I first drove in the Philippines in 1989, from Baguio to Bontoc, Banaue and the rice terraces, then back to Manila. The goat track called Highway 1 out of Baguio has some stunning scenery, most of it straight down past the crumbling edge of the dirt path. Driving into Manila for the very first time, at night after a very long day, was exciting to say the least.
In 2005 I drove to Legaspi, checking the maps I had just written the ‘blurbs’ for. We followed a magic winding road along the coast at one stage that was beautiful but best described as isolated. Totally. We didn’t break down along that deserted stretch but we did further on. We limped back to Manila eventually but it brought home the reality of driving in a country that doesn’t have much in the way of tow trucks, emergency roadside assistance or even ambulances.
Trikes Will Do The Dumbest Things
I have only had one accident myself, in nearly 30 years of visiting, living and driving there. Ok, there was the time the calf hit me on the motorbike but we were both going very slowly. My one accident was on my 150cc Harley lookalike and a trike turned in front of me without warning. I put the bike down and slid under him as the oncoming traffic negated swerving to the left and the concrete wall on the right was most unappealing. I flipped the trike and scraped my knee and elbow but luckily my Filipino riding boots (thongs) saved me from further injury.
Not so lucky an American I helped on the mountain road north of Sogod, Cebu. He had a large splinter sticking out of his forehead, was concussed and bleeding and fortunately I was able to give him first aid before he was whisked off in a passing truck to the nearest germ development facility. They call them hospitals but don’t get me started. Another rider I gave CPR to and looked after him as he had a seizure I met at a set of traffic lights a month later. He was alive and well and very grateful that I had saved his life. The crowd had, as always, merely stood around and waited to see if he would die.
Wear Your Seatbelt
I have to say I find it hard to explain why, in a city like Cebu where every second student is doing nursing, so few people seem to know first aid. Another night a car came out of a petrol station and slammed in to the concrete road divider. The passenger went through the windscreen. Prior to this my wife had refused to wear a seatbelt as she felt if we had an accident it would stop her from being able to jump out… She saw the accident as did I. I stopped two good Samaritans trying to bundle the woman into a taxi without addressing her wounds. I managed to stop the copious blood loss using a sanitary knapkin. Well three, actually, as she was bleeding like a stuck pig.
They do have accidents on Filipino roads. Usually they are low speed and result in minor damage and few injuries. But they also have major bus and motorcycle accidents that produce multiple fatalities. Keep in mind many bus and V-Hire drivers use amphetamines, are poorly trained and survive more by good luck than skill. Take care.