If you’re continuing from my previous few articles, you’ll be happy to know that I have recovered from my culture shock!!

In fact, the culture has grown on me pretty quickly.

The driving still scares the crap out of me, unless I’m behind the wheel. Yes, you heard me right!! I drove while there! I have to say that it was not bad at all. Mind you, I didn’t go to the “big city”, but rather drove only around the city where my wife is from. It’s still pretty large. I would say about the size of any suburban Detroit area. The only difference is that there were absolutely NO, not one, stop sign, yield sign, or traffic signal. Wait, I take that back. At one bridge we crossed there seemed to be a barricade over half the road and a sign to stop, but I was told to go around it because it was not in use. I assume it is for some sort of military check point if needed.

Stop at the Checkpoint?  I think not!
Stop at the Checkpoint? I think not!

I seem to be getting around the city pretty well in fact. The van I am driving is not quite the type of vehicle I would own. The seats are situated over the engine compartment, which seriously makes head room an issue for me. So, I drive, but I’m kind of squatted down in my seat like a clown in one of those circus cars, waiting for the time when I can explode out of the vehicle. The windows are tinted on the sides, but anyone looking through the front window can see the big kano driving the van and they point and wave. I’ve even gotten used to the honking when I decide the cars and tricycles in front of me are traveling too slow for my liking. Honk-honk! Move out of the way, kano coming through! My asawa laughs because I have learned to drive like them so fast. We even make it to our destinations every day when I drive!

I will say this one thing, I am glad I didn’t drive to Dagupan City. We hired a driver that each day we went there, and while I was not happy about it at first, I quickly learned that it was a good thing I did. Traffic! And I’m talking about parking lot style traffic. I don’t know what was keeping everyone from moving forward, but we were dead in the middle of it all. Our driver, whom shall remain nameless for his protection, started honking the horn. I’m thinking, why is he honking? Where does he think he is going? Nobody can move. He’s wasting his time, and it’s starting to irritate me. But… the car in front of us moves forward a few inches, and our driver starts to turn in the lane. I don’t know where he is going, but he seems to have a plan. He cuts across the right lane next to use, drives up the curb, and takes the sidewalk!!! Man… at least it’s him going to jail for this and not me, I’m thinking. What was weird to me, is that everyone on the sidewalk began laughing, and let us through. Now that’s a different attitude than Detroit, or anywhere else I’ve been to in the U.S.! After that, I hired him each time we went to Dagupan. If he’s willing to do that to get us to the mall, I’m willing to pay him for getting us there.

My time driving was pretty limited, but it was fun and it made me feel a little less like a tourist, and more like I lived there and belonged. Being from the U.S. I’ve had a license to ride or drive since I was fifteen years old. Going without wheels is something I haven’t had to do since I got my first license. I know everyone says not to worry about buying a car when we get there, but I don’t think I can give up that part of my freedom. Besides, I like to go for drives, so I’d probably have HUGE bills for hiring a driver or tricycle driver for an entire day. And, I’d like to be able to take the family to the beach at least once a week for an outing. I’m told the beaches are great for aching bones and backs like mine! I can’t wait to prove them right!!!

Until next week, paalam, ingat and God bless!

Post Author: Scott Fortune (65 Posts)

At the time of this writing, I am 42 years old. I’ve been married to my Filipina wife since December 2009. She is from the Province of Pangasinan, Philippines. I was born and raised in the Metro Detroit area in Michigan. I’ve worked in many fields throughout my short career, mostly in Architecture, computers, and law enforcement. I’m medically retired from the U.S. Government due to a back injury and look forward to our move to the Philippines. My interests here were yard work, guns, and hanging out with friends. But because of my back injury, I’ve had to shorten what I can do to just hanging out with friends. Not a bad thing when you’re retired, right!? Also, I’m sure I’ll find some new interests when I get to the RP. We don’t yet know where we will be moving to exactly, but I expect it to be on the main island of Luzon. I look forward to moving there, getting healthier, and experiencing island life.

Investigation in the Philippines


  1. Nathan Bruin says

    Now driving in Dagupan is not so bad I have done it many times. How ever you won’t catch me driving in Manila. If you want to go to the beach take your family to San Fabian. It’s not too far from where you are. However if you want better beachs and its a bit of a drive try 100 islands ant the 100 islands are a lot nicer.

    • Scott Fortune says

      Nathan, we only got into the one traffic jam and we went to Dagupan several times when I was there. But that one time was enough for me. I hate sitting in traffic jams. I’m getting better at it, but only if I have enough fuel to not worry about it. But then, at the gas prices these days sitting itn traffic allows me to count the money going out of my pocket one liter at a time! :) I’m planning on going to 100 Islands. In fact, because of the new airport under construction, I’m thinking of moving in that direction. But, since I’ve never been there, I’ll need to check it out! I’ll post about my different beach excursions!!

  2. Axel says

    Fun to read you experiences.
    I know excactly how you feel about that freedom a car gives and the need for having the posibillity to go out when even you want, without being dependent on someone else to take you.

    The first thing i did here was to buy a car, i just have to have that feeling of freedom to get around. I wanted a “not to big” car, but we ended up with a 7 seater, 2.4ltr. gas consuming Mitsubishi. Wonder how that happened?
    Driving in citys is not that bad, i am sure you get used to the way of driving very fast. I don’t mind driving here and i just forget all i learned from Denmark (my country) and look how they do here. Even it looks like chaos sometimes, there is a pattern in the way they drive. Just tricycles and jeepneys do not have any kind of pattern, – well yes – “me first” “occupy all driving lanes”, “cut corners totally” – and much more.
    If evolution will go on i am sure people living in Philippines will develope an extra set of eyes, coz traffic is coming from everywhere and from most unexspected places.
    I got a Philippine driver license – it was rather easy – so now i feel really “local”, that was a great feeling. Just be sure to have all papers translted and ready, then it only takes a few hours to get.
    I really dislike to be dependend on others to take me around, so getting a car and feel comfortable with drining here was a major step in feeling free and also more “local”.

    • Scott Fortune says

      Axel, I grew up in an area that was mostly woods, fields and countryside. So, if I wanted to go somewhere, I had to walk or ride a bicycle. We didn’t have taxis like they do in the big cities, or in the Philippines. So, at 15 I bought a moped. It was a Honda Spree. Not a lot of cc’s but it got me where I wanted to go a LOT faster than walking. At 16, I bought a car. a 1975 Buick LeSabre 4-door. HUGE car! Nothing special. It was a “grandma car”, and it was baby blue. But let me just say, I was one of the first of my friends to have their own car. So, I was pretty cool. (Not really, they just used me for rides) Anyway, I quickly fell in love with the freedom of coming and going as I pleased. So, I bought one car after another, each time trying to get one cooler than the previous one. Living in Detroit, some of us are car FANATICS!!!! I was not crazy about customizing them, or anything like that, but I loved the freedom it gave me. Imagine, at 16 to be able to drive cross country(if I had money, which I usually didn’t). It wasn’t the fact that I did it, but the fact that the ability was there, that made me thirst for my freedom! So, when I come to the Philippines, I will bring my thirst for driving freedom, and purchase a nice, used, van that will be comfortable for trips to the beach, countryside, and maybe, just maybe, into the “big city”!!

      • says

        I totally agree. I also had my first “moped” when i was 15 and since then i have always had a motorized thing. I just can’t live without it and the feeling of freedom it gives. Maybe it’s an illusion but i like illusions :-)
        Getting a van will aslo make room for family – and as said i bought a 7 seater Mitsu – used car, fine – but there can easily be room for +10 people when needed. And needed it is when we decide to go on a little longer trips, a lot of familiy will love to come with us. And who can say no… As a matter of fact that was the reason why i said i just wanted a smaller car, but it ended with this one. Just to make sure: I do love the family, no problem…

  3. Gary Wigle says

    You are a brave man Scott… I take the tricycle to anywhere I need to go here in Tagum City… Anyplace else I ride the aircon bus… I left my car back in Michigan… I am glad I did… Who needs a 75,000 US dollar car here…

    Remember Scott, Detroit is not the real Michigan… I had always hoped that someone would take a very large chainsaw and cut off Detroit and let it float out to sea. BTW I lived in Vestaburg… That is very close to the middle of the mitten… Grand Rapids is a great city…


    • Scott Fortune says

      Gary, I know the area you lived. I haven’t been there, but I’ve been through Alma before when I used to travel for work. In fact, a coworker drives from Alma to Milan EVERYDAY for work! I think he’s crazy! But, he doesn’t mind it. He likes his house, and he doesn’t want to relocate his kids. He drives a hybrid car, can’t remember what it is called but we made fun of him about it all the time when he first bought it. It looks like a flightless space ship! We laughed until he told us he was getting 57mpg. That made us stop laughing. Especially when the truck I was driving was getting about 20mpg. At any rate, he still drives it, and said he loves his area. You’re right about Detroit, it is definitely NOT Michigan. It is a horrible city, a blight that needs serious help, and political leaders that aren’t corrupt. I thought the one good mayor they had in there was doing a good job a number of years ago, but the corruptness ran him out of the city. Now the U.S. Government is in there looking around, and I hope they clean out the rubbish!

  4. says

    PS.. I forgot to say – i hope Helen won’t hit to hard, i just read that it’s making landfall in Nothern Luzon. I do not drive when the weather is really bad. 😉

  5. Paul Thompson says

    I found driving here quite natural after ten years of driving in the Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean. I even drove in Italy. As long as you understand the driving rules in the Philippines: RULE ONE; there is no RULE TWO, except for the rule that Gross Tonnage has the right of way.

    • Scott Fortune says

      Paul, I was comfortable driving there for the most part. It would have been a better experience if I had a different vehicle. As for the gross tonnage rule… that one applies everywhere unless you have a death wish! :) And you know, with the way the tricycle drivers drive, I don’t think they know that rule!!!!!

  6. says

    One more comment about tinted windows:
    In our car there’s also tinted windows all over, just the front with a narrow stribe without. I did remove it from my front window though, and next step must be the side windows – or at least get some better lighter tint. There a nice round cut for each side mirror, fine, but in the evening with dark tinted glass it’s not possible to see a damned thing. Specially when a lot of vehicles concider light as a kind of energy waste, i just can’t see a triicycle with no light coming out from nowhere. In evening i need to roll down the window when i need to take a turn.
    So my conclusion is: Get as light tint as possible, i guess the aircon can manage a little more light.

    • Scott Fortune says

      I have pretty high tint on my car here, but I remember people driving without lights. Didn’t understand that, but I can see where that would be a concern. I don’t know about going too light. I would like to not be seen as an American as possible, until I exit the vehicle. The only tint higher than mine now is “limo” tint, which is way too dark, but you can’t see anything inside the vehicle. Mine is actually not legal here in Michigan, but I’ve never been stopped for it.

  7. Don says


    Good for you on buying your own vehicle and being independent. I drive everyday in Manila and its nowhere as bad as people think. After a few scrapes/dings, no big deal. Traffic doesn’t move fast enough to do real damage. Just respect the buses and your fine. I’ve drove 10,000km in about 1.5 years, so no where near what I drove in the US (20k miles).

    At Gary, how did you come up with the $75,000 figure on buying a car? A new Ford Escape is about P1.2 million ($29k) at Bonafacio Manila, which is high but still reasonable. A used car is a lot cheaper. Maybe they charge more in the provinces but am sure a person can find a decent car. Compared to Singapore, its cheap.

    • Scott Fortune says

      I drive about 25,000 miles a year now. There was a time when I drove about 56,000 miles per year. Translated, that’s 40,000-90,000kms per year. I’ve seen LOTS of vehicles that are ten years old that don’t have that kind of mileage!

      I think Gary was saying that the car he sold here in Michigan was a $75,000 vehicle here, and bought something used there in the Philippines. I considered buying new, but I don’t see the point in doing so, as long as I can find a decent van running diesel that is comfortable for me, I’ll be fine.

      And I intend on running a bunch of family to the beach or other places too, so a van is a must!

  8. Jamie says

    Although I love cars and mobile touring, I have often said that I look forward to the day where all I have to worry about is catching a bus . . . or jeepney . . . trike.

    • Scott Fortune says

      I don’t have anything against NOT driving, but I enjoy the freedom. For me personally, I don’t like to be stuck in a place without a means to leave. I also do not like relying on others for things. So, relying on someone to drive me around on a daily or nearly basis would stress me out.

      • Don says

        Actually, where I live (BGC), they dont allow buses, jeepneys or trikes, unless you want to walk a distance to other side of the mall. Only taxis, which can be hard to find during rush hour or rain. So a car is must. A paid driver is optional.

      • PapaDuck says

        When i come in Oct, i thought about driving from Cavite to Subic, because alot of it is on the expressways, but than i thought about it and will probably just hire a driver. I want to eventually do some driving in Manila, but don’t know if or when i get a car. For right now i’ll just stick to jeepneys/tricycles/taxis. Thanks alot for sharing driving experiences there. Looking forward to your next article.

  9. RandyL says

    Scott, years ago when I lived in Subic, I would drive to Manila. If you understand the “two” rules of the road, it’s not as bad as it looks. Traffic is annoying though. I remember back then there were VERY FEW street and directional signs and once in Manila it was easy to get lost. One day after getting lost, I began to lose real hope of ever getting out of the city until I spotted a Victory Liner (bus line) heading to Caloocan. Now, being an experienced bus line rider, I knew that all I had to do was follow that bus to Caloocan, then follow the next “Olongapo” bus out of town. Walang Problema! 😯

    • Scott Fortune says

      Very funny story Randy! I would ask for directions, but knowing what I know about Filipino direction giving, I’d still be lost! When I was there I asked people how to ge tto one place or another. It was like the old story of the city fellow being lost in the country. He stopped to ask the farmer how to get to his destination. After being told to take the road down to the tree with the bent branch, and turn right, then follow that down to the cows and turn right, then folow that to the thrid left handed farmers house and turn right again… I could tell they either saw the deer in the headlights, and then say, I will just show you. Of course, maybe they just wanted to go for a ride!! Either way I got to my destinations, and if we had more company it was fine by me.

  10. Roxas Ron says

    Great read…we will be living in Roxas City. No Jeepneys allowed; lots of trikes. I plan to buy a new trike for the Asawa and Anak and then a small Suzuki van for those must get out during the monsoon. Oh yeah a bike for everyone also. I helps living 3 blocks from the beach.

    Have a great day everyone!

    • Scott Fortune says

      No Jeepneys allowed? I didn’t know they even did that sort of thing!? Why is that, to reduce pollution or the streets too narrow, or what?

    • Scott Fortune says

      I’ve seen bicycles for sale on the itnernet but they seem to all be mountain bikes and are VERY expensive. I’m hoping to find some more reasonably priced ones once I arrive there. I think it will be good exercise. Maybe I’ll have one made. When I was there, there seemed to be an abundance of welders!

  11. Bob New York says

    I really enjoyed reading this Scott. I have been in traffic conditions as you describe while riding in jeepneys in some of the congested parts of Iligan City. I can just picture the way you describe your nameless driver honking the horn and turning the sidewalk into an express lane and the reaction of the pedestrians ! Great Stuff, and I’m still laughing.

    I have sometimes wondered if auto-parts stores and repair shops there order replacement horns and horn relays by the gross.

    On my first visit, I hired a Jeepney for a day for the equivalent of about $35 USD, loaded it up with local friends for some touring in and around the city. I rode in the front passenger seat for best possible view. I marveled as to how the driver handled the Jeepney in what seemed like very tight spots in congested traffic areas. You have given me something to look forward to in the future Scott, I want to have a ride on the Sidewalk Express Lane too.

    • Scott Fortune says

      BobNY, It was a truly enlightening experience for me. My amazement was not so much that the sidewalks were being used for vehicular travel, as much as the reactions of the pedestrians seemed one of humor. We would be throwing rocks, bottles, and hurling insults to boot if that happened here in the U.S., not to mention calls to the police! But they didn’t seem to care.

      We rented a van and driver to take us to Baguio for the day and it cost us $20 US plus gas. I thought that was a bargain! Each time we went to Dagupan it was $20 inluding gas. Sorry, that was all diesel, not gas.

      I hope that if you get to experience the sidewalk lane, nobody gets hurt on your trip as well!!

  12. says

    Hi Scott, I’ve been involved in several combat operations throughout my Army career, but driving in Manila with my wife yelling INA-KO MICHAEL, about a hundred times was a real “pucker-factor”.

    We bought a used 2005 Ford Everest SUV, It’s really nice, and runs great. its a 4×4 diesel as well. I drive around Bataan and to Zambales, but we hired a driver fulltime and he does the Manila trips, just to save my funny little honey some anguish, and this way I have no excuse NOT to drink since Toto is our designated driver.

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