Say A Little Prayer

Now, it is something locals don’t think about and foreigners quickly get used to. The reckless nature of life here overwhelms you and riding a pedicab can be scary before you get used to it. You may feel an adult diaper is an essential clothing item for your first few rides.

The average tourist from a culture of organized public transportation may consider this way of getting around unusual to say the least, principally because its alien to them. I remember my time here as a fresh-faced milk-bottle-coloured novice and recall how bizarre I found it when my idea of local transportation was a double-decker bus or a cab. Now, as a pinkish brown alien, riding pedicabs or tricycles is everyday life.

Pedicabs are scarier than tricycles, simply because they are slower yet take great risks coming out in front of oncoming traffic and weaving through gaps. On those first few rides, I made it a point to not look and just pray. I did settle down after awhile and simply got used to it, but the insanity and danger is obvious. Some are stark staring mad and the overzealous approach to earning money can put you in danger. But I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again, if you can endure the fear factor, then they are a great way to see street life close up.

Some of these guys are as nuts on the road as anyone, and there may be occasions when just for a split second, you had wished you had written a goodbye world note. But apart from once getting a bang on my head in a pedicab that was clipped by a jeepney, I’m still here to write the tale. By the time it happened to me I had been here awhile, and bizarrely despite a bruised head and a headache, I ended up simply laughing about it with the driver of the pedicab who nearly orchestrated my death. Yes, I have developed a mentality not unlike locals in the sense that I court danger, I guess its called adapting.

The pedicab I was in was going the wrong way down a dual carriageway, and if I told you that this is normal behaviour here, it may give you some idea. You simply have to speak up when it gets out of hand and tell the driver to take it easy, you want to live to see another day. I had been here long enough to be reckless too and not question him riding the wrong way down a dual carriageway as such crazy antics are just an everyday aspect of life in the Philippines.
To be overly shy about speaking up could mean the driver’s next stunt will be wilder and even more dangerous, so it does pay to gently say, “Please don’t kill me!” For some reason, I didn’t say anything even though I knew it was crazy. Seems I’ve been here too long.

Sadly, they probably won’t understand what your problem is with their stunt driving as its just normal here, but definitely object when going the wrong way down a dual carriageway. This is the way people are, they just don’t seem to recognize danger. After you have been here awhile, you tend to get used to it and even get a little riskier yourself, but you never fail to see just how crazy it is. Anything goes on the road with some so get used to it.

Tricycles Night and Day on Queue

Tricycles Night and Day on Queue

Another issue is the assumption of wealth, and that assumption meaning some feel they have the right to charge extra. Again, I stress that this is far from all pedicab or tricycle drivers, but it is a feature of life here if you’re a foreigner. This is the mindset that all foreigners are wealthy and pedicab and tricycle drivers often carry these mindsets as much as anyone.

We (us foreigners) tend to feel uptight about being charged unequally and quite right, too. But before we assume it’s all down to some kind of discrimination against foreigners, you should know that if a Filipino needing a ride appears a little more affluent, they often take the same attitude with them too, so it’s not something exclusive to foreigners. To be fair though, most don’t and I’m charged the same as anyone else. I am referring to a minority when it comes to pedicab and trike drivers.

Generally, I’m treated equally but the chat is often about my perceived wealth wherever I go. Being spoken to like I’m rich when I am not does irk me, but looking at it through their eyes, you understand why.

They get their perceptions from TV and the average pedicab or tricycle driver is probably not ever left the Philippines. When they see foreign films or TV shows, what they see is nice housing compared to what they are used to, everyone driving cars which they themselves could never afford. Compared to them, most foreigners they come across locally for whatever reason do appear to have money in comparison to their day to day hand to mouth existence, therefore, its assumed all foreigners are rich.

There is no doubt you will come across those that believe foreigner tax is fair game, but also try and remember that most don’t. Am I singling out trike and pedicab drivers as being the only ones who have this mindset? No, as its common with many.

But although I’ve possibly painted a picture which makes you suspicious of them, it has to be said that most times, I have no problem with either pedicab or tricycle drivers. Mostly, they are good guys.

In the main, they are friendly and have a very hard time earning a living as I’ve explained before. I’ve met some that actually live in their pedicab as earning enough to pay rent is possibly beyond them. Its simply because there are so many of them and having a constant flow of customers becomes very difficult in that environment. With so few jobs available, many try there luck as a pedicab or tricycle driver.

This is my third article now about either tricycle or pedicab drivers. Previously, I’ve only skimmed the surface and the pieces were more of an advisory. But seeing the life of a trike or pedicab driver is a window into how life is for many here. They survive, they feed the family and get by. But you will be aware how hard it is for them simply by observing. They don’t have the choices in life many of us are used to. If they were to regulate the numbers more strictly, then yes, the ones remaining would make a better living for sure. But many would not have any other kind of opportunity as the jobs are simply not there. The lives of these guys reflect the life of many here. Lets hope better days are ahead for the Filipino.

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Filed under Culture, Impressions, Manila, Philippine Transportation, Philippines, Travel

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