Riding In Manila
TAKING AIM, by Chris Maida, Editor
As you’ll see on page 70, I went to the Philippines for a vacation last March. While there I went diving and rode a Harley around the island of Luzon for a couple of days with Emerson Raymundo, the sales and marketing manager of Harley-Davidson of Manila, and Mark Querubin, a local HOG member.
Many riders are familiar with the term “adventure riding,” which is broadly defined as touring on all types of terrain. It’s for the experienced rider only. Well, riding in the cities of the Philippines like a local is what I call “adventure urban riding.” By that I mean it’s not for the faint of heart or a novice rider. That’s not to say it’s dangerous or bad, but it is different than what we’re used to in the States.
In the Philippines, the lines on the road are more like suggestions than the strict boundaries they are here. If the traffic on your side of the road has stopped (the congestion is mind-boggling), simply move to the left and keep going if you so choose — and many locals do. Many times Emerson, Mark, and I were riding between the oncoming traffic and the stopped buses, cars, trucks, Jeepneys (Filipino buses), and tricycles on our right. However, it’s not like threading your way through heavy traffic in New York, or any other congested American city, as I quickly learned after I made the mistake of passing a Jeepney on the right. If you want to pass someone, just give a beep on the horn to let him know you’re there and then pass on the left. If you have to ride on the other side of the centerline to do that, no worries, no issues.
The way I made sense of it is this: everyone knows the traffic is horrendous and that everyone has to get somewhere, so motorcycle, tricycle, and bicycle traffic flows more like water around a large rock in a stream than in rigid conformity to lines painted on the road. People let two- and three-wheeled vehicles pass them without a second thought. A big part of what makes it all work is the unaggressive attitude of the participants. It’s a system that works well — though to the newcomer it looks chaotic bordering on insane. Truth be told, I really enjoyed riding like this!
Once I got back to the States, it felt wrong to just sit and wait in a line of cars during rush hour when there was plenty of room for me to move down the road. Unfortunately, the only place you can split lanes legally here is in California, since there’s no law against it. However, there’s no law saying you can do it, either.
See you on the road.
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This article originally appeared in issue #312 of American Iron Magazine
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