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James Deakin | all galleries >> Travel >> Philippines, My Philippines >> Bayan Ko: A Balikbayan tour through the Philippines > Driving in the Philippines
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Driving in the Philippines
James Deakin

Driving in the Philippines

I write about cars because I love them and I love driving. I like the feeling. I love having my own personal space with me wherever I go. I'm never too far away from something familiar. I love my car because it is as much about my own private little space as it is about transportation. Its like a best friend – it's always there for you. They really are wonderful things, and I thank God for every day that I'm mobile.

I just wished everyone knew how to drive well. Then we would all be able to enjoy the road so much more. Just so there's no confusion, driving is not the same thing as operating a motor vehicle. Learning to operate a vehicle is the easy part and shouldn’t take longer than a single afternoon. Driving is a skill that we should continue to hone for the rest of our lives. Even memorizing the road rules will only cover the tip of the iceberg; understanding the psyche of driving is what will ensure our survival in the urban jungle. For example, an experienced driver can already tell just by reading into body language when someone is about to change lane even before they indicate their intention or start tugging at the wheel. The unwritten rule here is, however: when you sense that, you will now speed up to close the gap. At least for men.

Another thing you will never be told about in driving school or find in a road rulebook is the chapter that covers the driver’s coma. This is a phenomenon wherein a driver totally ignores the fact that there are other road users out there that weren’t present during the day they feel they were elected as the mobile human speed limiters. Or moving chicanes, if you will. You will find these people hogging the left lane of every expressway, doing their bit to keep everyone traveling at a pre-prescribed 42km/h.

Then there is the professional counter-flower. (Driving against the flow of traffic.) He shares the same IQ as a cauliflower. The rhyming part is no coincidence. He genuinely feels that his time is more valuable than all those who have waited patiently in line combined. But here’s the trick: He activates a secret and powerful force field around his car that serves as total immunity for his selfish and dangerous act – the hazard light. Newsflash: Hazard lights DO NOT legalize bad driving. Do they honestly think that it protects them? It only serves as a flashing sign saying, “I’m an idiot, I know. Now let me through” Same goes for the wang wang, (siren) except it’s in stereo. An audiovisual moron.

One of my favorites is ‘the gridlocker’. Here’s a person committed to blurring the line between the animal and the plant kingdom, and is obviously a member of the latter. His motto is quite simple: “If I can’t go anywhere, neither can you.” This person cannot grasp the concept of an open intersection policy, and will risk life and limb to protect the patch of road in front of him. Or her. I know that the Filipino dream is to own a piece of land, but this does not include the six square feet right in front of your bumper.

One thing that all of these characters have in common is that as soon as they realize the mayhem they have caused, they immediately develop tunnel vision – a strange and unexplained condition that temporarily renders all those around their vehicle invisible. Their survival becomes entirely dependant on avoiding eye contact. When they can’t help but feel the weight of your stare, they will instinctively fidget with the rear view mirror, organize their coin compartments, try and remove that stubborn stain from the roof lining or reach for a cell phone and pretend to text. And to think they believe they had us all fooled – we’re on to you!

If you’ve ever eaten in a lousy restaurant and have tried desperately to get the attention of an inattentive waiter that has mastered the art of looking anywhere but at you, you will relate to what I’m saying. You appreciate a fine restaurant from an eatery because you feel that dining is an art that is very different from eating. Those that have traveled and have a zest for life will agree that life is meant to be experienced and each moment enjoyed, which is why living is not the same as existing. Then there are those like me, that have a passion for motoring, who really believe that operating a motor vehicle is completely different from driving.

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Ryan 12-Mar-2010 00:30
Our roads especially in the cities are already cramped because of too much cars...add it up with drivers with lack of or no discipline at all makes it worst.
mike 10-Nov-2009 10:15
dave, i assume we both reside in the same
dave 23-Jul-2006 21:57
Sorry to tell you that its' not only in the Philippines. Same thing happens here 90% bad drivers, 10%knows how to drive. Its' all over the earth.