We were on our way to the small market town of Donsol in the Philippines, and had flagged them down as they passed on the road. After agreeing on a modest fare, equivalent to less than an Australian dollar, Phil got on back and I climbed into the cab with the girl. She smiled self-consciously as we set off for town.
“How about we look around town first?” we asked. “No problem” the driver said and we took a loop around the narrow streets and past the local homes. Suddenly the little girl called out loudly, waving excitedly. Is that your house? I asked and was rewarded with another shy smile.
We passed her school and stopped at the shops. “We will wait for you” the driver said.
“Oh no” we protested. “We will be a while.” He seemed disappointed, and for a moment I thought he was going to wait anyhow, but finally he and his cute little girl left.
We wandered around the town, looking and feeling like frogs in a fish pond. This far from Manila, we were the only tourists in town. Phil got a great haircut for the kind of spare change you find down the back of a couch. I bought a drinking coconut complete with straw, and a plastic bag of an unidentified meat dinner. Then we decided to go back to the hotel.
We looked around nervously. For the first twenty minutes we had been accosted by various drivers asking if we wanted a ride somewhere. After refusing many times, and spending so long trying not to catch the eye of any more drivers, we now had to decide who to choose.
Before we could decide, our taxi came back around the corner and stopped to see if we wanted to go home.
Since we knew the fare, we added a small bonus, and gave the girl her own little tip. They smiled appreciatively.
Later that day, we decided to go back to town for dinner. A girl from the hotel offered to call a “taxi” for us, so we went outside, expecting another friendly and colourful local. Instead an unhappy looking young man pulled into the drive on the most beat up old motorbike and battered sidecar, I had ever seen.
|Other people's accommodation|
The girl from the hotel was sitting behind him and said she was going to be our tour guide. I was confused. We only wanted to go up the road a bit, then into town again.
We drove left along a road I had walked earlier because I wanted to show Phil the lovely old homes there. I knew the road was rough, broken, and steep, but I didn’t expect that the bike would stutter and slide and that we would have to get out and walk to reach the top.
|Typical Filipino Roadworks|
As we started back to town, I got even more nervous. It was getting dark and we had no lights. I mentioned the lack of lights to Phil.
Suddenly the driver turned on his headlights. I suspect he was saving his battery or something. I wasn’t impressed. I was determined not to use this bike and the grumpy driver on the way back.
When we arrived in town, the girl insisted they would wait for us, and again we said no thanks. The young man looked annoyed. He argued with the girl, but since it was in Tagalog, I could only assume that she had told him we would need him all night and he would get good money. Not our fault if she had.
He looked sullen and grumpy. Eventually we asked what it cost. He still looked like we had stolen his last dollar and then he asked for four times what we had paid the other driver. It was still a small amount, equivalent to a few Australian dollars, so we paid it just to get rid of him.
Motorbikes and motorbike taxis are everywhere here. I have seen up to four adults and a baby on one bike. Often the adults are sitting sideways on the back texting or maybe updating their Facebook status. “Still riding into town. Saw a couple of foreigners walking by.”
Bikes are also good for transporting goods or busloads of people. Once we passed a bike with a huge oxen sitting in the sidecar, looking like Dino in the Flintstone cartoon, about to tip over the whole vehicle if it just twitched too much.
|Taxis of all kinds, even one carrying pigs.|
Getting around in the Philippines is half the fun. It’s cheap, efficient, and a great way to meet the locals; both the friendly and, unfortunately, the grumpy.