0915 GMT January 26, 2021
Her ordeal, a return trip of up to six hours every weekday, is expected to get even worse as the number of cars explodes in the chaotic Asian mega-city of more than 12 million people, AFP reported.
Dubbed carmaggedon by locals, business leaders are warning Manila could come to a total standstill despite grand government plans to tackle its traffic.
"Physically, during these trips, I feel ill. My back is always hurting. It affects my health to have to sit down for so long," said Zurbano, 36, as she waited for a bus outside her home at 5 a.m.
After finally ending a cramped mini-bus trip of just 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) to the financial district of Makati, Zurbano despaired of being trapped in a traffic hell.
"Traffic just gets worse and worse. I just get more stressed and stressed but it doesn't look like anything will change. I will just have to learn to bear with it," she said.
Traffic in the capital and its surroundings is already costing the country about three billion pesos ($64 million) a day, or about 0.8 percent of gross domestic product, according to government figures.
And it is steadily worsening as an emerging middle class fuels an auto boom — car sales rose 23 percent last year with nearly 300,000 new vehicles hitting the roads.
Compounding the problem, decades of infrastructure neglect has left Manila with a just a few major roads across the city and their gridlock 'peak hours' often last for three or four hours.
Commuters have few other options with Manila's dilapidated rail network tiny in comparison with neighboring Southeast Asian capitals such as Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
A chaotic private bus and mini-bus network with drivers who regularly flout traffic laws by, for instance, stopping in the middle of roads to pick up passengers, is widely perceived as adding to the problem.
"This is going to be the most critical problem the next administration faces," John Forbes, a senior adviser at the American Chamber of Commerce in Manila, said.
Forbes warned Manila risked becoming uninhabitable in the next three to five years ― meaning people would simply be unable to get around the city ― if urgent action was not taken to build roads and rail lines.
Elections for a successor to President Benigno Aquino, who is required by the constitution to stand down after a single six-year term, will be held in May.
Aquino has proved a generally popular president but he has been the target of fierce public criticism for a perceived lack of urgency in updating the nation's creaking infrastructure.