Saturday, November 20, 2010

Buying a Motorcycle in the Philippines Revisited

Since I first arrived in the Philippines I have owned 4 motorcycles. All of these have been the inexpensive Chinese "clones" of popular Honda models. My experience has been good with these bikes, but there are some words of caution and some caveats when buying one of these bikes. I also know a bit about the name brand bikes here and can pass along some helpful info if you decide to go that route and spend a bit more money.

 This was the first bike I bought upon arriving in the Philippines. A 125cc Rusi Ramstar Trail bike. Rusi is a major player in the Philippines, and represents the typical Philippine business model for selling Chinese motorcycles. Bikes are manufactured in China and re-badged with the Rusi Logo, sent in parts to the Philippines where they are assembled here and sold. This circumvents the heavy import duty on complete motorcycles by the Philippine customs authority. Many companies do this, some importing the original Japanese or Chinese brands un-assembled.
This is a picture of my second bike. Also a Rusi, but a 150cc Ramjet model. Often used as a mule for conversion to a tricycle or Habel-Habel, it is a Honda TMX 150 clone. The engine is identical to the Honda in most aspects, and even interchanges with many Honda parts. It is your basic 1970's vintage push-rod motor. Torquey and durable. The rest of the bike uses cheaper quality Chinese parts, some of which need to be swapped out if you plan to keep the motorcycle very long. Bearings and tires, as an example. These bikes are geared very low. For highway cruising swap out the rear sprocket for a larger one (42-46 tooth).  I kept this bike for about 2 years.  It was relatively hassle free, but the electrical system was not so robust, I had frequent minor problems with bulbs and wiring. You can buy similar models for between 36,000 and 46,000 P

My third bike was nearly identical to the second one but was a Motoposh re-branded China clone. Same engine as the Rusi, but different parts used in the assembly. I only kept it a few months as I really wanted a Motoposh SBX 200. There was initially no stock anywhere in the Philippines on this model, but when a few suddenly became available, I traded my 150cc for the 200cc SBX.

This bike is as you might notice modeled after the Honda CBR 400. But at 69,000 pesos, just a little less money. Is it any good? Box stock, no, but with a little modification it is now a pretty good bike. I swapped out the factory rear mono shock for a gas filled one, changed all the bearings including the steering head, added a used 30mm Honda carburetor, and had a custom exhaust built and installed. It is really a relatively fast and responsive bike now, and I have taken it all over Negros and Cebu Island. Total cost about 80,000 P.

Should you buy a china bike instead of a name brand? I can't answer that for you except to say, examine the reasons for buying a motorcycle, and the use you will get from your bike. If you plan to keep it longer than a couple years buy a branded bike for a more trouble free experience. If you like to tinker, or only want a bike for light use, buy a China clone. By the way, the Honda's and other branded bikes sold here are not made in Japan, They also are made in China and assembled in the Philippines using cheaper components to keep the price down.  Some are now being imported from India as in the case of Kawasaki (Bajaj).
Update: I have traded my last China bike for a Bajaj Rouser 220. For 98,000 pesos, which was the best cash price I could find in Cebu, I got a whole lot of motorcycle. After 6000 Km I can safely say their is no comparison to my previous china bikes. This particular bike offers, in my opinion, the best bang for the buck in a non Chinese bike. Manufactured in India and assembled in the Philippines, it offers Japanese level quality at a moderate price. Very fast for a 200cc class bike, it is geared a tad high for my tastes, but will out run any scooter style bike in stock configuration. You can pay 250,000 for a Kawaski Ninja 250, but you will not get 150,000 pesos more performance. In fact most reviews concur that the Rouser is almost equal in acceleration to the Ninja up to about 60 KPH. With a higher revving engine and a 6 speed transmission, the Ninja will out run the Rouser at top end speeds. The Rouser handles like a light weight bike and is easy to navigate in city traffic, which is a plus if you want to commute.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Alive and well

It has been a long time between posts lately, but yes I am alive and well... just very busy with work. I have been teaching English on Assignment in Cebu. What started as a part time job, evolved into being named head teacher and academic assistant at a school in Cebu. I still have my heart in Dumaguete and have visited several times over the last year, I do hope to return soon.
In the meantime, articles will be less frequent, but the existing content holds a wealth of information for anyone wanting to know the soul of Dumaguete and the surrounding province of Negros Oriental.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Philippines' Badjao Sea Gypsies

The Badjao, often only known to tourists as street beggars, have much more to their substance and history than that. Honestly I was one who thought the Badjao were only the dark skinned beggars seen on the streets of Dumaguete, probably the disdain for them stems from prejudice and misunderstanding, still, we should understand that there is more to their story, even as we dislike what they have been reduced to in modern times. The historical Badjao are actually nomadic seafaring fishermen who with their whole families in tow, trying to eke out a living by fishing. They have plied the Sulu Sea and surrounding waters for centuries. Originally living on their boats some are born at sea even today. But this is a vanishing lifestyle.

Their centuries-old way of life is threatened by rising costs and shrinking fisheries. For some of the fishermen, their only hope is that their children won't have to follow in their footsteps. The motley caravan of boats, their engines popping in staccato rhythm, head out to sea sounding like a platoon of sputtering lawn mowers. Painted bright red, turquoise and orange, they carry a dozen men wearing baseball caps and T-shirts fashioned as turbans to block the equatorial sun.

Proud and hardworking, they're threatened by soaring costs for fuel and repairs, killer typhoons, pirates, religious rebels and the steady decline of fish poulations. Most Badjao here no longer live on their boats, instead taking up residence in thatch-roofed houses on bamboo stilts. But it seems they can't bear to be away from the water. Their communities extend 100 yards from the beach into the marshy coastal waters, connected by warrens of over-water pathways made of bamboo, wooden planks and overturned canoes.

They still go to sea in bancas, rickety craft with bamboo outrigging lashed together with wire and fishing line. They fashion their own hooks and lures. Small gas-powered motors and cellphones are their only modern conveniences. On the water, times are tough. On land, they are worse. Throughout the Philippines, more than 200,000 Badjao remain marginalized, shunned as uneducated and incorrigible. Non-Badjao children throw coins into the water and laugh as the fishermen scramble from their boats to compete for the handouts. Badjao who abandoned life at sea have ended up as street beggars in big cities such as Manila.

When times are good, they travel four hours out to sea where the stone fish, grouper, whitefish and tuna are bigger and more plentiful. A good catch brings only $20 for the entire group. When times are lean, they secure their gas on credit and take their chances closer to shore. Often they spend two days at sea and return with just two fish, barely enough to feed one person. For years, the Badjao have been known as masters of the seasonal currents of the Sulu and South China seas. Tradition has it that a Badjao fisherman, simply by dipping his hand in the water, can judge a current's direction and strength and the time it will take to reach his destination.

Some belive that the traditional Badjao lifestyle will survive into the 21rst Century, others fear they are doomed to becoming engulphed by a Philippines reluctant to address their needs as an independant and noble people.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dumaguete makes ties with Korea

THE City Government of Dumaguete signed a sisterhood agreement with the city of Yeongdong-gun in the Republic of Korea for the enhancement of understanding and friendship between the peoples of the two regions.

Mayor Agustin Perdices, in the presence of city officials, recently signed the agreement following a lengthy deliberation by the Municipal Council before the latter gave the local chief executive the authority to enter into a sisterhood arrangement with the South Korean city.

The agreement also aims for the expansion of bilateral ties between both parties, bearing in mind the importance of the Philippines-Korea diplomatic relations.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Siquijor Island

Siquijor, was established in 1783 under the administration of secular clergymen. In the years that followed until 1877, the parishes of Larena (Cano-an), Lazi,Siquijor, (Tigbawan), Siquijor, San Juan (Makalipay), and Maria (Cangmeniac) were founded by priests of the Augustinian.

Siquijor has a reputation for being and island of Black magic and mystery. Even today witch doctors or shaman practice their ancient art. There is a strong belief among many Filipinos in black magic, or as we might refer to them today traditional beliefs in ancient medicine and animism. It is a fact that Imelda Marcos regularly consulted a practitioner of medicine from Siquijor. Whether you believe in these practices or not, Siquijor offers many wonderful things to see and experience. Unbelievably clean waters for scuba diving, first class resorts, and rugged mountain terrain with waterfalls. There are also ancient Spanish missions to visit.