Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Dumaguete City Traffic or Amusement Park?

An infamous pedi-cab parked in downtown DumagueteDisney should seriously consider adding a new theme park that is based entirely upon traffic in Dumaguete City. The absence of any speed limits, combined with a very noticeable lack of stop signs at 4-way intersections, provides the perfect conditions for amusement park-like thrills and chills. Add in the lively cast of multi-colored jeepneys, anomalous pedi-cabs and buzzing motorcycles and you could charge admission to this spectacle of sights and sounds (oh, and smelly exhaust, too).

Upon arriving in Dumaguete, Marilyn and I found a nice air-conditioned taxi and rode a few quiet blocks to an affordable restaurant to quell our rebellious stomachs. After lunch, we were literally whisked away to our next destination at speeds that had me closely eyeing the blurred objects zooming by (not to mention closely monitoring the contents of my now-filled stomach). I’m quite sure most of those blurred objects were in fact human beings, all within inches of becoming instant road kill. As time went on I realized this was simply an innate skill on the part of the driver, with the passing distance being inversely proportional to the driver’s dexterity. That is, the closer they were to skinning someone alive or causing a multi-car pileup without actually causing any harm the better their skills as a driver. In this context, ALL of our drivers were unbelievably skilled. However, our bus driver topped them all, as he maneuvered a huge city bus down a relatively narrow highway at 65 mph, all the while dodging vehicles and energetic children playing by the side of the road. Thankfully, everyone respected the hulking, speeding mass of metal by yielding to its terrifying horn that seemed to call out, "move or die!” Even so, the Filipino definition of the word “yield” is approximately thus: “to nonchalantly veer two inches off the path of an approaching vehicle; three inches if said vehicle weighs more than 10 tons.” No doubt, Dumagueteños are fearless when it comes to matters of transportation, whether as drivers, passengers, or pedestrians.

Thankfully, not all conveyances in Dumaguete rely on pure speed and seat-of-your-pants driving. My personal favorite is the pedi-cab, or “tricycle”. It is best described as a motorcycle taxi, complete with a covered seating area that is shoddily attached to the under-powered motorcycle chassis. The pedi-cab is perhaps the noisiest and dirtiest form of transportation in Dumaguete (and the Philippines as a whole), but for an American the novelty of the whole thing makes it quite enjoyable. Also, the 25-30 mph top speed does away with most of the “white knuckle syndrome” so common with other vehicle types, though you can expect to be passed by speedier buses, vans and cars on a nearly continuous basis.

It took me about 9 days before I shook off my conservative views on Dumaguete City traffic (i.e. my intense fear) and consented to riding with Marilyn on her motorcycle. I tell you…nothing compares to the thrill of riding along on a motorcycle at 40 mph while crossing the center-line to pass a slow moving pedi-cab while being passed by a city bus going 55 mph as oncoming traffic is bearing down in unmitigated fashion…all without a helmet! Apparently, I had great trust in Marilyn’s abilities for I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it (my parents are cringing at the thought). Yielding to her responsibility for my safety, though, Marilyn brushed off my repeated requests to “give it more juice”. Sadly, back-seat driving is likely the only driving I’ll ever do in Dumaguete. Indeed, the complicated mix of obscure rules and sheer chaos is best left for the locals who have a lifetime of learning this unique system. The rest of us can just sit back, relax, and hold on for dear life.


Blogger Jules said...

"move out or die!" harharhar... best one ever...

btw, you might want to consider going to the western side of negros.

what to see in the island;

1. bais city (north of dumaguete)- dolphin watching

2. twin lakes of balinsasayao

3. Bacolod city

4. Silay - turn of the century plantation town with Spanish ancestral mansions

5. Mambucal resort - lush mountain resort

6. Sipalay - blindingly white sand beaches where Europeans go and have fun...

Monday, July 31, 2006 1:13:00 AM  
Blogger Corey said...

Sadly, I did not see any of these places you mentioned, though I have heard of most of them. It was also highly recommended that I see Apo Island, which would provide a nice respite from the congested areas in Dumaguete.

Thanks for pointing out these other destinations. Perhaps next time ;)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006 10:57:00 PM  

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