Saturday, January 5, 2008

Getting around Dumaguete

Public transport in the Philippines is is a uniquely different experience. While there are in fact a few Taxi cabs in Dumaguete, you won’t see them driving around looking to pick up passengers. They are usually a private hire by pre arrangement. The substitute for cabs is the Tricycle or “pedi-cab” as it is known locally.

These cumbersome conveyances are a study in Filipino culture. They exemplify the way people think and regard as practical. Generally built around a 150cc motorcycle, these elaborate side cars can carry anything. If you think I exaggerate, I have seen these carrying the following
* Room full of household furniture.
* 15 people
* 5 people and two pigs
* 250 kilos of 20’ long rebar (steel rod)
* 15 30’ long bamboo poles
* one cow and one pig
* 5 sheets of 4x8 plywood and 5 bags cement
* any combination of the above
* anything else you can imagine

The streets of Dumaguete are literally choked with these “taxis”. There are over 2000 of these registered in the city. They ride like a truck, and if you are a 6’ tall foreigner, the seating is cramped. Everything here is built to accommodate 5’ tall people. That said, it is a great experience if you are here on a visit, and in fact the only way to traverse the city unless you walk.
The fare for in the city destinations is 7 Pesos, if you want to go a little further often you will have to pay double fare. Drivers will sometimes try to charge an obvious tourist 20 Pesos or more. It’s up to you to decide if you want to pay the “tourist” rate or negotiate the real price. Pedi cabs can be hired for long distances as well, for example to outlying towns. These fares are totally negotiated and it is up to you to find the price you can live with.
Locals just seem to know what distances command what price, and will not pay more. As a tourist there is no clue as to the actual fare. There are no meters and no published prices. When I first came to Dumaguete I often would simply ask the passenger next to me, or the person waiting with me along the road. The local folk are often very helpful and will even negotiate the price for you on occasion. Be aware that many drivers do not have a good command of English. Speak slowly and to the point. Others want to chat with you the whole trip, just be careful what information you divulge.

If you want to go to a neighboring town or travel to a distant part of the province there are Easyrides and Jeepneys.

Easy rides are basically a micro bus built on a Japanese Suzuki Chassis customized in the Philippines for carrying passengers. They cary 20 or more people crammed into a very small space, again long legs are a hindrance. Easyrides are a better choice than a Pedicab for long distances. To get an easyride there are specific “terminals” scattered around the city. Most are near the public market for obvious reasons. The word terminal is misleading, often no more than a spot on the street to park 4-5 little buses, you just have to ask someone where to get the easyride for a specific town. To a large extent the micro buses are color coded and have the destinations they serve painted on the side.

Jeepneys are the most recognizable Philippine vehicle. No matter where you go, these elaborate garish bus like vehicles are everywhere. Based loosely on the left over WW2 jeeps left by the U.S. Armed forces, they have blossomed into an art form. In Dumaguete they are lesser versions of what you can find in Manila. Over used and under maintained they make trips to towns near and far. Primarily used by the local population, they allow you to take anything you can pile on top. Smoke belching, noisy, and diesel powered they offer an economical alternative to the Ceres Liners.

V-hires are large 15-20 passenger vans converted to carry people from one city to the next. These are generally express runs, for example, going from Dumaguete to Bayawan which is a 100 plus kilometer drive. These vans drive extremely fast and sometimes dangerously, not for the faint of heart. Get the front seat if possible, there is more leg room.

Ceres Liners ply the National highway north and south. This is a very easy and economical way to travel up and down the province. They stop almost anywhewre to pick up passengers and the fares are regulated. There is a Ceres Terminal in Dumaguete south on Perdices Street. From there you can get a bus to anywhere in Negros and even a bus to Cebu City. This bus boards a ferry at Amlan and crosses to Cebu.

Habal Habal means literally sex-sex. It is said that people riding one look like they are having sex with one another. What is this conveyance? The most unbelievable way to get up to the mountain regions of Negros, Habal Habals are 150cc motorcycles with seating for up to 6 or 7 passengers! Often there is a metal grill over the gas tank for extra seating, and then the rear seat is extended to double the normal length. I have seen these guys carrying 6 people plus bags of rice, chickens, and baskets of produce, all at once. The kicker is that these intrepid drivers travel up steep mountain trails with washouts, large boulders and dangerous drop offs. It defies logic and sense, but in the Philippines it is a necessity because of the local economics. It is the only choice for many.

These are your basic choices for public transport in Dumaguete. Have fun, and enjoy the unique flavor and Philippine style of public transportation.


Anonymous said...

Why don't people ride bicycles? Seems like most people ride short distances for tricycles. I mean Dumaguete is not THAT big of an area. Even people in Japan ride bicycles for shopping, gonig to work, etc. within a 5 to 7 km distance from their houses. Is it laziness, or something else?

RHB said...

Good question, there are a few bicycles here, but if you saw the traffic you might not want to join.

Anonymous said...

THe gov't can assign exclusive paths for bicycles, like in Vietnam, china, etc.
Perhaps Philippines has too much oil.