If you are learning, Tagalog odds are at some stage you will have already been to Manila, or will one day go there.
I love the place; yes it is an armpit in many ways but it has soul. It has emotion, ambience, excitement, traffic. It is one of the worst cities in the world to drive in and there have been several TV shows where the intrepid Kano drives a jeepney or other vehicle on the city streets and everyone is aghast at how congested it is.
If you live in Manila permanently, you probably don’t drive. Most kanos who live there don’t. They may have a car, but they will also have a driver to absorb the stress. I have driven around Manila since 1989 and I confess the roads are worse now than they were when I first drove a rented Lancer up to Bontoc and the rice terraces, then back again and all around Makati and Manila and off to Tagaytay, Cavite and beyond. Some 15 years later I had a job that required me to drive all over the country checking the UTP maps for accuracy and just last Easter I was back there ripping around in a rental Honda Civic enjoying the Holy Week empty roads.
So, should you feel the need to drive, especially around Manila, be prepared for ‘trapik’, or traffic. As in stopped, jammed up and going nowhere traffic. In 1994 I was on the team bus heading for the airport after we had competed in the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation championships and we hadn’t moved for twenty minutes. I got out and walked ahead to find a traffic jam where four streets met in a weird H pattern. The two jeepney drivers causing the hold up both refused to budge, but I managed to persuade one to back up, the other to drive off and the traffic began to crawl forward. I hopped onto this lump of concrete in the middle of the road (it was the size of a large couch!) and put my Military Police training to good use directing the traffic. I fed three cars from our street through for every one from the other streets and within ten minutes, there was the team bus, so I left the traffic to its own devices and we sped off, just making our flight. All along a traffic cop had sat on his parked motorcycle and watched me, doing nothing! It was only after I got back in the bus I realised I was wearing my ‘Manila Police’ cap I’d bought in Divisoria the day before!
The moral of the story is that the Manila driver will obey firm direction, at least from a Kano. If you are caught in a traffic jam, learn these phrases:
Ano ang dahilan para sa masikip na trapiko? – What is the reason for this traffic jam?
Itigil honking iyong sungay, maaaring ilipat ang isa! – Stop honking your horn, no one can move!
Hindi ka maaaring magkasya limang dyip sa dalawang daanan! – You can’t fit five jeepneys in two lanes!
So, don’t try to remember them now, just write them down. When you find yourself in trapik, whip this out and begin reading the phrases aloud. It should give everyone a good laugh and help pass the time.
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit., MA(Writing), Dip. Bus, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at www.streetwisephilippines.biz