Uninitiated Driving In The Philippines

And a precursor, I have 30 years of driving experience, some of you have more, I have over 1 million miles of driving during that time, I have ridden bikes at over 280kph and driven cars at similar speeds.

So I arrive here, I think I can do anything. A month after we arrive, I purchased a van, something practical. One of our first trip to the province is 600 km drive to Legaspi City and Tobaco, (in Australia a 600km drive is a picnic, you can do it in 5-6 hrs). After we got off of SLEX in Calamba, it was grid lock, one lane road, middle of the night and driving around a truck takes really big Gonads. But I can do it, I can do anything, I wind up the turbo pull out and go, its only a truck I think to myself. All of a sudden, there is a jeepney driving in the other direction at 60kph with no lights. Oh sh*t, I pull back at the last second. Now to explain the frustration, trucks here drive everywhere at 30kph, have 3 times too much load and don't give way to anyone. So now you start driving with your high beams on everywhere you go, as you don't mind upsetting other drivers, your safety is paramount and that of your lovely asawa sitting next to you.

So you get out of the built up area that seems to go on for ever, open road at last (Did I mention that other than SLEX and a few other remote roads? I have not seen a straight piece of road anywhere in the Philippines that is longer than 200-300 meters before you hit a corner. I think all of the surveyors were drunk at the time), now instead of trucks every 100 meters, you have trucks, buses, motorcycles, jeepneys and dogs on the road, not to mention the old person walking down the side of the road in the middle of the night. You try to go faster than 60kph. But its difficult, your guts say go faster but your brains say go slower, you get a break in on coming traffic. (There are very few 2 lane roads here, even major highways only have one lane in each direction). You wind it up, and you pray there is not some truck broken down in the middle of the road, or parked in the middle of the road on a blind corner. You are just about to pass when a bright flash of light hits you from behind, and a horn so loud you think the Lord is coming back again.  As you look sideways a very large, very fast bus flies past you. And you think to yourself "But for the grace of God there go I" alright the road is still clear, check your rear vision mirror and do it again, just to make sure, then pass the truck or trucks as the case may be.

Now as on the back of any good shampoo bottle that wants you to use more than you need, repeat this procedure, oh say 100 times during the next 12 hrs of driving. If you make it to the other end of your trip and you are still alive, get out of the car and kiss the ground and Praise God that he still loves you.

As you, get more experience driving. Your gonads get bigger than your head, you figure out that staying on the tail of fast buses is a good idea, at least for the most part; use your brains, as most bus drivers have grown gonads where their brains used to be. You figure out how to play safe and still be a daredevil whilst driving, you know when you are trusted driving, as your asawa will fall asleep when your at the wheel, at this point you have her complete trust that she will wake up again.

Just remember when driving here, almost no-one cares about anyone but themselves whilst driving. Practice Defensive driving always, and carry a big gun if you can find one, watch out for buses as they will not be watching out for you. Get a really loud horn, and really bright lights, adorn your car like a jeepney, no-one will care its normal here. If your driving through an area at night that could have NPA and you get a puncture keep driving, don't stop your life may depend on it. Only stop at a gas station or in a town with lights, you may loose a tire, but you will keep your life. If you don't already know how to drive fast on dirt roads practice it, I have been pushed off the road at 80 - 100kph by buses and when you hit the shoulder, if there is one, at that speed if you don't know what you are doing you could lose it and roll.

This is not like driving in the US or Australia or any other country, As Colin has said, the roads here are really bad, but the drivers are worse.

Driving here is very simple and can be a rewarding experience. A couple of pointers but read the whole thread to get the idea.

1. Drive like every other driver on the road is trying to kill you; I mean they want to impale you on their car as a hood ornament.

2. Act as if all pedestrians are actively trying to commit ritual suicide. They do not look out for you they expect you to look out for them; they will walk straight out on the road without looking, so watch out for them.

3. Dogs and other wildlife, Carabao as well have no road sense, just like pedestrians. By the way, wait for the Carabao; they will really make a dent in your car.

4. Find some aftermarket really bright lights, and a really loud 130db or louder air horn and have them fitted to your car.

5. When passing anything, sound your horn twice as you come out to pass, and flash your lights as well if it is at night. Remember to use the loud air horn if passing a Jeepney or truck.

6. Jeepney drivers obtained their licenses from the inside of a breakfast cereal box probably a Wheaties package. Remember if there is the slightest possibility of a jeepney fitting in a spot you could not squeeze a motorcycle into, they will put their jeepney into it, then force you out of the way.

7. If you find a driver using turn signals and brake lights it is a rare occurrence, savor it, you may never see it again.

8. Jeepney drivers rarely use headlights even on the blackest of dark nights, I think in their limited minds they are saving gas.

9. Get some really big brass gonads, you will need them.

10. Put a sign on the back of your vehicle, "Don't complain about my driving to me, I learned it from watching you!" Make sure it is also translated into Tagalog and every other possible dialect here, as some don't know English or Tagalog and some don't know how to read, mainly jeepney drivers.

11. Watch out for errant tricycles, they stop where they want, often in the middle of the road to pick up passengers, and they expect you to stop and wait for them, they don't use headlights most of the time, nor turn signals or brake lights.

12. Have fun.