I was asked in my article about buying a motorcycle and having a sidecar made, how I liked driving in the Philippines.
The best simple answer, is that it is INSANE. I started to drive when I was 15, and got my first mode of transportation, a scooter. That scooter was like any other, but it gave me something that not many other 15 year olds had… FREEDOM. At 15 I was able to drive around from place to place quicker than my friends who still had bikes. But, it put me at greater risk because I was operating a motorized vehicle on roads filled with cars and other motorcycles and equipment MUCH bigger than what I was riding. I switched to a car when I was 16 and had saved up enough money to buy the car and afford insurance and gasoline for it. I went from a small scooter to a 1975 Buick Le Sabre four door. Light blue. It was a grandma car. BUT… I loved it! It gave me greater freedom, and safety while driving the streets and highways in my area.
I have driven many different types of vehicles in my years of driving. I loved most of those cars and trucks and one van. Being from the Detroit area, most people had cars and they were not just a ride… they were a part of their identity. I babied my cars more often than not. Waxing and cleaning and polishing up the cars for just one nights driving around town and listening to music. It was my way of life.
So, it’s not unheard of for someone with my love of cars AND sense of freedom achieved from owning a car to desire the same type of thing when I came to the Philippines. When I arrived, I bought a Toyota Innova within a month. Second hand, it was like new, with the lowest miles on a second hand vehicle I have ever bought. Diesel, I expect it to last a long time. The van is nice, and gets me around just fine. When it is cleaned and waxed, it really looks sharp. I also purchased a new motorcycle and had a sidecar made for it. They’re not sports cars, but then, I wouldn’t want one here. Sports cars are meant to be driven, and driven fast. You just can’t do that here. You could try, but then someone would most likely get hurt or killed.
Why? It’s simple. To me, it seems that people here have absolutely NO SENSE of danger or care for their own well-being. I say that because of my experiences. Let me tell you some of them, and you can decide for yourself.
While driving down the roads here you can expect, not casually expect, I guarantee it will happen to you… to have someone walk right out in front of your vehicle from a roadside stand. You can see them talking to the owner of the store or stand and then pay for their items. And then, simply turn and walk right into the road. THEN, and only then, do they look to see if it is clear to do so. So, they’re in the road, and THEN they stop to look if there isn’t a car, motorcycle, bicycle, or another pedestrian coming.
On one drive to the bigger city, I will encounter at least 100 roadside stores or stands. Each of these has people at them, and most people will walk right out into the street when they are done. Those of you might not know this, but where I am at least, there are no sidewalks. So, the road is where people walk. There-in lies a lot of the problem. Also, there are more loose dogs running the streets here than I have EVER seen in my entire life. Driving from my mother-in-laws home, a 1.5km drive, I saw seven (7) dogs in the road. Now, I know that dogs would not be considered a big problem in the U.S and if I had my big 4×4 truck I might not worry as much either. I’ve hit many wild animals over the years and for the most part not much damage done to the vehicle. But, if I’m on my motorcycle and hit a medium sized dog… I don’t want to know what would happen to my motorcycle, or me in the collision.
Let’s get to the other things that cause problems while driving, and quite simply just drive me crazy sometimes. Especially if I’m already in a bad mood. Other drivers. Particularly Jeepney and tricycle taxi drivers. I understand that they are out there trying to make a living, which is why I didn’t want to mention how mad they make me. BUT, it is a reality. They drive CRAZY! And often times, VERY slow. While driving behind a jeepney you can expect to see people hanging from the back of the jeepney. Usually a conductor, whose job it is to get fares and help people into or out from the jeepney. The Jeepney will stop without notice, and often times, without brake lights, to pick up a fare. Each fare is about 10 pesos. So, if you’re not careful, you could total your car/van/motorcycle because someone wanted to make an extra 10 pesos. Not to mention, hurt the numerous people that are inside, on the side, or on the top of the jeepney. Yes, I said on top of the jeepney. Remember when I said there are no brake lights? Well, often times there are also no headlights as well! So, you could have an oncoming vehicle in your lane with no headlights. This happens more often than you would think. The brake lights issue is probably the most likely scenario though, as they will stop very quickly to pick up a new customer. So, be sure not to travel too close to any jeepney or tricycle.
Let’s talk about tricycle taxis for a minute too. They are a problem as well. You have to not only give them room to stop, but to also expect that at any given moment they will slow down and whip around turning to pick up a fare. This might mean not only that they are slowing down in front of you, but they could turn in front of your path as well. And yes, these guys rarely have brake/tail lights that work. If they do work, they don’t work well. And I’m not even going to mention that they like to change the color of their lights here, so that the red brake light is now white! Or green. Or blue. Pick a color, I’ve pretty much seen it here. Now, if you’ve ever taken a driving course, you might remember the signals used to let other drivers know if you are turning left, right, or stopping. Well, they don’t use those here. They point in the direction they are going, or will shake their hand in various ways to try to let you know they are turning, stopping, or want you to pass them. I know what most mean, but will still see someone motioning something that I have to guess what they are doing. Just last night a guy looked like he was telling me he was turning left, but he was actually motioning for me to pass him.
So, I’ve mentioned the jeepneys, tricycles, pedestrians, and dogs. But I’ve forgotten about the goats, cows, bicycles with sidecars and standard single bicycles, and my all-time one thing I hate about driving in the Philippines… children walking in the road.
Yes, children. I’m not even talking about teenagers, or tweens. I’m talking about toddlers!! TODDLERS! I see them all the time too. Walking down the road, going who knows where. Where are these kids’ parents? Really?!
Oh, I almost forgot one of the things that still leave me dumbfounded. People sitting in the road. On the ground. Relaxing. Smoking and joking. At night. Wearing dark clothes. Am I giving everyone here a picture of the insanity that is “driving in the Philippines”?
So, I want you to gather in your own mind what it would be like to drive here. I especially hate driving here at night because the crazy things people do in the daytime, they do at night. And because it is so dark, with no street lights (or rarely a street light) you need much more time to react to a situation.
Would you drive in the Philippines? I do. But then, I’ve driven the Southfield freeway during rush hour. When you’re being tailgated by another car in the fast lane because 40 mph over the speed limit is SIMPLY NOT FAST ENOUGH! I do wish that people would stay off the streets. It would reduce my driving stress. But, I know it will not happen in my lifetime.
So… there’s the story on driving in the Philippines. I should make a video so you can all see what it is like here… but, you can see enough by going to YouTube and looking for yourself. Trust me… nothing in those videos is exaggerated!! They’re probably tame in comparison to reality.
But, I do still have that freedom I learned about when I was 15. I like being able to go where I want to go, even if it does mean I have to go MUCH slower than I would have in the U.S. I’ve adjusted to the much slower speed, and think I might have a problem going as fast as required if I were to go back and drive while visiting. 40 kilometers per hour is the new 70 miles per hour. LOL!
Until next time, paalam, ingat and God bless.