Coastal Road towards Manila. Depending on where one is starting, however, that can be an even farther diversion. And then there’s the winding road going down to Talisay, Batangas, beyond which a motorist can drive towards the Star tollway near Lipa City, then north towards Manila.

Whichever route you choose, you will still hit the heavy traffic approaching Alabang. If you stay along the leftmost lane, you can access the two lanes that go directly to the Skyway, thus bypassing the ground-level Alabang crossing. There is an exit ramp at the right that says “MCX”. If you take that, it will lead you to the wide road that goes through the Filinvest business district. You can then cross that area to get on the Alabang-Zapote Road that will lead you to the entry ramp to the Skyway. However, I heard that Parañaque has closed that entry ramp to traffic. I still have to find out the reason behind that decision.

One can still attain a two-hour drive along the Manila-Tagaytay road … on a Sunday morning. And only on Sunday mornings. Any other time, expect the worst. Perhaps – and I’m hoping that that is so – it’s only because we’re approaching Christmas and that it will go back to the old normal sometime in the middle of January, 2021. I am hoping and keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, on behalf of the AAP Board of Trustees, management team, and the entire staff, let me greet all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and safer 2021!

(This article came out as part of the AAP Bi-monthly Special in the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s December 11, 2020 issue)

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