Driving in Manila

Hi. I normally post on my own blog (spikeinmanila.com) but received an invitation from another member to join and post here, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Anyway, a “night in the life.”

My wife doesn’t like me to post where I live online so I’ll just say it’s a village in Pasig, a large village and our house is more than 2 kilometers from the front gate. We’re driving out tonight to go to dinner. There’s some truck in front of me driving about 2 kilometers per hour so I go to pass him on the left – blinking my brights first in the vain hope that he will take notice of me. But as I pass him on the left, he decides to swing to the left in order to make a wide right turn. I’m now hugging the curb on the left side and my wife starts yelling, “motorcycle!” Because there’s an idiot on a motorcycle coming towards me but how am I supposed to see him when he’s driving at night without his lights on? I’ve been told there are some people here on motorcycles and tricycles who don’t turn their lights on at night because they think it saves gas. Anyway, she’s yelling at me about how I should slow down, how I could have hit that guy, and I’m trying to explain the Darwin principle to her, that if the guy is happy to drive around at night with no lights he clearly has a death wish and I’m just helping him out.

Now we’re driving along and she starts telling me about all of the latest scams hitting drivers. I thought she was going to talk about the kids throwing rocks at cars from overpasses in Quezon City – I never go to Quezon City but I’m sure this will be all the rage everywhere in town soon given the publicity it’s getting.

She’s got what she thinks are some new ones. Well, they’re new here, perhaps, but old everywhere else. The kids who walk out in the street and pretend to have gotten hit by your car, paired with some old lady who starts yelling and screaming and demanding 500 pesos. The motorcycles who will bump you and claim you bumped them and demand 1,000 pesos. And so on.

By now I’m on C-5 and I’m about to make a turn into the cleverly named “Rockwell The Grove” where we’re headed for dinner. I’m in the right hand lane. I’m signaling for a right turn. I’m driving around 10 kph because of all the traffic. So don’t you know that just as I start to make that turn, some idiot on a motorcycle – with his lights off – attempts to pass me on the right. Again my wife is yelling, “motorcycle!” The guy stops about one inch before my car can smack him to the curb. Again I feel I’m just helping him achieve his destiny, my wife disagrees.

Driving home later after dinner, we’re crossing the intersection of Ortigas and C-5, a place where traffic is still backed up after midnight every night. Why? Heading east on Ortigas there are 5 lanes, but cars and trucks and jeepneys insist on trying to make it 7 lanes, trying to get ahead just a little bit. And then those 7 lanes have to merge into 3 lanes after crossing the intersection. This is not helped by jeepneys in the left hand lane trying to shoot straight across to the right hand lane without signaling and just cutting off every other car they can. My wife’s reaction? “He’s trying to earn money.” My reaction? “I hope he dies in a flaming car wreck.”

Here’s my core thought on all of this. In this ostensibly Catholic country, where everyone goes to church on Sunday and wears a cross around their neck, once they get behind the wheel of a car they forget everything about brotherly love and courtesy and politeness and it’s every man for himself, f*ck everyone else, cut off the 27 cars behind you, risking an accident, so you can arrive at your destination one and a half seconds sooner. It is evil. It is hypocrisy. It’s a giant lie.

(Did I mention that 30+ years ago, I drove a taxi in New York City?) I try not to succumb to road rage. Normally when I hit traffic (e.g. every time I drive), my reaction is to turn up my music a little louder, light a smoke, sit back and try to chill, because there’s nothing I can do about it anyway.

But if anyone knows where I can buy a car horn that instead of going “beep” goes “Asshole!” really loud, please let me know where I can buy that.

Published in Crime, Cultural Rudeness, Traffic In Philippines


  1. Profile gravatar of Mike

    Get you a Cobra 19 CB and PA horn from the states. Mount the speaker behind grill then use the CB on PA setting to get your feelings across.

  2. Profile gravatar of Fr. Bong Bong Jolog Jun III
    Fr. Bong Bong Jolog Jun III

    “…once they get behind the wheel of a car they forget everything about brotherly love and courtesy and politeness”

    I hate to disillusion you, but they have forgotten precisely nothing. There never was ANY understanding of the principles behind brotherly love, courtesy and politeness. These are just words that Pinoys hear in church on a Sunday, but fail to grasp the concept of. It’s like feeding strawberries to pigs.

  3. Profile gravatar of Mike

    Can anyone believe the nerve of Spike? I mean let’s get serious here. Who does not like being run down by single scooters while walking on the sidewalk? Singles that if don’t have headlights on at night have the headlight covered with a red lens? Getting run over, honked at when trying to cross at a cross walk? Seeing how close then can come to you without hitting you? And if they do hit you? Simple,,,,, just keep going!! Remember IT’S MORE FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES!!!!

    Then when you do get hit it’s your fault.
    You: “But officer, HE hit me with his car”.
    PNP: “Sorry Po, it’s your fault. If you were not sitting on your couch watching tv 300 meters from the nearest road he would not have hit you. You should have bee in you kitchen, bedroom or cr then you never would have been hit”.

  4. Profile gravatar of Rottt

    Reminds me of when i got my CA drivers license, in reverse. When i got it, i had only driven in the Phil. Driving with rules was a new thing. Despite knowing what the rules were, i almost failed the driving test as every time i came to an intersection, my foot would automatically hit the brakes, regardless of the color of the light. The guy grading me was irritated, and asked why i was doing that. I told him that in Manila, following traffic lights was ( back in the early 80s) more of a suggestion than an implemented law. Even on a green light You could get t-boned. He didnt believe me. 🙂

  5. Profile gravatar of

    Im still driving on my Polish driver license 😀 Every time there is a check point they even ask me if this is a International driver license? And they will here the same answer yes of course. Some of the policemen will ask how long I have stayed in the country since my driver license is only valid 90 days here. And I also will answer them same aaaah I just came 2 months ago I just keep going out and in. Another question is about the expire date on my license ( in Europe our license will expire once we are 65) and every time the police will get supriced about it. Never had any problems about my driver license here. But of course Im also not living in Manila.

  6. Profile gravatar of Don Quixote
    Don Quixote

    Welcome Spike.
    I cracked up with the post, you are so fucking right.
    My wife is the greatest back seat driver on Earth, I am always wrong, I am always in TROUBLE
    This could be Angeles City with your description of the traffic and the 7 lanes out of two .
    Don’t forget the footpath if they can they will use them too.