Philippines, love & hate: Driving

Driving in the Philippines can teach us several virtues and it brings out a side of you that you never knew existed. All the patience, courage & understanding are a daily challenge in the asphyxiated streets of Manila. "Ganyan talaga, kaya tanggapin nalang (it's like that, so we can just accept it)," everybody tells me. While it's true that I probably lost the habit of driving in Manila, you definitely get used to an organized road rules, discipline, and mostly respect.

I have always loved the vibrancy and contrast of the Philippines, bursting with so much verve in its lifestyle and progress. How we still use the crappy international airport, and be in awe with surprise at our 5 star luxury hotels, the cosmopolitan huge malls, bars and restaurants. And yes, how the cars are getting bigger, and with mostly so little roads to drive on. Progress & change are inevitable, and you come home to a place you hardly recognize. The only familiar thing that reminds me of the recent past is the worsening frustration of getting from one place to another in this city. May it be in a private or public mode of transportation.

While France is not at all free of traffic congestion, impatience is just due to the long wait. Traffic can be bearable if not for undisciplined & rude drivers on the road. Cutting cars is a skill only learned here. The forming of non-existent lanes & the counter flowing. The kings of the road with their roof lights, sirens & warning signals. The mess of already having buses & jeepneys with no fear, adding taxis, tricycles, motorcycles, bicycles & people jaywalking. I encountered some Filipinos who actually prefer not to drive in another country for fear of not actually knowing the rules. This says a lot to the continuing dilemma.

It will take probably centuries to resolve this eternal problem, especially when the country's road habits have been deeply embedded for generations. The roads do not seem to be ready for the city's continuing development. Laws and rules are not strictly enforced, if ever there are actual ones. It is truly a miracle the city have preserved its sanity. I do not have the slightest hint to even try to contribute to making motorists happy & hopeful, but my cousin did have an idea that may sound encouraging with further research.

Zoning. Scratching the surface, Clark, Pampanga & Subic are said to have strictly enforced traffic rules & regulations. Although it was enforced the American way, Filipinos naturally follow & abide by these rules when driving on these zones. A city like Manila will be a bit ambitious to make changes. One district at a time can initiate a transition. Implementing this is a bold move with a gallant budget to make driving safer, where safety is one major purpose of having rules & regulations on the road. One district at a time will form good habits, and habits can be transformed. I know mine did after driving for 9 years in France. One district at a time to instil discipline & respect among motorists, as well as pedestrians. This might not totally ease the traffic volume, like any developing cities, but it will help the flow & will surely make it less stressful among enraged drivers.

The saying "when you can drive in the jungle streets of Manila, you can drive anywhere," is not entirely true. Acquiring my French driver's permit with a written & driving exam have actually kept me alive. With my Filipino driving habit, I could easily have had multiple collisions on the road. And I'm glad I learned the rules & followed them. Not because I was afraid of getting a ticket, but more for everybody's security & safety.              


From Manila to Paris, then to Marseille & to the Côte d'Azur, now in Singapore, clinging to a map of three worlds, where everything becomes all relative.

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