What the Filipino: Where you going, mom?

A taxi driver with fantastic food recommendations in Manila.

Last week I took a trip to the Philippines. I needed to leave the country in order to apply for a visa, and flights were cheap to Manila. The Spanish influences of the Philippines also intruiged me, as I minored in Spanish in college and am relatively familiar with Spanish cultural ways.

The most culture shock I’ve yet to experience was in this tiny, economically ill country. Immediately upon arriving my friend Jill and I were ambushed by taxi drivers hungry to drive us anywhere. They are apparently contracted by the airport – forcing naive tourists to pay ridiculous amounts of money (500-1,000 Pesos) to travel just a few kilometers to the Dao bus terminal.

Being well-acquainted with faulty quotes, as well as the exchange rate (40 Pesos = $ 1, relatively similar to baht) Jill and I refused these cabs and opted to walk out of the airport pickup area. We ended up on the “highway” near the airport – simply a road going through the Clark Air Force Base – and took a jeepney to the main gate. (12 Pesos)

At the main gate (around 5:00am) we struggled to find our way. Taxis wanted to charge us 4,000 Pesos to get to Manila, we didn’t yet understand the jeepney system, and we were seriously sleep deprived. The two of us eventually took a tricycle (a motorcycle with a sidecar) to the Dao bus terminal and groggily rode to Manila (about 1.5-2 hours away).

From landing until the takeoff of our plane 8 days later, all we could hear was noise. Constant honking at eachother, especially at us (being obviously foreigners), and constant shouting from the street, cars, and taxis was a never-ending reminder that we were not at home. The people were cheerful, but agressive as they were desperate for our business. Don’t think I went more than a minute without being asked “Where you going, ma’am?” “Taxi, ma’am?” Not to mention “ma’am” sounded like “mom” in Filipino english. Know this: you will never be without a form of transportation while in the Philippines.

Pricing

Although the tourist-traps obviously exist, I did notice that most estimates from trike drivers and taxis was fair. They seemed more happy to be driving us than desperate to rip us off.

Average jeepney ride: no more than 50 pesos locally, no more than 200 to distant places, like Banaue, Bontoc, and Sagada. These routes are traveled frequently, just ask a taxi driver or local to determine where and when to grab one.

Average tricycle ride: 40P short distance, 150 longer distance (30 minutes-ish). Tricycles are everywhere, and are super handy if you’re in need of a quick ride. In my opinion, you should never take a tricycle for long distances. There are simply better, less dangerous, means of transportation. You will almost always get the same quote from trike drivers in the same area – they tend to unite and quote you exactly the same price – be it fair or not. If you think you’re being had, walk to a different street and ask again.

Buses: Best for long distances. Buses traveling to Clark often have free Wi-Fi, as well as movies or music playing to keep you entertained. Most other buses lack Wi-Fi, but the conductors love to play a wide variety of strange movies dubbed in Tagalog.

Walking: free, obviously. Look at a map – you might be within walking distance of your destination. For some reasons, Filipinos don’t walk anywhere consistently, and seem to think that walks exceeding 15 minutes are foolish. If you’re planning your route, ask a local, but stay FAR away from anyone associating with taxi, trike, or jeepney drivers, as they will lie to you and tell you your destination is much too far to leg.

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