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Driving in Bacolod, Philippines: Part 3

Driving Filipino Style – No Fun No Joke No Common Sense

I have previously written here and here about my perspective on driving in the Philippines as a foreigner.  I really thought it was “out of my system” and had fully acclimatized to the “different” way of driving and lack of traffic discipline here. Hell! No! I may have acclimatized to driving about Bacolod, the City of Smiles but on the laughably described national highways you would have to be brain-dead to get used to it!

My first two posts on this subject went a little viral (20k + readers on Medium for example), certainly here in the Philippines, and were met in some quarters with criticism. “Who the hell is this foreigner telling us what to do?” sort of thing.  Then some readers started to play childish games. You know the kind of games that school boys play – “mine’s bigger than yours!” But in this context it was a case of, “have you ever driven in Manila?” or Bangkok or Los Angeles or wherever that particular person wished to show off about by demonstrating that I was a driving wuss! Incidentally, the answers to those questions are no, yes and yes.

The episode that prompted me to revisit driving in Bacolod, Philippines was a journey home yesterday after such a wonderful two nights, three days away at Sugar Beach and the equally wonderful Takatuka Beach Resort.

It was so bad and littered with such frequent examples of dangerous road behaviour that I had no choice but to yet again highlight the problems faced by all road users in this country. Once again, if readers wish to apply certain labels to me as a result of what I write, then so be it. I had previously been accused of being a “whining foreigner” and was advised to quit writing in that vein for my own personal safety! I say this to those people – f&*k you! Indeed, to do justice to the story and also to really spell things out to my critics, I will depart from my usual practice of refraining from using earthy Anglo-Saxon words. I am from Anglo-Saxon stock thus entitled to use those words so “Fuck you!” – if the cap fits!

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  1. Joemel Joemel


    Two words describe the mentality or state of mind of most Filipino drivers: ignorance and stupidity.

    I can understand that you find it so difficult to put up with the bad driving habits of people in Negros. I also do find that most drivers there are senseless. And I am from Negros.

    Having spent some time working abroad, going through proper training and education for drivers and driving under strictly applied rules have improved my driving habits, skills and techniques.

    However, this has lead me to unconsciously expect the same from other drivers, even when in Negros.

    Perhaps, we may be expecting too much from other drivers who have not gone through similar level of training and education in driving that we have been through and we have to forgive their ignorance. However, I myself cannot have the same patience when confronted with their stupidity or rudeness which makes me go ballistic and I cannot blame you for swearing.

    Proper education for drivers has to be initiated by the government and strict imposition of traffic rules should be the norm if we want to have safer roads.

    I hope your articles are read by those who can make the difference.

    As to your freakin swearing, it may have better impact on the readers if you can also write it in the vernacular.


    • Thank you Joemel for your comments. I agree with most of the points that you raise, however, it is a constant source of amazement to me that even stupid drivers seem unable to recognize the dangers that they cause! There is no such thing as a road traffic accident. All collisions involving vehicles on roads are avoidable. I believe the authorities here should seriously consider a road traffic awareness program in the schools. Then at least the situation may improve for future generations.

  2. Rob Ramos Rob Ramos

    I just hope the article gets through the brains of these drivers. I use to travel from Bacolod to Dumaguete using the South Highway, and yes, most truck, bus drivers are totally reckless. Sad.

  3. Roy Gamboa Jr Roy Gamboa Jr

    sir stephen, i am with you with regards to the attitude of drivers here in negros. i am also a negrosanon. the problem here is not about drivers of private vehicles. it is the drivers of public vehicles. particularly those drivers that doesn’t own the vehicle that they are driving. for trailer trucks, if you notice they are not stopped on the checkpoint because they are owned by certain rich negrosanon. the same goes with the bus liners. the law enforcers are afraid to check on them. the famous the owner, the lesser their vehicles will be checked or not at all. hope this can help you…

    • Hi Roy, thank you for your insights and yes, I am aware that corruption plays its part on the roads here. It is one of the many problems that contributes to the chaotic and dangerous state of affairs.

  4. Neil Neil

    You are spot on left the sub division this pm to go to SM under cut as I pulled on to National Highway by some one who was also leaving su b division. Then in Banago almost hit by pick up that appeared from no where at speed. to cut a long story short 6 near misses on one journey. no traffic police no driving test its a mad house and they if you talk to them believe they are the best drvers in the world

  5. Chris J Chris J

    Fwiw, I understand your pain and fear and anger at driving here in Negros and elsewhere. While I am quite sanguine about driving here, perhaps even now adjusted to it all, driving here in Bacolod or up to Talisay or Silay is a piece of cake now, driving-wise. Yes, two lanes become three, the use of counter flow, the lack of traffic enforcers, the lack of street lights, and the lack of headlamps on many of the public jeepneys conveying people about–after dark.

    Again–I’m kinda used to it and adapted to th degree I am capable of and comfortable with. Not for the faint hearted, I admit. But a month or so ago my wife and I drove to Dumaguete and as our timing had us driving after dark for about an hour on the national coastal highway just north of that city, it was an hour or more that was harrowing and even frightened me.

    No lights on vehicles, passing vehicles going too slowly on either side, of times seemingly into a no headlights showing from the opposite direction only to see a motorized tricycle…without lights…veering from your path (no, I made no such attempts) while my wife…at times…literally screaming in my ear.

    I felt relatively safe in my own lane, even if I might have proceeded at a faster pace, but bypassing other vehicles on the national roads…in the dark…is only for those who have a death wish, are remarkably stupid, or too young to clue in that they are not immortal.

    Even I, used to my wife’s extreme discomfort on Bacolod city streets, couldn’t imagine driving anywhere on the highways after dusk. Never.

    • Hi Chris, nice to hear from you. I thought you had disappeared 🙂 I did not experience pain as I was not involved in a collision. I am too old in the tooth and a vastly experienced driver of all kinds and sizes of vehicles to be drawn into the mayhem of the roads here. However, I did experience anger. Anger at the sheer ineptitude, incompetence and recklessness displayed by so many Filipino road users. Be very careful my friend about thinking any drive here is a “piece of cake”. I know what you mean, as I too have acclimatized to the urban streets of Bacolod. But the national highways whether they be Talisay, Silay, Dumaguete or anywhere else are a minefield! That applies in the daylight, but I agree, it is worse after dusk. For your information, the events I described in the post all took place after dusk. Take care 🙂

  6. Jerry Jerry

    I wish I could add a ‘LOL” here but I’ve seen all of the above living here. I finally got my gwapa asawa to understand the importance of wearing her helmet – a helmet she only had in case she got stopped by the police. I also finally got her to understand transporting her 4 year old daughter on her motorcycle (let alone any child) was a a death wish. When she told her family what I said she was told to tell me, “We’re Filipinos we just want to have fun. And we all have to die anyway.”

    I asked her to ask her sisters and mother why it is they didn’t allow their children to play in the road outside their house. “Oh, they could get hurt and die.” When I threw back at them “We all have to die anyway, I got the “humph and a double throw of their chin at me.

    I finally had to put my foot down when we got into her father’ 14 seater MPV (with fully operational seatbelts and we buckled up but mama and papa and everyone else didn’t. When I tried to explain that they and my asawa and I could be killed in an accident, if they weren’t wearing seatbelts I was meet with a dumbfounded stare. So I ended all travels with them and anyone else without seatbelts. My father-in-laws idea of road safety is to have ‘loose’ statues of saints and Jesus, etc on his dashboard and to cross himself three times before driving. He also believes the horn is the only other safety device he needs.

    When we we’re in CDO for visa renewal we always look for taxis with seatbelts. We went to the CDO Centrio Mall in a cab with belts and when we were leaving we went looking for a cab with belts and this guy running the cabs says to me, “What are you looking for?” I told him a cab with belts. His answer, “So sorry sirrrr, cabs in Philippines don’t have seatbelts.” A cab pulled up and my asawa opened the back door and there were seatbelts. I opened the front door and showed that guy the sign on the dash that said ‘Wear your seatbelt.’ Then I showed him the belts in the rear seats he had the balls to say, “This is the only one with seatbelts, sirrrr.”

    Recently traveled on the bus from CDO a 3 hour trip. I liked the buses here as they have seatbelts – i.e. until recently. This time the seatbelts were disabled by wrapping them around the side of the seat and impossible to remove.

    And we never, ever, never, ever, never travel at night!

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