Commuting the Manilenyo way

“It’s not about the destination, it’s how you get there.” This statement might sound like an old cliché but for intrepid travelers, it’s definitely true. Exploring every nook and cranny of a new city is exhilarating, challenging, and fun, all at the same time! Whether you’re planning to set foot in the thriving streets of Metro Manila for business or leisure, knowing how the locals navigate around this city’s avenues will definitely enrich your travel experience.

So how do locals get around this captivating city? In areas such as Ortigas Center or Makati Business Center, exploration on foot is quite easy. This is because most establishments are closely knitted. This is also true for downtown backpackers’ district, Malate. However, since The Philippines is a tropical country, walking around may get a bit taxing, especially for those not used to the warm weather. No worries! Various modes of transportation abound the charming streets of this metropolis.

In this feature you’ll find out the top must-try modes of transportation in Metro Manila. Ranging from the traditional to modern and sometimes quirky additions to the city’s ever-changing façade. Sure you can do it the easy way by taking a cab or maybe renting a car with a personal chauffer. But really, where’s the fun in that?

Undoubtedly, when it comes to Filipino transportation, the most iconic would have to be the Jeepney. Aside from the official flag, images of the Jeepney are often used to symbolize the Philippines. The Jeepney is not just a mere vehicle. It’s the perfect example of the Filipinos’ ingenuity. First generation Jeepneys were made from US military jeeps used during World War II. After the war, many excess military jeeps were given or sold to locals. The locals then started to use these jeeps to move people and produce. Addition of metal roofs and expansion of the vehicle’s body made these first generation Jeepneys perfect for public transport. Today’s Jeepneys are longer in comparison to the original ones. Most models today also showcase the owner’s flare for decoration. From portraits of religious icons, to family members, Jeepney art is truly in a class of its own.

Riding one is easy. Designated Jeepney stops dot the city. Before riding, state your destination and hand over your payment to the driver. Make sure you have small bills and coins with you. Are you uncertain about the exact location of your stop? You can ask the driver to inform you when you’ve reached your destination. The minimum fare is Php 8 (less than 25c USD).

Coming in close second is the traditional “Kalesa”. Dating back to 18th Century Spanish era, the Kalesa or Karitela to some, is a horse-drawn carriage with 2 side wheels. Usually with two rows of seats inside the carriage, the Kalesa can easily accommodate 4 people. Addition of foam pads to the seats makes modern Kalesa rides more comfortable. A plank of wood in front of the carriage serves as the driver’s seat. The local name for a Kalesa driver is Kutsero. In the olden days only nobilities could afford a Kalesa ride. Fast-forward to 21st Century Manila, this traditional vehicle offers an enchanting experience to everybody. The Kalesa has become a rarity in the city. However, one can still take a scenic ride in places like Intramuros (The Walled City), Binondo (Chinatown), and around the area of Roxas Boulevard. A relaxing ride around Intramuros costs around Php 250 to 500 (5-10 USD).

Tied on third place are the Tricycle and its manually pedaled counterpart Pedicab. These are similar to the tuk-tuk of Thailand, or Trishaws of Malaysia. A sidecar or carriage is fitted on the right side of a motorbike (for Tricycles) and manual bicycle (for Pedicabs). These carts have padded seats that comfortably seat 2 to 3 people. Both the Pedicab and the Tricycle are used for short journeys. A Pedicab or Tricycle ride can cost between Php 15 – 30 (around 50 Cents to 1 USD) depending on how far your destination is.

Lastly, the most modern among all the modes of transportation are the railways of MRT, LRT, and LRT2. Similar to most contemporary railway systems in South East Asia, these lines run through the city’s main hubs. Riding any of these systems is a breeze. Just be sure to avoid the rush hours when hundreds of commuters ride the trains. Between 7am to 9 am, ticket lines are usually long. It’s the same during 7pm when most office workers commute back to their homes.

Metro Manila is an amusing city with its own distinct charm. You haven’t experienced the real Manila until you get a taste of the city’s hustle and bustle aboard one of these transportation marvels.

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Joe Mead, AKA Traveling Joe, is one of the founders of DigMNL.

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