How to ride a taxi safely in Manila

One good reason to get a car of your own to drive in Manila, no matter what a rickety, old second-hand it is: it’ actually safer to drive on your own in the city’s crazy streets than depend on public transportation.

My own arguments against riding public transport are these – if you’re riding a taxi: you never know the driver’s temperament or if their meters are reliable. Some smell of LPG gas (because, well, they’re using it) and it’s really crazy hailing taxis during rush hours, the holiday season and when it rains.

As for FXs buses and jeepneys, I get claustrophobic and paranoid about holdup incidents. The only thing I favor are the LRT and MRT trains to easily get to Point Z from Point A, but the lines at the terminals can get really long too, and occasionally there are mechanical troubles which can stall your trip for hours.

I’ve had my commuter days and have my own horror stories to tell about riding public transport. One time, the taxi driver was really acting weird and appeared to be high on drugs. I leapt out of the taxi at the next stop light, but not without him shouting invectives at me. God knows where he could have led me then.

As a result, I’ve formulated some rules in riding a taxi in Manila:

1. Ride only on taxis ran by reputable companies. Never mind if you have to shell out extra pesos for it.

2. Practice precautionary measures like keeping the doors locked, carrying a self-defense spray and sitting at the back, instead of beside the driver.

3. Text the taxi’s plate number to a family member or friend as soon as you ride the car

4. Riding a taxi at 6 a.m. is safer than riding a taxi at 3 or 4 a.m. In the same way that riding a taxi in groups is safer than going it alone, at that hour!

On Facebook tonight, the horrific story of this young woman who was mugged by a taxi driver caught my attention:

Partygoer

Apparently, her friends want to spread the word on the horrific incident that happened to her. Here’s her tale: (pardon the length)

“After four months of not going to a club (LITERALLY), I finally did to show some support for one of my best friends, Mel and to see friends who I haven’t seen for the longest longest longest time. It was the first time I’ve ever set foot in Encore (to think I used to go to Embassy every week). It felt surreal to be out and without my boyfriend, LJ, who couldn’t come due to an early class the following day.

I only had 4 drinks: 3 Amaretto Sours and a Mai Tai. It felt good seeing a lot of my friends. We took so many pictures that my fully charged camera went low bat. Anyway, Mel and I decided to leave Encore by 2:30 A.M. Our friends stayed behind since the club closes at 3 A.M. Mel and I were taking separate cabs since she goes home to Mandaluyong and I to Makati. I WAS COMPLETELY SOBER. Not even a bit tipsy.

I remember telling her as we were leaving the club “It’s my first time going home in a cab alone from this club.” Mel was a bit concerned, even offering me to stay over her place for the night.. I told her not to worry, I ALWAYS get home safely.

So we went to get our cabs and I made sure Mel got into her cab first. Then I was looking for a cab who wouldn’t fix the price (you know how it is at The Fort) and there was one who volunteered that he’d use the meter. So I took his offer. I distinctly remember most of the waiting cabs were DAVIS cabs. Mine was not. And I was so damn stupid not to get his taxi’s name and plate number.

In the middle of the ride, I started changing into regular shorts and top. The driver wasn’t looking though but suddenly his hand reached for behind and I was surprised. He was saying, “MAY NAHULOG. Wallet mo ata.” I found a 50 peso bill on the floor. Then he said, “Ang dami mo sigurong pera. Mayaman ka noh?” I didn’t answer. I started getting nervous. I started looking for the cab’s number (which is usually written on the side of the doors). There were faint markings but it couldn’t be understood. The driver noticed my agitation and said, “Anong hinahanap mo? Plate number? Bigay ko sayo.” I was like, “Never mind.” I did NOT want him to know I was getting nervous already. Plus we were so near my house. I thought, what could go wrong?

But something did. Three streets away from my house, the cab driver “hit” a pothole or hump or whatever. He pulled over to the side and said, “Tangina, pano na yan? Na-lock yung steering wheel. Hindi ko maikot.” I was just looking at him, confused. I have no knowledge of cars so I do not know if he was bluffing or not. The meter was 75. I gave him a hundred. He had no change daw so I was like, “Fine, whatever. There’s nothing I can do about it.” I stepped out of the cab, in the middle of Bautista Street, a long street but near my house. It was almost 3 A.M. When I looked back, the cab was gone.

HOW IN THE WORLD WAS HE ABLE TO DRIVE AWAY IF HIS STEERING WHEEL WAS “LOCKED”?

I called my boyfriend up AND THANK GOD HE ANSWERED HIS PHONE. He was sleeping already, good thing the call woke him up. I was trying to remain calm. I told him my dilemma. Suddenly an empty cab drove by. A DIFFERENT ONE. I hailed it. I had probably less than half a kilometer to my house which was three streets away. The cab took me in and I ended the call.

Two more lefts, it was my house already. It was Camalig Street, then Bigasan Street. Suddenly the driver went left, the street just right before my house, Camalig. I said very politely, “Kuya, MALI. Atras ka, atras ka. Sa kabilang street pa. One more left.” The driver just kept driving like he didn’t hear. I said it again. Then he stopped and looked at me. Then he said, “Bayaran mo na.” I was weirded out. I was like, “Why? This is not even my house. It’s on the next street.” Besides, we haven’t traveled far. The meter was still at 30 pesos.

SUDDENLY, without warning, the driver grabbed my neck and jumped to the back. My first thought was, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?!?!?”. But his grip was getting tighter and tighter. I literally couldn’t breathe and felt my consciousness slipping. As we were struggling, I kept scratching at his eyes and reaching for the lock of the left door. He was on top of me hitting my head repeatedly while his other hand around my neck. I was choking and choking when I realized the left side HAD NO FUCKING LOCK, which means I couldn’t get out. Which means I had to try my luck on the right side. Imagine my struggle to get to the other side as a full grown, heavyset man kept bashing my head, scratching my face, pulling my hair and hitting me. I kept scratching his eyes. It was all I could do. When his grip loosened a bit, I managed to open the right door with so much effort. Unfortunately he pulled me back with my hair. Imagine MY TERROR as the door closed again!!!!! I couldn’t scream anymore. Besides, who would hear me I was inside a fucking car. My neck was so sore and I was close to fainting. I kept scratching his eyes and reaching for the door until by some miracle, I opened it fully and screamed with what was remaining of my voice.

The driver said something like, “Tangina, it’s not worth it.” And literally kicked me out of the car. I rolled out onto the street with my shoulder bag which was slung around me the whole time with its remaining contents. The driver suddenly sped away. Till now, I don’t know his motive, whether it be rape or hold up. Or both. Or murder.

So there I was in the middle of the street, barefoot. Then I realized why the hell am I so wet?! I realized I was sitting in a pool of my own blood. There was so much blood dripping from the right side of my head, it was like a half-closed faucet if you get what I mean. I started screaming for help.

This time the apartment I was right in front of lights’ went on. Imagine the horror on these people’s faces as I literally crawled towards them bloodied and barefoot. When I reached out to them for help, I saw my arm. It was covered in blood. And I could feel that I was losing so much more. I asked for a cellphone. I still had the consciousness to call my boyfriend. The people who took me in were nice enough to let me call. They talked to LJ and informed him of what happened. They even cleaned me up. Suddenly there was the barangay people and witnesses. That’s when everything became hazy. The barangay people said that they had to take me to the hospital because I was losing so much blood.

I was taken to Makati Medical Center ER. I still remember as I was being loaded onto the wheelchair the horrified looks of the people outside the hospital. I even had a high school batchmate who was assigned as my nurse, Erika Bautista (THANK YOU SO MUCH). In her own words she said that when I came in I looked like I was already in critical condition. I am not exaggerating when I say this: I WAS LITERALLY COVERED IN BLOOD. Head to foot.”

The suspected culprit? A white taxi with plate number PXG 725 or PSG 725

Spread the word and stay safe people!

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4 thoughts on “How to ride a taxi safely in Manila

  1. There are a lot of worries with cars, too: accidents, corrupt cops, carnappers, carjackers. I have one friend who had to change his entire life (renting a small room instead of owning his own townhouse) because he was a victim of a carnapping. Taxis I think are statistically safer, it’s just that incidents like this reverberate more strongly. Of course it’s always preferable to be in a situation where you feel you have more control. But I’m a guy. What terrible things could a bad taxi driver do to me besides robbing me of my wallet, which I would gladly give up on such a circumstance?

  2. That was very scary. I’m just so glad she got through. I rarely ride a taxi alone, but even riding in private cars have risks too. I always remain cautious in my surroundings, and I see to it that I bring my pepper spray in my bag, just in case I’d need it.

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