Part of me is not enjoying writing these recent articles concerning different ways of getting around the capital. I said before I don’t want to do the usual moaning and sneering that happens far too often when writing about the Philippines generally.
But the subject matter over the last few posts has all involved transport around the capital which puts me in a tricky situation. In a metropolis of around 12 million people, its not too surprising that public transport is not without its problems. Much of it is difficult which is to be expected in such an overpopulated place.
So I have had to report it as just that, problematic, but I also want to say that it’s not about complaining; it’s about how it is and saying so. It’s the Philippines it is incomparable with Surrey in England, Vancouver in Canada or Sydney Australia. It’s not saying the public transport is inadequate as in a city of 12 million, I cant see how it could possibly be smooth sailing.
Neither do I want to sound an alarmist with this next article. Crime is not unique to the Philippines, far from. But as my purpose with these blog posts is to try and enlighten the would-be traveler, it is also my role to encourage them to stay safe. Forgive me highlighting a negative with this post and others, but I wouldn’t be doing a good job if I didn’t warn people against possible problems.
I have spent the most part of 7 years here and much of that time was in Metro Manila. No such incident has happened to me, but it has happened to people that I know. So from that point of view, I’m just trying to keep you safe but I also want to emphasize that being a robbery victim in a taxi is not commonplace, but it happens.
It occasionally happens that a rogue taxi driver and accomplices could stage a robbery and the passenger in the taxi be the target. In fairness to the police, it’s a very difficult crime to prevent as the whole point is to isolate a victim and how can the police come to grips with preventing it, I don’t know.
A taxi is an ideal vehicle to rob someone in. The passenger is confined in the back of a car unable to escape and the driver will then stop at a prearranged spot and the accomplices will jump in and put the passenger through an extremely harrowing ordeal.
Sometimes it is a rogue taxi driver who will also pretend to be a victim as well to cover his involvement, or a stolen taxi used solely for the purposes of holding up unsuspecting passengers and taking just about everything they have. Not only that, they are likely to take you to an ATM and get you to draw out your cash for them.
It is well worth reading these accounts by victims of such crimes. I think the graphic descriptions of hold ups in taxis, as told by the victim really does bring it home that you should never be too relaxed when jumping in a taxi.
It is difficult to even advise you as to how to avoid it when you’re considering waving down a taxi to get home. How can I tell anyone to not carry valuables, cash or ATM and credit cards? One of the reasons many take a taxi is because they feel safer traveling that way.
The poor victim only sees a taxi. There are no clues that the cab he or she has waved down is being used as a robbery vehicle. There are ways to avoid it, but sadly too often, taxi companies fail in providing an ordered taxi. Like anywhere else, you can call a taxi company and request one to come and get you. You have the security of knowing the name of the company and being able to only get into the taxi with the corresponding taxi company name on the side.
These credible companies offer a pick up service but unfortunately, on occasion they will tell you that there are no cars available which isn’t great considering your trying to keep safe but is bound to happen sometimes. However, there are many options listed so you should get at least one that can oblige you.
There is a new service available GrabTaxi which is definitely a step forward. Its an app for your smartphone and as I have not used it nor have a smartphone, I will leave a review for you to consider.
The only person I know who tried to use it failed in his mission, and was told that no cabs was available, lets hope that isn’t a common occurrence.
There are other providers around the country soon to be active such as MiCab that serves Metro Cebu.
When they do have an available car, they only add a small charge to the fare for preordering which is very reasonable. I have no idea why, but some taxi companies previously did not seem to be aware of the importance of having such vehicles available at all times in the interest of passenger safety. All too often, they fail you and leave you at risk. I hope that this app is a step in the right direction and puts pressure on companies not affiliated to this service to offer something you can rely on.
Still though, many resort to waving down a random taxi, and hoping for the best.
In no way is any of this suggesting you should not ride in a taxi, but you do need to know how to keep as safe as possible. I emphasize again, I have never personally been subjected to such an event so let’s not overreact.
Riding Taxis and Avoiding Problems
I definitely recommend you to pre-order your taxi from a reputable taxi company. The reasons are obvious. If you pre-book, you know which taxi company is picking you up. When he arrives, ensure he matches the information the taxi firm gives you. If they don’t offer you details, then request for the registration/plate number of the taxi coming to get you from them along with the body number, and company name. It would appear ththe GrabTaxi service does that but as we do not all have smartphones, its not for everyone. Keep a log of numbers of reputable companies in your phone.
It may seem a little over the top, but when possible, it’s worth the extra trouble to stay safe and it will only cost you a little extra, about a dollar and a half.
Of course, there will be times when you have to simply wave one down, or wait a very long time for an available taxi. If you find yourself not able to pre-book or don’t have a smartphone for the grabtaxi or MiCab service, and need to catch one more randomly, then there are some things you can do to keep you a little safer.
Look out for a recognized taxi company. Try to avoid an independent operator.
Often robberies are done in a taxi that is stolen. Of course, you would not know that when you get in. The golden rule is, if you don’t feel sure of anything, get out.
Often if you are being set up for a robbery, the driver will try and make it as easy as possible to trap you even before the accomplices get in. An example of this could be asking you to sit on a certain side of the vehicle. What sometimes happens is that one door is fixed so you cannot open it, and when the accomplices get in you are trapped, hence manipulating you to the side where the door doesn’t open.
It would be wise to check that the door opens before you set off and if the driver seems to be trying to maneuver you to a particular side of the car, regard it as suspicious and get out. Don’t concern yourself with manners, it’s your safety you need to think about. After checking the door opens ok, lock it and the other door and insist the driver locks the front seat door, too.
Outside of the concern of being a robbery victim, the other lesser concerns are simply avoiding being taken advantage of. Some drivers will smell the greenery on you as a newcomer in town and may be tempted to take maximum advantage assuming you have no idea of what is going on.
Basically, ignore any talk of traffic and fixed price or even when they blatantly say extra (yes, they actually say that). Just say put the meter on please. If they refuse, take down the details which are written on the inside of all the doors and report them to the LTFRB then get out.
It helps if you take on board as much information as possible from someone you know about your journey. They should be able to give you a rough timeline for the journey and how much to expect to pay. They can even give you instructions to give to the driver. This will alert the cab driver into being aware that you just may know a little more about where you are than he first suspected.
If he senses you are being observant and perhaps giving him the impression you know a little about the locality, it may prevent him taking liberties. Turn on a little of the actor in you and pretend you know a little more than you do. Naturally, you are going to look foolish on occasion and make slips but it’s worth it. If some of them smell the greenery on you they may take advantage.
Any problems then take down his details which are written on the inside of the door and report him to TAXI COMPLAINTS HOTLINE NUMBER or the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board) at +63 921 4487777.
When possible take someone with you. Naturally, as time goes by you will have to travel alone, but whilst your learning, take your teacher with you.
You need to be watchful of the meter as very occasionally some drivers use magic. Keep a close watch on the rate that the meter goes up. If you’re suspicious, observe his hands. Magic is a button they click discreetly to accelerate the meter rate so try and observe if he is clicking a device in his hand.
I hope these tips do not alarm you and it could be said that its overcautious advice I’m handing out here. Whether that is true or not I will let you decide, but when your new here at least, exercise maximum caution.
As I keep saying, chances are the worst of the abuses like robbery won’t happen. Chances you will be taken advantage of are more of a likelihood. I hope these tips help. If in any doubt whatsoever, don’t be shy about it, just get out at the earliest opportunity.
There is no easier way to get around so of course you will want to use taxis. Just be observant and don’t take unnecessary chances.