A destination appears to be nearer if we have an idea where we are in the whole travel route. And even if it’s really far, at least knowing the remaining distance for the travel makes the entire thing manageable. As a kid I rarely pester my parents with “are we there yet” questions. I was more interested in looking at the kilometer markers found at the side of the road.
What’s the significance of a marker, the round silver top of which resembles the NBA Championship trophy? Let’s see. People don’t know it exists. I’ve been looking for it and haven’t found it for the longest. Not until today. It just sits beside the road and we don’t see it.
Why is the Kilometer Zero significant? It’s a reference point of kilometer markers you find in any Philippine national highway. It’s like the Milliarium Aureum of ancient Rome that survives to this day — “all roads were considered to begin from this monument and all distances in the Roman Empire were measured relative to that point.” But it has its practical purposes.
A kilometer marker was placed smack right in front of our old house, so I was aware of its existence at an early age. I started asking questions about the meaning of the figures on that marker. It’s usually made of cement, spaced one kilometer apart, that reflects a few important details (it’s different from the markers of the Death March).
There are four pieces of information in a kilometer marker (except Kilometer 0, which has only 2). These are:
“KM” — this simply means KILOMETER.
Number below the “KM” — the distance of the marker from the Kilometer 0 found in Luneta. A bigger number means you’re further from Luneta. If you walk to towards the next kilometer marker and it reflects a smaller number, that means you’re walking towards the direction of Manila (where Luneta is found).
Letter/s — the initial of the NEXT town in the direction you are heading.
Number — immediately under the letters is a number, which designates the remaining distance (in kilometers) to the next town. It’s like a countdown. We love countdowns, from the New Year, the most embarrassing moments on TV, and what-have-you. This might provide a welcome distraction for the young ones when taking long drives out of town.
Let’s give an illustration. Let’s say you see:
This means that you’re 1,439 kilometers away from Kilometer 0 (Manila), and the next town, Cagayan de Oro City, is 2 kilometers away.
What’s the practical purpose of those pieces of information? One, if you’re not familiar with the place, you will know how far the next town is. Maybe you are hungry. Maybe you need a bathroom break. By knowing how far the next town is, you’ll be able to prepare accordingly (yes, you can get the same information from GPS or google maps, so this is for emergency purposes only).
Two — and this is the more important practical purpose for those markers — it can help you when you’re lost and, by reason of all unlucky karma, your gadgets conk out. For this, you need one more input: which side on the road the marker is placed. If you’re driving on a road and you notice the kilometer markers on the right, you are driving AWAY from Manila; if on the left, you are driving towards Manila.
Anyway, going back to our search for Kilometer 0, I learned it’s somewhere in Luneta Park. We’ve been to the Manila Ocean Park and the Quirino Grandstand, which is just across the Luneta Park. The other end of Luneta Park is the Manila Post Office. As mentioned somewhere in this blog, I usually pass by Luneta but didn’t have the time (and interest) to stop.
When I finally had the opportunity to stop and visit Luneta today, in search for that marker while my wife finished her grocery shopping, I was surprised to discover that Kilometer 0 is just standing at the south-bound side of Roxas Boulevard (that’s going to the U.S. Embassy or PICC if you’re coming from the Manila Hotel or the Port Area; Roxas Boulevard sandwiched by the Luneta Park and the Quirino Grandstand). It’s right there all along, at the side of the road, straight across the Rizal Monument.
It’s in plain sight and for years I didn’t see it. I’ve finally found it. Now I can sleep (ok, that’s too much, but I’m glad I’ve finally found it).