Driving anywhere in the Philippines is always an adventure, more so in the crowded streets of Cebu City. The traffic, or ‘trappik’ as the locals pronounce it, has to be experienced to be truly understood. There are more lethal places to drive, such as China, Russia and even nearby Thailand, as far as fatal accidents are concerned but, when it comes to all-seeing, all-dancing motoring mayhem, Cebu has to be up there with the worst in the world (which is Manila by some accounts).
Consequently it pays to be able to roll with the punches, go with the flow and drive as the locals do, up to a point. Aggressive-defensive is the posture to adopt. If you play it safe you will never get anywhere and you will cause accidents and be the centre of one in no time. You have to seize the day and not be afraid to barge in and bully the other road users. It is hard for me, a former Military Policeman and advanced driving instructor to advise you this way but hard won experience on the local roads has formed this opinion. Be bold, be sensible and allow for the most ridiculous things anyone in charge of a wheeled vehicle (or pedestrian) might attempt, but be bold.
It pays to know just a few phrases in Cebuano to help you through the traffic. My favourite was “Maligsan gani ka diha!” This translates as “You’ll get run over if you stand there” and was used often to let the hawkers and flower necklace sellers know they were risking their lives for a few pesos. My duty to them done, I would inform the drivers so dumb they had to be brain dead that they were “Ikaw buang!” Basically, “you’re an idiot!”.
Buang is a great word, remember it and use it regularly. You can add ‘Dong’ or ‘Day’ (pronounced dye) afterwards to personalize it as necessary. Students of Cebuano will note the root word being used when you ask them, “Are you stupid?” as this is “Kabuang gud nimo?” Believe me, throwing a few ‘buangs’ around in the traffic jam will get everyone laughing and smiling at the Kano speaking Cebuano. Or you might get shot; your call.
If you want to be more assertive you can tell them to get out of the way; “Pahawa sa dalan!” but don’t expect it to happen. Better to simply inform them of their inability to drive by saying; “Dili ka kama omo maniho!” My asawa assured me these days you can drop the ‘maniho’ as everyone just says ‘drive’. So ‘You can’t drive!’ becomes ‘Dili ka kama omo drive!” although to me that sounds like a comparison of laundry powders. Learn these simple phrases, use them repeatedly and you will have a ton of fun in the traffic. Trust me.
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