How to drive in one piece in Manila

In my previous blog post, I listed 5 tips on how to survive driving in Makati City. While these focus more on how to avoid law enforcement traps, another driving survival guide that’s worth blogging about is how to survive while driving along with Manila’s general driving public.

I’ve had my share of accidents and judgment errors while driving in and around Manila, and these are some of the more helpful points that I believe you should remember in order to avoid being cited more than just a traffic violation ticket.

So how does one survive Manila’s rough and tumble, drag racing, demolition derby attuned roads? Here’s how:

1. The Game of Chicken (or Why It’s Better to be a Chicken Than to be a Statistic)

There are a lot of reckless drivers and road hogs throughout the metropolis. And it is inevitable that you’ll end up playing a game of chicken with some stupid, zero skill driver at some point in time. Now if you’ve taken driver’s ed class or the Land Transportation Office (LTO) license exams, then you’ll probably know that the best way to deal with these kinds of drivers is to simply give way. There’s no point in risking your life, or your passengers’ lives for that matter to some idiot who probably doesn’t know his left from his right, let alone how to use the car brakes.

2. Size Matters (or Would You Want to Go Head On With A Bus?)

When driving in bus-filled roads, such as EDSA, it’s essential to note that “Size Matters”. Simply put: You should never piss off bus drivers, especially during peak traffic hours. If you do, then you’ll most likely end up in the sidewalk frantically trying to wrestle for control of your car while trying to evade incoming pedestrians just because the bus driver decided to play a game of chicken (see Tip #1 above)!

Just imagine the damage a fully-laden passenger bus can do to your car if you happen to be sideswiped by it. An ounce of prevention is indeed better than a pound of cure.

3. Lane Markings are Not Enough (or Whoah! Lay Off on the Gas Pedal Dude, This Ain’t No Drag Strip!)

Manila’s main roads have an unnatural tendency to go from being four lanes wide and all of a sudden narrowing down to two lanes. Imagine yourself cruising along at about a hundred kilometers per hour (60 mph) only to break and swerve real hard because of an unexpected road bottleneck up ahead! How government engineers planned the roads to be this way without having any foresight completely boggles the mind.

And so, it really pays if you always stay alert and watch out for the driving behavior of the cars in front of you. If you see them collectively break or swerve, then there’s probably a road anomaly up ahead. Again, you must remember Tips #1 and #2 above, because this is what will most likely happen in case of a “narrowing road” or “road bottleneck” scenario.

4. The Turn Signal Deficiency Syndrome (or “Did He Just Make a Lane Change Signal? No? BANG! I Though So!)

In my experience, approximately only 2 in every 10 Filipino drivers that I encounter on the road know how to make a turn signal prior to executing a turn or a lane change. And half of that, roughly 1 in 10, usually engage their turn signals a split second before doing the actual turn or lane change! I’ve mentioned this in a previous post.

This can be very frustrating for the educated and disciplined driver. Driver’s ed usually teach you to observe signal lights, as this is a clear indication of the expected path a car in front of you will take. With this driving aspect or discipline missing in most Manila drivers, then you’ll wind up observing Tips #1 and #2 above, again!

There are a lot of other driving nuisances that a driver can face while driving in Manila, or in the Philippines in general. But the four scenarios above are probably the most prevalent. But to sum it all up, the best tip that can be offered is that every driver should practice defensive driving. This is one driving technique that will make you an above average driver, no, a great driver.

Are there other driving pitfalls that should be included in this list? Please feel free to add to it.

Posted in Personal, Tongue-in-cheek and tagged , , , .


  1. Thanks for the comment re: “kids begging” on my blog, PJ. That was really interesting. Sad, but interesting.

    You’ve got a beautiful family. Your little boy is so sweet! I love checking out your blog and have checked out Conne’s as well! Take care.

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