Monday, February 18, 2013

DRIVING AND TRANSPORTATION

This was the first and greatest adjustment to the Philippines. Upon our arrival and being driven from the airport to the administration office and then to our apartment, my husband, who feels right at home driving in any large city in the U.S., said, "I can never drive here!!"  I totally agreed!!  The driver that picked us up reassured us that traffic rules are only a "suggestion" as he made a left turn from the far right lane! The very next morning we went  to get our drivers licenses...what a relief when we didn't have to drive for them or take a driving test (is that really a GOOD thing???) but just give a urine sample and money...what an experience that was! Long story short....after a month or so my husband could get a job as a taxi driver here...yes, he has progressed (regressed!!!) to that point and can drive like a true Filipino.

The rules of driving are basically this: FLOW--It doesn't matter if lines are painted on a road...it's best to pretend there are none...there may be 3 lanes painted but 5 lanes of traffic in those...someone suggested to think of it as bumper cars...that helps...just flow with the traffic.  BIG--This principle is easy to remember without difficulty.  The bigger the vehicle, the higher the priority for occupying traffic space and being granted the right of way. PICK--This principle is also simple.  Whichever vehicle has any portion of it in front of another vehicle...it gets the right of way.  NO-SEE CHICKEN--When entering an intersection, with traffic on your left or your right, you must look straight ahead and maintain your speed as you cut them off.  If you slow down or glance to the left or right, that  may be spotted by the oncoming driver and then he will challenge you to the right of way. I know...it sounds simple!

There are a few road/traffic signs that we had to come to understand....or not! U-turn Slot: On the main highway in metro-Manila (EDSA) you could almost never make a left hand turn...you would have to drive in the opposite direction until you came to a U-turn Slot and you would turn around there and go the direction you needed. Going to the Manila Administration Office (MPAO) each day to work was an entirely different experience than coming back home to our apartment. Street Names: Frequently you could not FIND the name or after being lost you would discover the name of that street had been changed to some other name....political leaders were always doing that! Stay On Lane: We never figured out if you were supposed to drive on the lines that suggested a lane or between the lines since cars were everywhere!! Fly Over: We call that an Over Pass. No Swerving: Suggesting you are to not wander between multiple lanes...this is completely disregarded! Counter Flow: This is when you find that your lanes going one direction are all backed up and there may not be as much traffic in the lanes coming the opposite way, so someone decides to make a new lane out of the ones going the opposite direction (basically the wrong way on a one way street...) and a whole bunch of cars follow suit and soon you have a complete gridlock and no one can move in any lane....it is infuriating!!!!!...and happened many times to us. Lay By: A place up ahead to pull over. No Over Taking: No passing...definitely disregarded.

 Besides the "rules" of traffic, I must add to the equation a list of everything that can legally occupy road space: cars, trucks, buses, tricycles (motorbike with side car attached), jeepnies (elongated jeep that carries 20 to 30 passengers), pedestrians, funerals, bicycles, kalesa (horse drawn cart), caribao (water buffalo), children, family parties, and rice drying....just to name a few!!

Traffic on EDSA by Our Apartment

Typical of Metro-Manila Traffic

 Drivers Don't Always Obey Traffic Signs

Jeepney Terminal

Randy After Our Tricycle Ride From the Church in Laoag

Motorcycle with Couple Holding an Umbrella to Protect From the Sun

Filipino Father and Daughter on Bicycle with Bag of Food from LDS Charities

Tricycle From the Back on Our Way to Malaya for Church

Because there are several modes of transportation mainly used in the Philippines, I will list them from the least expensive to the most expensive: Walking, Bicycle, Tricycle...very widely used,  Jeepney ....along with the tricycle this is the most common mode, Bus, Taxi, Own a motorcycle, Own a Car...usually have a hired driver, Boat...necessary for travel between islands that do not have airports close by, Airplane...because of so many islands to go between, the airports are very busy and quite inexpensive.

Although there is so much congested traffic, a very small percentage of Filipinos own their own car....there are just millions of people all going somewhere each day.

I must add that some of our funniest experiences in the Philippines were the times we were lost while driving. Usually we were with Elder and Sister Goss. Some that stand out are: trying to find the location in Caloocan (it was behind a certain Catholic church) for the kick-off event for National Family Week, the trip to Cavite for Leni's internment, and a particular trip to the airport 

I drove exactly three times! All were on holidays when the traffic was much less congested because most of the people go to the provinces to be with family on these days. However, I did PRAY alot, as did our family, for our safety each day....and yes, we actually made it the entire 18 months without a single fender bender!

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