Transport – The Real Thriller in Manila

Because I tend to get bored quite easily, I like to mix things up, keep them fresh. I was recently discussing this with Elsbeth, my handler at KLM, who usually contacts me at precisely 08:00 on Monday morning to enquire whether I have enough ignorance left for Friday’s blog. And I never disappoint her, of course, because my ignorance is boundless.

But you knew that already. What you don’t know is that we came up with a new angle for the blog. Once a month, I’ll be selecting five or six or eleven photos of a specific destination that raise questions or tickle my funny bone or just look plain lovely to me.

I’m not sure why I chose Manila to get the ball rolling. Maybe because it’s the city that has always seemed furthest away. While I was looking through screen-loads of photos on Flickr, I noticed many amusing and colourful pictures of transport in the Philippines, and so I soon had my theme.

First up, there are the jeepneys. These are privately owned buses that look like Christmas trees on wheels. Here’s what I mean:


Photo by Jelte Sikkema

But you can’t always see the Christmas tree, because there are people climbing all over it, hanging onto the decorations, getting into the festive spirit.

Fully loaded Jeepney

Photo by Danny Otanes

But Manila offers many other alternatives. Some are more tranquil, like this horse-drawn kalesa with its laid-back driver. Although I would advise against using this option to get to your date on time.


Photo by Simon McGill

For speedier transportation, you might consider one of Manila’s many modified motorbikes, which each have their own charm and drawbacks. The occupant of this motorbike started out as a piglet and has been waiting patiently for the driver to get back.


Photo by Rudi Roels

Other alternatives cater for entire families. But please be sure to put on your family uniform before you set off on a trip, otherwise you won’t be allowed to sing songs from The Sound of Music.

Girls on motorbike

Photo by Rudi Roels

If you’re planning to rent your own wheels in the Philippines, please bear in mind that you’ll only need one motorbike for a family of four. Even if you’re travelling with pets.

Four-up on bike

Photo by Paul David Lewin

And if you eventually get tired of travelling on two, three or four wheels, head for the coast to escape Manila’s motor-powered madness. Rent a surfboard, go snorkelling or diving, and try not to forget the departure date on your return ticket.


Photo by Tommy Schultz

PS: I realise the above selection sketches a rather one-sided picture of the Philippines, so I hope readers will help set the record straight by sharing their own anecdotes and links to photos.

Thanks to photographers Jelte Sikkema, Danny Otanes, Simon McGill, Rudi Roels, Paul David Lewin and Tommy Schultz for allowing me to use their wonderful photos. (Click on their names to see more of their work.)

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