Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bad weather and crazy driving in Cebu

When its on CNN or BBC, news travel faster than a typhoon! I am receiving messages from friends and colleagues in Europe asking if we are okay. Fortunately we are safe from the wrath of Typhoon Juan (Typhoon Megi)! We pretty much had luck and missed the blustery weather visiting the northern part of the country by a few days; however we are getting a little bit of tail winds and bad weather here in Cebu (in the central part of the country); grey skies and rain and more grey skies and more rain—I did wonder when can I don my sunglasses on?

I do not have fotos of myself driving so these fotos were taken earlier during the day with my brother on the wheel. He’s got a warrior on the road that can easily climb up the mountains where we sighted some lovely views of Cebu City even with bad weather.

Vacationing in the Philippines during June to November is a Russian roulette game with three choices: (1) You get lucky and have sun (2) You get unlucky and have bad weather (3) You get very unlucky and be hit by a typhoon. So what are the chances? So far we are having 90% of the bad weather and we are hoping to get some sun in the next coming days. I hope!

In the meantime, we’ve been busy, mostly with family affairs which involve the typical Filipino favorite activity—EATING, as well as worrying about our slowly expanding waistlines and why, of course... DRIVING!

The eating topic can be discussed at great lengths so we’ll not go over there just yet but driving is an interesting subject when you are in the Philippines. Most foreigners who come here prefer to be driven around and that includes the Dutchman who will not dare touch a steering wheel in the Philippines, while I on the other hand will not dare take a taxi ride except for airport transfers, so that leaves with me being the candidate for the position of ‘Official Philippine Holiday Driver’ every time we are in the country. I still have my old car kept by my parents so in a way I am fortunate not to be begging with cabbies because I know once they spot the white Dutchman tagging along behind me, they become impossible with their rates, in other words, detestable, and as a result, I become obnoxious! I have a massive pet peeve with fraudulent taxi drivers, they just pisses me off, BIG time. Really, I’d rather walk.

Anyway, did I ever say that driving in the Philippines can get you a heart attack? Here are the reasons why:

(1) Vehicles drive and stay put on the middle lane, but most of them for some strange reason prefer to drive and stay put on the left lane. Aren’t left lanes the fastest lanes?
(2) Motorbikes and bicycles as well, drive and stay put on the middle lane, and oh, they also like to drive and stay put on the left lane, of a highway.
(3) While driving 30-40 kilometers per hour! SIGH—I give up.
(4) Because many roads here do not have proper pedestrian lanes, people walk instead on the streets. Oh dear, it took me some time to become accustomed again to having people joining as well the highway traffic! Mama Mia!
(5) Moreover, the streets are not well-lighted in the evening thus making it hard to see anything that moves in the dark. The insurance business will never take off in this country, if everyone is insured.
(6) Interestingly, people crossing the busy streets and highways do so without looking around them. It’s as if it’s the most mundane thing to do in the world. WTF?
(7) Dogs take their nap in the middle of the road. WTF the second time around?
(8) Cars, trucks, motorcycles and even bikes do not have tail lights. Combine that with bad street lighting—Uh huh, good luck.
(9) Cars just park on the streets and highways so it’s almost impossible to be driving on the right lane the whole time. Now I know why they drive on the middle lane but I still cannot grasp the driving and staying put on the left lane.
(10) No one, as in NO ONE observes the ‘priority right’ rule here. Whoever has the nose of the car an inch further gets the priority.
(11) Some of the vehicles do not have proper headlights. You’d think it was a motorbike coming at you but it’s actually a gigantic truck.
(12) There are barely any lane markings on the roads (and traffic/road signs as well) so vehicles just pop out suddenly from your back swerving to different directions. Circus!
(13) Drivers here rarely use the signal lights, instead they use the horn. I tell you, they use the horn for EVERYTHING.
(14) Like saying ‘Hello’ or ‘I’m just passing by’ or to warn, ‘Give way or I will run you over!’
(15) Potholes!!!
(16) There are a gazillion unofficial parking attendants. Like on every street corner in the city.
(17) Beggars knocking on the window at the stoplights. Such a sad affair really so we keep 1, 5 and 10 Peso coins ready. My brother prefer to give out food, he has a stack of biscuits in his car for the street kids.
(18) Because the ‘jeepney’ is inherent to Philippine culture, I am pro to keeping this in traffic circulation but transportation officials need to rethink their strategy because they are such a nuisance on the roads especially at every intersection.
(19) Roads here are congested and honestly, I like Cebu 20 years ago.
(20) Lastly, even with the above frustrations and depressing facts, what stands out with Philippine driving etiquette, and perhaps this could be a Cebuano driving etiquette if I may highlight, are the people and vehicles participating in the traffic actually having PATIENCE and some sort of COURTESY with each other in a very synchronized weird way.

Unlike my experience with the European way of aggressive driving, especially in Italy, there is some sort of ‘organization in the chaos’ that makes the Cebu/Philippine driving experience rather mild and fascinating in comparison.

Travel Period: October 2010
Destination: Cebu City (Cebu - Visayas Region), The Philippines

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