I know many readers might think I am suicidal, but I much prefer to drive myself when in the Philippines. Having lived there for several years I not only got used to the chaos that is the average Filipino thoroughfare, I rather enjoy the adventure. If you are visiting for a week or two and getting out of the big city especially, having your own wheels, even more important when you have the asawa, your five anaks and the rest of the barangay to tote around, then nothing beats a self-drive rental.
In 2010 we took the tribe back for the first time after migrating to Australia five years earlier. The tribe had grown from two adults and two kids to two adults and five children, the youngest just 5 months old. In Manila we risked life and limb just walking the crowded, ramshackle streets and crossing any road was a major life threatening event. In Cebu we were graciously accommodated by a friend at his house out in the suburbs, but getting to the shops or into town required a lot of effort to get a cab convoy organised; or we had to rely on our host. The problem wasn’t at his end but rather ours as we felt like we were imposing. The four hour drive to the province to see the relatives was a one-off arrangement with a hired car and driver. Getting back, with me suffering with an infected leg and a very high fever was also less than tons of fun.
Nothing Like Your Own Wheels
The next time we went, in 2013, we rented a Nissan Urvan. It was bliss. The rental company met us at the airport at 5am as asked, took us to their yard where we organised payment and paperwork and we were away to find a hotel where we could freshen up and begin our vacation. That 11 seater carried up to 17 people, plus our luggage! I was comfortable, up the front in the left hand seat with the big wheel thing in front of me so I guess everyone else was fine, too. There were no complaints anyway. Airconditioning, a place to stash stuff while we sight-seed (out of sight so not to tempt thieves) and no waiting for cabs, buses, jeepneys or trikes.
Having our own vehicle added a lot of versatility to our travels. When I returned on business earlier this year we rented a Honda Civic from the same company. This car had the pick-up needed to overtake on blind corners and between the racing Cere’s Liner buses you need to survive on Cebu roads. We were free to stop where and as we liked, take photos and buy refreshments and move on at our own pace. We could get around to more places and see and do more in a day than if we had to use public transport.
If you are new to the country or staying in the city and for just a few days then perhaps a self-drive rental isn’t the best solution. For those confident in their driving and navigating and looking for independence, it can’t be beaten. The Nissan Urvan cost about P20,000 for a week, or say AUD$500; $70 a day. Without the relatives, just moving seven people usually requires two cabs or an almost empty jeepney and being first at the always crowded bus station. The Honda Civic worked out cheaper at P14,000 for the week, call it AUD$50 a day and worth every centavo. You can use the big guys like Avis or Hertz, but we found a small, local company in Cebu via the internet and couldn’t have been happier, both times.