Driving in Manila is almost suicidal; many drive with a death wish. Just ask any law-abiding foreigner residing in the Philippines to confirm this.
In the congested streets of Manila, super aggressive bus, jeepney and taxi drivers seem to have perfected the art of changing lanes, much to the dismay of those who religiously follow traffic rules. They swerve their vehicles rather boldly onto lanes they want to ‘conquer and divide.’ Never mind if they cut other vehicles as long as they reach their destination ahead of the rest. More often than not, it’s the female drivers, often regarded as “frail” and “lacking in driving techniques,” who are on the receiving end of this form of road bullying.
Horrendous traffic jams are common in major thoroughfares, especially during rush hour (a backseat passenger can actually finish knitting a scarf to get from Point A to Point B). You find yourself stuck on the road alongside with some of the bullies who have managed to ease you out of your lane in such effortless precision. And during those agonizing hours you wait for the traffic to loosen up, your eyes suddenly chance upon a rather hypocritical rear-end message on the public utility vehicle in front of you: “How’s my driving”? with a LTFRB hotline number to go with it. While you feel a bit tempted to report, say, a bad bus driver’s road misdemeanor to the proper authorities, your gut feel tells you this feedback system is all for show. What’s the use, really? Complaints just pile up and go unattended, according to reliable sources.
Have you ever seen drivers, at the height of impatience, overtaking and taking the lane of the oncoming traffic? This is an all too common sight. A lot of drivers do this — occupying the seemingly free lane of the opposite direction to get ahead of the line. In the end, they clog up the other lane and traffic worsens on both sides. Mass cursing then ensues.
And then there are the throngs of motorcyclists who seemed to have multiplied in the metropolis through the years, thanks to easy-to-pay schemes offered by motorcycle dealers. During stops, they snake through space gaps in between vehicles without any care in the world; car scratches are bound to happen at some point. And once the light turns green, they speed up with menace and change lanes like it’s second nature to them. It’s rather scary. With the way they negotiate the streets, it somewhat feels that there’s an assassin from this ‘cool’ motorcycle group out to get you.
Needless to say, one must watch out for those money-hungry traffic policemen (a.k.a. “crocodiles”) out to get you — you catch the drift — in some ‘tricky’ parts of the city landscape. In some areas, there are no proper road signs installed at crucial points, which can cause motorists a lot of confusion and, eventually, a police ‘arrest’ (the question is, would you just give the traffic officer some bribe money to get it done and over with, or would you rather hand over your driver’s license and go to all that trouble in redeeming it in their office later on?) One might wonder if these road traps were deliberately set up by the traffic enforcers, or it was just a plain oversight and nothing more.
And then there’s the sound of impatience. What’s with the overhonking of some motorists? Can’t they see you can’t just turn right or left en route to, say, a particular subdivision just because the traffic policeman or the traffic light has not yet given his/her/its go signal? In some countries, this is considered rude and haughty. But then again, this is Manila where too much honking seems to be the trend and, therefore, generally acceptable.
Crazy drivers. Unbearable traffic jams. Corrupt traffic enforcers. Long hours on the road. There’s so much agitation in the streets of Manila. True, you could just hail a cab in some occasions. But with the way Pinoy taxi drivers charge without using their meters (highway robbery!), you know you’re better off driving your own car, budget- and security-wise. Taking the jeepney or bus could be a transportation option, but with the air pollution and widespread crime in commuter vehicles, would you risk it?
It’s not safe to be on the road — well, any road in the world for that matter. But the streets of Manila are extra accident-prone, just because motorists lack the discipline to follow the rules. Why, some unqualified drivers can even get a driver’s license simply by paying up fixers! With this kind of system, is it any wonder that we have wayward — and sometimes drunken — drivers out there, who make it to televised police reports?
One can only do his/her part to be a defensive driver, who harms no one and vice versa. But we can never tell how things pan out in the rough streets of Manila, what with the complex traffic dynamics involved. Road bullies abound — and they always spell trouble. It will not hurt to say a prayer or two for travel protection before you step out of the house.
Drive safely, everyone.