Sunday, July 29, 2007

Driving In Metro Manila, Part 3

I thought I would never write another article on this topic. It took me more than a month to finish Part 2 of this series, and I was about to give up on that one. With movies like "Shrek 3", "Pirates of the Carribean 3", and "Spiderman 3", I felt like writing a Part 3 of this one. And if "Die Hard 4" will come out, I might also post a Part 4.

Actually, this desire to write came about when I surfed to see what it offers. And, being conceited, I tried to find all blogs with "driving in Metro Manila" as the topic. I was surprised to find out there were many other blogs (537, as of the last count) ranting on the bad conditions of traffic in Metro Manila. The bloggers complained a lot, although some would say we are better off than other cities, like..., like..., well, I forgot what they were.

Some of the bloggers are foreigners, and this article is written specifically for them. I am offering some tips on who to avoid on the road.

First, let's look at the color or type of license plates on the vehicle:

Blue plates - These are actually white plates with the license numbers colored blue. The plates contain only numbers, not alphanumeric. I guess they don't know how to read, hence they can't follow signs like "STOP" or "YIELD". These vehicles are owned by foreign diplomats, but there is nothing diplomatic in the way they drive.

Red plates - Another plate with white background but red alphanumeric code. Red plates indicate that these are government vehicles, which are marked at the sides with "For Official Use Also". The plates start with the letter S, which means "Sa inyo galing ang panggasolina ko." Avoid these vehicles, especially during weekends, for they just came from SM to buy their groceries.

Yellow plates - These have yellow background with black markings. The codes usually start with the letter P, meaning "Put...", I mean, Public Utility vehicle. Drivers of these vehicles earn a couple of hundred pesos a day, net, which means if you're involved in an accident, it will not matter whose fault it is; you always lose.

Plates that are colored blue, yellow, and green (techni-colored - Normally, an airport or hotel taxi. Usually starts with the letter T, meaning "Tan...". No, I don't think it has a meaning, but that's how I feel about them. Drivers don't use taxi meters, but charge depending on the destination. They cost high, and are always in a hurry to get back to the airport or hotel to get another passenger.

Commemorative plates - These plates are bought by owners who are trying to avoid the coding scheme. It's more hazardous for pedestrians to be involved in an accident with these vehicles. One cannot track down the car that ran over them for it does not have a unique plate number. (POLICE: What's the car's plate number that hit you? VICTIM: ASEAN SUMMIT. POLICE: Ok, that's on the front of the car. What about at the back? VICTIM: Lost Plate.)

I know that one can use commemorative plates for a maximum of one year. There was one I saw which was commemorating UP's Diamond Jubilee. Next year, UP will celebrate its centennial.

Plate numbers with two letters and four digits - Drivers of these vehicles are very dangerous on the road. With masked faces and jackets large enough to hide an AK-47, these drivers weave in and out of traffic, as if there is an invisible force field that will protect them.

Imagine this. You're running at 60 kph, when, all of a sudden, this vehicle would dart from your right, running at 61 kph, and overtaking you. You were just lucky that your reflexes are still working, for you were about to accelerate to 62 kph. Had you done so, you'd surely have killed the other driver.

Of course, you'll be speeding up, for: 1. the car in front of you was also accelerating, and the distance between you and him was getting wider; 2. you looked in your left and right side mirrors and saw no vehicle with flashing turn signals; and, 3. you were a half-car length away from one in front of you, and who is crazy enough to squeeze in between that short gap?

But drivers of these vehicles are really crazy, the craziest being those having at the back of their vehicles a big black or red box marked "Hate Late?".

Vehicles with no license plates - Of course, I'm not including pedestrians here, for they are not vehicles. But they act just the same.

Bikers are like the ones I just previously described. They also move in and out of traffic as if they came from the planet Krypton. The only difference is that the drivers without license plates move to the middle of the road, oh, so, slowly, without looking behind them if there's a driver with a bum stomach wanting to get home fast. That way, if you run over them, there'll be no more argument; it will be your fault. On the other hand, they can't argue anymore for they will just be dead.

One poignant scene is a man pedaling very slow while, directly in front of him, seated on the frame, is another man. Makes me want to sing, "Raindrops keep falling on my head...."

Cars whose license numbers are just single digits - Owners of these vehicles don't know how to count, so how can you expect them to compute the damages on your vehicle so they can pay you? Because they can't do that, then any accident involving both of you will not be their fault. And since you're the one who can count, then it is your fault and you'll be the one to compute the damages that you have to pay to them.

That is, if you're still alive to make the computations.

Aside from knowing what license plates to avoid, here are some more things that foreigners must recognize and be wary of:

Armored cars - Try to avoid these vehicles as much as possible, for, if you bump them, they will think that you're one of the robbers trying to stop them. They'll just bring out their shotguns and shoot at you, claiming self-defense. They believe in the saying, "Shoot first, ask questions later".

Delivery vans - These are small enough to avoid the truck ban, but big enough to bully small vehicles. At the back of these vehicles is the question, "How's my driving?". Below that question is the word "Call", followed by numbers that were scratched out.

One when you can't see the driver - This can be divided further into two:

1. When the car is heavily tinted - That means the driver has brought along his M-16 rifle, ready to be used.
2. When you can't see the driver because he is too short - Since you can't see him, he can't also see you.

The driver is smoking - Get away from these drivers, especially if he has his family with him. If he won't be considerate with the people he loves, how much more will he be considerate to strangers?

When the car is full of hits, rear bumper is missing, right front headlight is smashed, left front fender has a big dent, the window at the left passenger side is covered with transparent plastic, driver's door is held up by abaca rope, etc. - Watch how he drives and you'll know why.

Volvo, BMW, Mercedes - These are very expensive cars. One scratch and you'll have to work the rest of your life paying for it.

Cars with religious stickers - Remember Romans 8:31.

Cars with the sticker that says "We Serve and Protect" and underneath says "Police" - This one got me confused. Does it mean that the passengers of that car are serving and protecting the police? Or that the passengers are being served and protected by the police? Or that the passengers are the police who don't have any clue who they are serving and protecting? In any case, the most prudent thing to do is to move far, far away from those cars.

Finally, there is this situation where you're in traffic for a hour, then you'll hear a siren and see a convoy of Nissan Terranos, F-150's, and other SUVs counter-flowing, ignoring traffic lights, and directing other vehicles to make way for the convoy - The vehicles are owned by high government officials, oblivious of the sufferings being experienced by their constituents. I really don't mind them doing that. With those big vehicles using up so much gasoline, it is better of us, taxpayers, that they arrive at their destination ASAP.

That ends my article, and, hopefully, my series of articles on driving in Metro Manila. As I might not write another one about this topic I'm letting the Vatican have the last word by printing their 10 Commandments for Drivers:

1. You shall not kill.
2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
7. Support the families of accident victims.
8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
10. Feel responsible toward others.

P.S. I actually want to have the last word, that's why I'm adding this PS.