With most of us coming back to the office (well, some workers never worked from home, TBH), it seems everywhere we go it’s crowded and hot—especially public transportation. It’s already the “Ber” months but apart from the occasional rains, it’s as if summer never left.
(It’s worth noting that the highest temperature recorded in Metro Manila last month was 36.5 °C, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, only a few decimal points shy of matching 2022’s peak so far last May, which was at 36.9°C.)
I feel it every time I step out of the house. A less than 5-minute walk to the train station is enough to send me into a sweaty frenzy. Sure, I perspire a lot as a person, but it’s also the humidity. I could be wearing a tank top, or the airiest top and tiniest shorts I own and still, without fail, I would break into a sweat a few minutes after going outdoors. That’s climate change for us.
This temperature is magnified even more in the presence of other passengers in enclosed vehicles. Our collective body heat makes even the chilliest of air-conditioning but a gentle breeze. But taking mass transit is better than driving by yourself, emissions-wise—hence the need to keep advocating for better commuting conditions. While we do, here are a few things we can do to make our daily trips a little bearable.
If you can, leave early
The later it is in the day, the more humid it is so try to leave early. Nine a.m. is still bearable, if you ask me. Any time between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. is hell. If you’re coming from somewhere far, traveling early might prove a challenge, and roads tend to be congested already within those hours. Personally, the sweet spot is around 6 to 7 a.m., when the sun has just risen and its rays are still just peeking through skyscrapers.
Light as in airy fabrics (cotton and linen, no polyester!) and light as in white and light colors as they reflect light, unlike dark ones that absorb it, making you feel hot. If, like me, you tend to break into a sweat easily, consider packing extra clothes so you can change into it later. I also bring a soft towel or a handkerchief everywhere I go to easily wipe off perspiration.
Ditch the backpack
As handy as they are, backpacks tend to stick close to our skin, restricting airflow. Instead, opt for a tote bag, a messenger bag, or anything that can be carried away from your body, but still feels secure enough.
Bring a fan
Most modes of transportation are now air-conditioned—yes, even the MRT has new working air-conditioning units—but even that sometimes falls short in keeping passengers cool. Best to bring your own ventilation. Other than folding fans, there are handheld electric fans that you can wield when you feel hot, e.g. while waiting for a jeepney to fill or when waiting for the train to come on a poorly ventilated platform.
And if you find yourself walking in the peak of day under the scorching sun, an umbrella may come in handy for some shade.
Lastly, don’t forget to drink enough water to cool your body down and to replenish lost liquids from sweating. A bottle filled with cold water can also be used as a cooling contraption.