After driving through Manila back in 2015, I told myself I would never do that again! Not so much because of the heavy traffic, but because of the confusion of driving through such a big mess with a lack of directional signs, which caused me to make so many uneccesary turns. But my mind must have erased (forgotten) most of that previous white-knuckled experience (in a brand new car) because I decided to do it yet again! Everyone knows all too well what the definition of insanity is (expectation of a different result) and this time was no different, even with the help of a GPS companion.
I remember the very first time I drove to Manila back in 1986. Back then there were very few street signs, if any. I do remember a sign that read Roxas Blvd. Just one! Getting into Manila is never a problem. You just drive until you are in the midst of the biggest mess you’ve ever seen, and you are there! Getting out is a bit more difficult. That one day when Teri and I were doing some marriage paperworks, we drove to Manila. And when it was time to leave, we just headed north (sun to our left) and hoped for the best. The result was not good. After over an hour of being lost and trying to regain some bearing, I noticed a Victory Liner headed for the Caloocan Bus Terminal. I chose to follow that bus which would lead me to the station where I could get lucky and find another Victory Liner ready to depart for Olongapo! That is how we successfully got out of Manila that day. The only challenge was keeping up with the bus.
Another Return to Manila.
After spending some time in Samar, it was time to head back to Guam. We decided to drive our car up from Samar up to Manila to drop off our luggage, then spend a short week in the the area north of Manila for a mini-excursion of sorts… a scouting trip scouting out the area looking for that next utopia. Heading into Manila from the south was a breeze… the SLEX took me right to the NAIA airport exit, and I easily found my way onto Domestic Road, where we typically stay at Roger’s Place Hotel in the Salem Complex directly across the street from Terminal 4 (video). There we would store 4 large pieces of luggage which we chose not to drag around Central Luzon with us, and which would be there waiting for us when we were ready to check-out and head to the airport.
After dropping off our luggage, we left Domestic Road heading north, only to be engulfed in the “traffic catastrophe” that is Metro Manila. Based on a 2015 Global Satisfaction survey conducted by Waze, MetroManila has the “worst traffic on Earth.” I never participated in that survey, but can affirm that it has not likely improved any since then.
As I navigated eastward down EDSA looking to get back on the road designated as Asian Highway 26 (the Pan-Philippine Highway also known as the Maharlika Highway is a 3,517-kilometer network of roads, bridges, and ferry services that connect the islands of Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao in the Philippines, serving as the country’s principal transport backbone), I was quickly reminded why I usually leave the driving to the transport bus drivers. After making my way into the actual city of Manila, I inadvertently found myself in a left-turn lane only to realize that is not where I needed to be. Making a wrong left turn would serve only to get me all turned around again (code for “lost”), costing me valuable time in escaping the city. Sometimes, even GPS in the NCR does not perform well as it can update slowly, adding to the non-real time confusion. My only saving grace at this point in time was that it was Sunday morning and lighter than normal traffic. So, I did as any red-blooded Filipino driver would do… I violated my own moral principles and crossed the solid white line that sepearated the left-turn lane from the regular lanes of traffic. I mean, who follows road markings and traffic laws while driving in Manila, or anywhere in the Philippines for that matter?
No sooner than I crossed that line and moved into the intersection, I was waved over by some guy wearing a green shirt with striped pants. He also had a patch on his sleeve that sort of looked official, so I complied. For some strange reason I believed that traffic enforcers wore blue uniforms, but hey, it was Sunday and maybe this was the flavor of Sunday. You can never be certain of most things in the Philippines, let alone the color of a uniform.
Now when this green-shirted guy asked me for my license and registration, I naturally complied and asked for the reason that I was pulled over. As he was scanning my license, he stated that I “incorrectly used a left turn lane and crossed a solid white line.” I wanted to say at this point that spilling a cold beer was more of a crime, but decided against using my sarcastic sense of humor. He also asked me if I understood road markings? I also wanted to say “Joke lang, diba?” but common sense again overcame me and I simply just answered his question “syempre!” (of course).
Then to compound my supposed infraction, he informs me that I am also in violation of my license restrictions by driving an “automatic” transmission. Now I was totally confused and exclaimed “whaaat?” He then proceeded to show me on the front of my license under “Restrictions” where it clearly indicated “12.” He then flipped the license over and showed me on the reverse where it clearly showed that I did not have the correct endorsement for driving an automatic transmission – but standard clutched vehicles only. In other words, I was perfectly capable of driving a standard-shift vehicle but not something as complicated as an automatic! Again, my common sense barely kept me out of this argument (not to mention my wife poking me in the ribs as an added incentive to keep my mouth shut!) I clearly seen it in print as he showed it to me… all the while thinking why did I not ever notice this before?
Here Comes the Hammer!
He looked across at my wife and said “This is going to be a major fine” and that he would capture my license and I would need to return to Manila in two days to pay the fine and regain my license. I respectfully said that I could not return to Manila in two days time because we would be in the north, and that we were preparing to leave the country. I know he certainly seen the back of the car fully packed with luggage and boxes as he said “Well you can either pay the fine here or come back in two days.” So then I asked “How much is the fine?” and he responds with “P7,000 – I already told you it was a major fine!” As I became more irritated with the guy, I tried pleading with him to just give me a warning and that we didn’t have that kind of money to pay for a fine. He then proceeded to ask me how much we could afford? My wife then immediately chimed in “We can’t afford anything!” and I continued to echo that sentiment.
My first thought now was that my license was expiring in less than two months, so I could just surrender it and drive off, never to return. But then I thought wait… what if I get hung up at the airport upon my next return for failing to appear in court and pay a fine, or worse, a warrant for my detention? The idea of sitting in some dark, rat-infested detention center for foreigners for months on end began floating through my conscience. I decided better of it and I continued to offer my pleas with the officer (?) He kept repeating “how much can you afford right now?” and I kept replying “wala,” that we only had enough money for our trip and hotel until our flight left. He did not need to know any different, I thought. He kept on asking how much I could afford to pay (right now) and I stood my ground (even though he was holding onto my license). Finally he asked me “What do you want me to do?” I said “I want you to let me just drive that way” while pointing in the direction I needed to go. It was then that I heard him mumble something quietly to his partner (who was well off to the side and never really approached our vehicle) and I noticed a very slight shake of the other officer’s head in response. It wasn’t until later that I concluded that maybe they both realized that this shakedown was not easy-pickings and they decided to abandon their efforts. The green-shirted officer then handed me back my license and pointed for me to drive off.
The Great Escape!
“Whew, that was close” I said to my wife as I sped off. It wasn’t but a minute or two later that I realized that my GPS was correct after all and I should have made that left turn! “Damn” I thought. Now I needed to turn around and head back toward that same intersection. Only this time I thought, if he sees me and motions for me to pull over again, I was going to make a run for it. After all – he was on foot and did not have any radio or comms. The only way he was catching me was if I got hung up behind a gaggle of jeepneys. Then I remembered… I’m in Manila and that is a good possibility! I went for it and made my turn without notice. “Whew” again I thought!
Fake Traffic Enforcers!
The following is a reprint from an 2018 article as reported by Mon Jocson of UNTV News — A fake traffic law enforcer has been wandering around Metro Manila apprehending motorists and asking for money in exchange for a non-issuance of traffic violation tickets.
According to Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) general manager Jojo Garcia, a motorist went to their office to redeem his license.
But he was surprised when the MMDA said that his license was not with them and that he was, most likely, victimized by a fake traffic law enforcer.
Even the violation ticket that the fake MMDA personnel issued was also noticeably fake because it does not bear any control number and has a dull print.
“Maybe this “enforcer” was wearing an MMDA uniform. He was probably expecting a bribe, but when the motorist refused to give, he confiscated the license” said Garcia.
The MMDA reminded motorists not to give their license for a simple traffic violation committed. Licenses are confiscated if a motorist is involved in an accident.
When you are apprehended by an enforcer, you may ask for a mission order. It is the responsibility of the enforcer to bring one. It states his duty time and assigned location. So if the enforcer doesn’t have one, that enforcer is “colorum.”
The MMDA admitted that their traffic violation tickets and mission orders can easily be copied. But if in doubt, just take a photo or video of the apprehending traffic enforcer.
MMDA suspects that the scammer victimizing motorists is a former employee.
In the past administration, the MMDA had 3,000 traffic enforcers. One thousand of them have been charged with different violations.
It wasn’t too long thereafter that I finally got a chance to pull over where I looked at my Philippines driver’s license in disbelief at the restriction codes on the back. Nowhere could I find that same restriction that he showed me where I was in violation of driving an automatic transmission. Then I realized, it was a simple slight of hand perpetrated on me and being in a state of distress, I fell for it. It was then that I realized I almost fell victim to a corruption scheme. A “professional” scammer. It was also then that I felt like I slayed the dragon and won the lotto! It has been said that “Almost” only counts in Horseshoes and Hand Grenade Throwing, but in my case I can add Manila Scams!
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