DRIVING IN BACOLOD, PHILIPPINES: A FOREIGNER’S PERSPECTIVE
Welcome to driving hell! I mean Bacolod ……….
Look I am not a newbie or a pussy when it comes to driving — I have been driving since I was 19 years old and believe me that is a long time! You wouldn’t want me to divulge my age I’m sure. Let’s just say I can remember when England won the football World Cup!
During my driving years I have driven all kinds of vehicles and machines — cars of all shapes and sizes, 1350 cc motorcycles, large vans and small vans, articulated trucks (semi-trailers), dumper trucks, JCB digger/loaders, excavators and probably a few more that I have forgotten about.
I have driven in London, New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Bangkok, Paris, Milan and Rome. None of those cities are for the faint-hearted driver. My longest road trips would have to include New York to Florida right down the eastern seaboard; London to southern Spain; and Chiang Mai in northern Thailand to Hat Yai in the far south of Thailand bordering on Malaysia. So let us say that serves as my driving credentials and I am prepared for the brave new world of driving in Bacolod, my adopted city. Yeah right!!
First thing I discovered was that there are absolutely no rules! Red lights — driver to driver turning — give way or yield to traffic on a major road — considerate parking. And even driving on the right hand side all conveniently flouted if it does not suit the typical Bacolodian driver!
Jeepney drivers and taxi drivers exist in their own time and space warp. They just about do anything they like and whenever or wherever they like! Talk about smoke belchers!! It is bad enough to be “carved up” in traffic by a jeepney, but not content with that the jeepney has then to cover you with a cloud of noxious black smoke!
So what are the classic symptoms of the typical Bacolodian driver? The habit of making a left turn on the wrong side of the road is a trademark. You are approaching a T-junction but you are unable to see into the road to your right owing to say buildings. Then suddenly a vehicle making a left turn from the road on your right will appear in front of you on your side of the road and aiming straight at you! It will invariably, but not necessarily, be a taxi. It will carry on coming at you! You are forced to stop! The opposing driver has no intention of doing anything of the kind! Scary! It happens all the time! But he flashed his headlamps so that’s okay! That is the Bacolodian drivers’ code for “get the hell out of the way because I am not stopping!”
There is almost a total lack of road markings in the city so you do not see the Yield/Give Way or Stop signs at junctions that most if not all foreigners are familiar with. But some roads are obvious in their priority such as the busy Circumferential Road, Lacson Street or Araneta Street …
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