Manila’s traffic is so bad Coldplay wrote a song about it

Chris Martin from Coldplay performs on stage during the Sentebale Concert at Kensington Palace on June 28, 2016 in London, England.

Chris Martin from Coldplay performs on stage on June 28, 2016 in London.

Manila’s notorious traffic became a major theme of Coldplay’s visit to the Philippines, with frontman Chris Martin penning a song about the “insane” jams, and the country’s leader coming under fire for taking a chopper to one of the band’s two concerts near the capital.

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., his wife and their entourage arrived at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, north of Manila, by helicopter on Friday, according to photos shared on social media.

Online critics questioned why Marcos was spending public funds to attend a concert and criticized his lack of action in fixing mass transport.

Urban mobility has long been an issue for the millions of Filipinos who face the daily reality of sitting for hours in traffic, especially in the capital, where private cars, jeepneys, taxis, buses and tricycles compete for road space, while the metro system remains underdeveloped.

On the other end of the spectrum, it is not uncommon for politicians and business executives – or their family members – to take private choppers or small aircraft to get around.

Following a barrage of online criticism, Marcos’ security commander defended his mode of transport, citing “unforeseen traffic complications” that posed security risks to the president, according to a statement on Saturday.

Even Coldplay singer Chris Martin remarked on Manila’s congestion problem, thanking concertgoers for “coming through the traffic.”

“We’ve seen some traffic, but I think you have the number one in the world” he said, while Marcos was seated in the crowd, according to videos circulated on TikTok and X.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos at Coldplay's concert at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Philippines on January 19, 2024.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos at Coldplay’s concert at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Philippines on January 19, 2024.

The next night, Martin dedicated an impromptu song about it, singing, “There is only really one thing that remains. The traffic here in Manila is completely insane.”

Manila topped the 2023 TomTom Traffic Index list of metro areas with the slowest travel time of almost 400 cities in 55 countries worldwide.

The transport-focused tech company estimates that Manila’s average speed during rush hour is 19 kilometers per hour (11 miles per hour), and about 52% of its roads are congested. Typically, it takes more than 25 minutes to travel just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles).

“If you wanna drive somewhere then I’m warning you. A 2-mile drive will take a week or two,” Martin added to the tune, as fans cheered in agreement. “If you wanna get back home in time for your bath, well, I’d allow yourself about a year and a half.”

Addressing the country’s ranking on TomTom, the Department of Transport said in a statement Friday that it is carrying out road transport infrastructure projects aimed at “improving commuter experience while addressing worsening traffic in highly urbanized areas.”

“We will fast track road projects while collaborating with appropriate agencies with the help of the private sector,” Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista said.

The Philippines this year will begin to modernize diesel-fueled jeepneys with minibuses. It is also building a mass transit railway system that is expected to be operational by 2025, according to the government-run Philippine News Agency.

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