A 'wild, wild East' for foreigners crossing Philippine streets

A 'wild, wild East' for foreigners crossing Philippine streets
American Karren with trekking buddies

Amidst the steadily increasing influx of foreign visitors to the Philippines (according to Department of Tourism figures, there were already 1,391,836 tourist arrivals in the first quarter of 2015, up from 1,309,872 from the same period last year), down at the street level, more and more citizens of the world are finding out how it really is to try and survive the mean streets of our cities, particularly in Metro Manila.

Last week, Inquirer Motoring started a series of interviews with foreigners about their pedestrian experiences in Metro Manila. Today, we continue the series to its conclusion.

Frenchman Jerome, 28, who requested his surname not be revealed, has been staying here for 16 months. He observes: "Whether it's in BGC or in Makati or in any part of Metro Manila, motorists here don't care about pedestrians. We just have to be careful every time we cross the road. But I love it here in the Philippines."

Cindy Malvicini, 50, American, works for the Asian Development Bank and lives with husband Peter and daughter Elise (who grew up in the Philippines).

"The most difficult thing about being a pedestrian in Metro Manila is that cars won't stop. Pedestrians do not have the right of way. And there is no continuation of the pavement. So even if there are proper sidewalks, there are always breaks in them. Especially when my parents visited me, I learned that for the elderly, the streets are just absolutely pedestrian unfriendly," she said.

Elise pointed to the newly constructed ramps of the BGC pedestrian structure. "Those are quite unique in many other areas in the Philippines."

Peter Annink, Dutch and staying in the Philippines for six months, also frequents the Burgos Circle in BGC.

"It seems taxi drivers and private motorists here don't stop for pedestrians. Pedestrian crossings have no meaning at all whatsoever here. Even while I was walking on the same place where the Thai national was hit by an SUV, a taxi came by and almost ran over my wife. I pointed at the zebra line, and I asked the taxi driver what those lines meant for him. He got out of his car and wanted to start a fight. And then a police officer was there and didn't do anything," said Annink.

Mike Hosoya and Chitose Kato, both 65, are Japanese citizens who have been living in the Philippines for 30 years. They do business at Legaspi Sunday Market in Makati.

"In Japan, it's humans first on the streets. In the Philippines, it's the car that is the priority. That's why I tell Japanese friends visiting the Philippines to let cars go first. In 1976, I was already here, and there were fewer cars then. We had more space to cross the road. But even then, I let the cars go first," said Hosoya, who spoke in fluent Filipino.

Kato added: "Filipinos cross even in areas with no pedestrian lanes. In Japan, pedestrians cross only when it's green light at pedestrian lanes. But there are also pedestrian violators in Japan."

Karren, an American who refused to reveal her surname (because, she explained, it was a "policy" of her organisation) has been living in New Manila, Quezon City, for five years, and in Palawan for more than a decade. Inquirer Motoring chanced upon her during a recent trip in Batad, Ifugao Province.

"I can only compare the pedestrian situation in the Philippines with that in the United States. I've been here for a long time, so I'm used to the driver-pedestrian interaction here. I know drivers will not obey the rules of the crosswalk at all. In the States, they obey the crosswalks. Here, I don't pay attention to the crosswalks either, so I just time it. I let a few cars go by, and then I just go out like this (waves hands). They have to see me, and for as long as I am visible and I put my hand out, then they will stop. When I do that, almost all the time they will stop, and let me cross," she said.

"I don't like motorcycle riders here because they will ride up the sidewalk. One time I was walking home from SM Megamall to New Manila, and I counted seven motorcycles at different times that came up on the sidewalk while I was walking. Every time a motorbike went up the sidewalk, I had to step down onto the road. By the time the seventh came around, I was yelling at him," she added.

Australian Mac (who also requested his surname not be revealed), 59, has lived in Manila and Mindanao for years.

"Who honks first wins. One time I was walking in the Quiapo area, I had my eye on the driver. He could see me, I could see him, but his truck kept coming. And then I realised I was looking at the right side. I was looking at the passenger and not the driver. I realised I was in a left-hand drive country!" he said.

Italians Verena Fazolli, 34, and Sonia Insam, 27, have been staying for three weeks in the Philippines.

"There have been no problems so far with motorists in Ifugao province" they both said in agreement.

"In Manila, you really have to be careful when crossing the roads. They have no regard for you when you cross the road. If it's green light for the pedestrian, some motorists do not give way," said Verena.

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