Recently we have started teaching our older son to drive. In Manila. I haven’t actively dissuaded him from learning to drive, but nor have I actively encouraged him. There are so few safe places to get him used to driving a car, and our car is a tank. Makati has no large car parks, empty on a Sunday, in which to practice changing gears, braking, reversing, or parallel parking, without the fear of wiping out the neighbour’s car. And EDSA is notoriously nerve racking – even our driver will avoid it if he can, and I only risk it on a Sunday or public holiday – even then I have been known to go head to head with a concrete shoulder while being chased down by a lunatic bus driver. However, Number One Son is nearly eighteen and will be off into the big wide world in a year, so he will need a driving license sooner rather than later.
So when he finally bit the bullet and acquired a driving permit, we supported him. After all, if we were in Australia, he would have been driving for 18 months. We have promised to trade in The Tank a.s.a.p. – I hate driving it too – but in the meantime he is getting his bearings and learning the rules of the road.He made us laugh somewhat nervously, when he brought home the book of road rules. “Will they want the Aussie answer or the Filipino one?” he asked facetiously, when being tested on multiple choice questions. It wasn’t always obvious.
The road sign DO NOT ENTER is:
- a warning sign
- a regulatory sign
- a guide sign
The tips to Filipinos driving in Australia were also a tad worrying:
- Wear seat belts both in front and rear of car. (Well we are used to the taxis here, with belts but no fasteners)
- Drive no faster than speed limits allow (How unimaginative!)
- Never drink and drive. Australian authorities take this very seriously. (Mmmmm…)
- Never use mobile phones when driving. (As if we would!)
And in Hong Kong:
- Only overtake on the right. (Well undertaking is perfectly valid in the Philippines)
- Vehicles entering main road from minor road must give way to oncoming traffic (!!!!)
- Vehicles making right turns must give way to oncoming traffic (again… !!!!!)
I am letting my sons learn to drive in a country where road rules are merely a suggestion. In a country where ‘No u-turn’ means ‘Please make a u-turn here like everyone else’; where a red light means proceed if you can safely dodge the trucks; where a slip road means slipping slowly into the traffic on the main road in front of a bus travelling 80km an hour; where a wobbly line means ‘drive like this’; where solid lines on the road are simply to test how many lanes in one direction you can get away with, and where buses have no rules at all, but work on the principle that ‘I-am-so-much-bigger-than-you-it’s-not-worth-arguing!’
Ah well, if they can drive here, they can drive anywhere, and they will have learned to survive some manic situations. As long as they understand that ‘suggestions’ in the Philippines are hard, fine-able facts in Australia! But let’s face it, driving is more fun in the Philippines!