Are you planning to go out of town this Holy Week? Brace yourselves. According to the Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC), traffic volume during the Holy Week is expected to rise by 10-15%. MPTC will further implement a technology-based approach to help motorists manage their trips, beat traffic, and anticipate road conditions.
If you're going to tread the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), expect that the current average traffic flow of 410,000 will rise to 470,000, while the Manila-Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX), which is currently accommodating 152,000 vehicles, will be expected to have a 10% increase. In short, major roads and highways will be heavily congested, so it’s important to make some preparations for a hassle-free drive. Here are some tips to get you started.
8 Ways to Beat Traffic This Holy Week
Almost everyone traveling out of Manila this coming long weekend wishes to survive the hours-long drive to Pampanga, Pangasinan, Baguio, or La Union. But the Holy Week rush might double that travel time. If you're too eager to reach your vacation destination, here are a few things you can do to beat the traffic and enjoy the road trip.
1. Leave Early or the Night Before
The early bird catches the worm, and the early traveler arrives ahead of time. Nothing beats getting ahead of traffic. So leave earlier than planned to avoid the volume of cars traveling this Holy Week.
If you’re planning to take a long drive to Baguio or La Union, leave before dawn, ideally around 3 to 4 a.m. Not only do the wee hours offer better traffic conditions. They’ll also save you from getting in queue during the day when the heat of the sun is at its peak.
If you can, take a vacation leave on Holy Wednesday and start the drive from there. Doing this will allow you to avoid the rush of vehicles taking the same route. Plus, who doesn’t want an extra day of relaxation?
2. Take Note of Alternate Routes
There’s no one definitive route to take when you’re going somewhere. When planning your Holy Week trip, consider the new roads and highways such as the TPLEX Pozorrubio Exit, Mabiga Interchange, and Barkadahan Bridge that were opened to the public recently to help ease traffic and reduce travel time. Do some research on possible routes in advance to identify which one can take you to your destination the soonest.
Manila-Baguio in a Maximum of 5 Hours via TPLEX Pozorrubio Exit
A trip to Baguio, La Union, or anywhere in North Luzon from Metro Manila will be a lot faster when you take the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX). You can reach Baguio in only five hours, thanks to the opening of a new TPLEX exit in Pozorrubio, Pangasinan. You can shorten the trip if you travel beyond peak hours starting from 12 midnight.
Rather than passing through the MacArthur Highway/Manila North Road/Radial Road 9 or TPLEX Urdaneta exit, just go straight ahead to the Pozorrubio exit, which is the end of the highway. This will reduce your travel time to just 45 minutes from Tarlac to Pozorrubio, which used to take 2.5 hours. From the TPLEX Pozorrubio exit, it will take you another 45 minutes to get to Baguio.
MacArthur Highway-SCTEX Subic/Tarlac via Mabiga Interchange
Heading out to and from Subic or Tarlac via the MacArthur Highway-SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway) route has become easier and safer through the new SCTEX Mabiga Diamond Interchange in Mabalacat City, Pampanga. Because of this, the U-turn slot along the NLEX-SCTEX connection in Barangay Mabiga has been permanently closed to traffic. If you’re going from MacArthur Highway to SCTEX Subic/Tarlac, simply take the new Mabiga northbound entry toll plaza. Take the new Mabiga southbound exit toll plaza on your way back to MacArthur Highway.
Manila-Meycauayan via NLEX Libtong and Pandayan Exits
If you often traverse the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), you know how traffic can get bad at the Meycauayan Interchange. But no need to dread traveling to Meycauayan City anymore. You can avoid the congested Meycauayan Interchange and instead take the new NLEX exits in Barangays Libtong and Pandayan. You can also use the Libtong exit for traveling to Manila via Sterling/Iba Road. Meanwhile, the Pandayan exit allows easier access to MacArthur Highway for motorists bound to Baguio.
Quezon City/Caloocan-Manila/Pasay/NAIA/SLEX via Radial Road 10
Traveling north to south and vice versa can be a pain in the neck, especially when people go on out-of-town trips. Escape that holiday commuting nightmare—take Radial Road 10 (R-10) via Bonifacio Drive and Roxas Boulevard. The R-10 spans from Delpan Bridge in Tondo, Manila to C-4 Road in Navotas City. The improved and widened road can accommodate motorists who are looking for an alternate route to EDSA and C-5.
Taytay-Bicutan in 30 Minutes via Laguna Lake Highway and Barkadahan Bridge
If you’ll drive from Taytay, Rizal to Bicutan, Taguig, avoid passing the congested EDSA and C-5 Road. Take the faster route via the Barkadahan Bridge in Taytay and the widened Laguna Lake Highway. Formerly known as the C-6 Road, the Laguna Lake Highway has two new lanes, which are expected to make travel faster between Taytay and Bicutan by 50%. What’s so cool about this new highway is its 3-meter biking and jogging lane, the first of its kind in Metro Manila.
Aside from Taytay and Bicutan, using the Barkadahan Bridge also provides convenient travel to and from other cities and towns of Rizal, Quezon City, Marikina, as well as NAIA and SLEX.
SLEX-NAIA in 20 Minutes via NAIA Expressway
Need to get to the airport faster for your holiday vacation? Cut down your commute from one hour to just 20 minutes. If you’re coming from the South, take the NAIA Expressway (NAIAEX) from South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Aside from SLEX, NAIAEX also connects Cavite Expressway (CAVITEX) and Diosdado Macapagal Avenue to all NAIA terminals.
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3. Take Advantage of Travel Apps
Gone are the days when you needed to bring an NLEX/SCTEX/TPLEX map when traveling. Travel apps are now readily available to show you the way. Some apps can even provide you with the alternate route and traffic updates so you can decide which road to take.
Download and utilize driving apps such as Waze, Google Maps, and Drive Mode to determine the latest traffic conditions and to monitor accidents, police locations, and other possible road obstacles. Apart from helping you reduce travel time, these apps will also allow you to track other vehicles on the road, which is perfect for convoys. Just don’t get too distracted when using a phone while driving.
Tips When Using Travel Apps While Driving
Travel apps can be very useful especially if you’re taking the route for the first time and if you want to beat traffic. However, take note that there are factors affecting the performance of these apps, and knowing how to use them while driving can reduce the hassles and risks of getting lost:
- Some information may not be accurate when the internet connection is weak. Waze, for instance, may point you to a different direction if your data connection is unstable. You might need to check Google Maps before leaving to get familiar with landmarks and roads just in case the travel apps fail during the trip.
- Have your mobile phones or tablets fully charged. The battery life of your gadget may run out unexpectedly, so take a charger and a fully-charged power bank on your trip.
- Don't rely on one travel app. Download two or more travel apps for backup if one app fails. Make sure you have enough time to learn how the app works before driving off.
- Use a cellphone holder or rack. It will be difficult to hold your mobile phone while holding the steering wheel. Buy a sturdy, easy to use, and good quality phone holder that you can install in your car.
- Download food and drink apps. The long trip can be tiring, so you need food and drinks apps that will lead you to the nearest restaurants or shops.
4. Keep Your Vehicle in Top Condition
It goes without saying that before taking a trip, you need a fully functional car. For a safe and fluid trip, ensure that your vehicle is in excellent condition. Follow the PNP-HPG’s time-tested BLOWBAGETS checklist before your trip: Battery, Light, Oil, Water, Brakes, Air, Gas, Engine, Tools, and Self. Don’t forget to bring your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and insurance certificate just in case. Remember, there’s no such thing as being too prepared.
If you don’t have insurance yet, Moneymax can help you compare the best car insurance here in the Philippines.
5. Be Updated with the Latest News
Will it rain on the day of your trip? Are there social events that will affect the traffic conditions? Are there roads that are flooded or closed for excavation? It pays to be updated on the latest news across the country before heading out, especially with COVID-19 travel restrictions constantly changing per city or province.
Baguio is now easily accessible by visitors from areas under Alert Level 1 and 2. But those coming from areas under Alert Level 3 may need to present a negative swab test result first. Tourists from places under Alert Levels 4 and 5 are not allowed entry. All Baguio non-residents are also required to register at visita.baguio.gov.ph.
Aside from COVID-related updates, some announcements can be very useful, such as the suspension of the number coding scheme in Metro Manila during the Holy Week. The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be suspending the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP) or the number coding scheme from April 14 to April 15, 2022.
Catch the latest news on TV or online through news websites and their social media pages before leaving. Tune in to your car radio from time to time for more updates. Stay updated to avoid possible roadblocks and create a back-up vacation plan.
6. Strictly Follow the Traffic Rules
It sucks that you have to deal with traffic. But you know what’s worse? Being the cause of traffic. So it’s self-explanatory: Don’t be the cause of traffic. Stay in your lane no matter how congested the road is.
Follow the traffic lights, take note of speed limits, and be respectful to traffic enforcers. Always maintain a calm composure and be considerate of other drivers who are stuck in traffic. Remember that driver discipline and kindness always pay on the road.
7. Prepare a Road Trip Playlist
Beat traffic and make your trip more memorable by preparing the ultimate music playlist that will serve as the official soundtrack of your trip. If you don’t have the time, just ask a friend or relative to compile some great tunes for you on Spotify.
Music will keep you focused and alert while your eyes are on the road. It can also make the drive more lively and entertaining for you and your family. Just make sure not to pick overly relaxing songs to avoid dozing off.
Related reading: 24 Must-Visit Destinations for Your Road Trip Near Manila
8. Keep Yourself Full and Hydrated
Always prepare yourself, physically and mentally, before any type of trip. Pack enough food and water for you and your travel companions to prevent anyone from getting hungry or dehydrated, especially if you’re traveling with children.
Grab a quick bite before leaving, or pack some snacks that you can easily eat while driving. You can also make quick stops at restaurants along the way so you can eat, rest, and relieve yourself before going back to the road again.
What to Expect During Your Holy Week Trip
Stoked to be traveling to the best tourist spot or to see relatives in the province? You must be! But remember that local festivities also coincide with the Holy Week, and some destinations may have protocols and activities which could affect your plan to beat traffic.
Here are a few things you should anticipate during your Holy Week trip:
- Your trip can be slowed down by processions. If you want to beat traffic, try a different route or know what time the procession will start.
- Churches might be crowded due to Visita Iglesia, a Catholic tradition of visiting at least seven churches on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Even if devout Catholics may visit churches by car, there are still people who observe this tradition on foot. Some areas will be crowded with pedestrians heading to the churches, especially at dawn.
- Catholics also abstain from eating meat during Holy Week as a form of sacrifice. So expect that little to no meat will be served in most dining areas. Suppress your meat cravings and be prepared to choose from a meatless menu. On the fun side, you'll be acquainted with different local delicacies, which are also popularly served during Holy Week.
- You’ll pass by penitents imitating the suffering of Christ, and this may draw a number of spectators on the roads. From flagellation to crucifixion, the rites involve the whipping of oneself to draw blood, which may be interesting to the young generation who may be witnessing this tradition for the first time.
Long vacations are inevitable, especially since most employees are now being mandated to report to the office. A lot of Filipinos will take advantage of this long weekend to have some ‘me time’ and spend quality time with loved ones before facing the reality of the grind.
Beating traffic is always the hardest part of any long vacation. But after all this fuss, you’ll have the entire Holy Week for fun activities with your loved ones. Consider this as your motivation for going through the trouble of making all these travel preparations. Plan your trip thoroughly, check your vehicle, and keep yourself in tip-top shape to ensure a Holy Week vacation like no other.
-  MPTC expects 10-15% rise in traffic volume during Holy Week; use of travel app pushed (Business World, 2022)
-  Visiting Baguio In the Better Normal (Baguio Tourism, 2022)
- MMDA activates ‘Oplan Metro Alalay Semana Santa 2022’ on April 8 (Inquirer, 2022)