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The Curious Case of the Slow Speedster

This happened to me a couple of weeks ago while I was on my way home one early morning. I was on a jeepney, riding through Sampaloc en route to Pandacan, via Vicente Cruz street. It was around 5AM, and everybody I was riding with was either sleepy or drunk (there’s a Padi’s Point near SM San Lazaro, the terminal of this jeepney route), and all in all, you could say that it was a very idyllic ride. But that turned out to be a mistaken assumption.

The driver was listening to early AM news—something that you don’t see jeepneys do often, since they’d rather play the usual FM fare. I was in the front seat, the only passenger there, and I was playing a round of Solitaire on my mobile phone. As we were approaching the corner of Vicente Cruz and España, the driver slowed down to a stop since the light was red, and this corner was great for picking up new passengers anyway.

We were right in front of the pedestrian lane, and we could see that the guy behind us—a black Toyota Vios—was in a hurry. We were at the left turning lane, and it was kosher to turn left at that corner so long as the light was green, but this guy didn’t seem to care. He honked at us every few minutes, although it didn’t really look like he had anybody else with him, from what I could see from the rearview mirror (although from that vantage point, I couldn’t even tell whether or not his hood had Toyota accessories or not). So he was either in a hurry to get somewhere, or he had to get to a place where there was a bathroom he could use. Either way, we weren’t going anywhere due to the light, so whatever business it was that he had to get to would have to wait (good luck to him if he had to do a number two).

When the light turned green, I half expected him to overtake the jeepney I was riding, and zoom off down España. That would have been normal for AM speedsters in Manila. See, most drivers—private or public vehicle drivers, it doesn’t matter—in Manila think that they’re behind the wheel of a car in an action film at all times. They see an opportunity to steal a spot in front of a car going, say, 60mph, and they take it, disregarding the fact that there was another car half a meter ahead on the next lane, or that the window of opportunity for overtaking was as small as a Chinaman’s eyes (no offense to the Chinese).

But he didn’t. In fact, he did the polar opposite of what I expected him to do. He changes to the lane to our right, slow and defensive, like a normal driver would, and slowly increased his speed in order to overtake us. The light had just changed, so no matter how madcap jeepney drivers in Manila are, our acceleration wasn’t really anything fantastic. We were halfway across España by this point.

So everything’s pretty normal, right? Up to that point, yes. What happened next was the most bewildering thing I’ve ever seen in the streets this month (so far).

We were, as I mentioned, halfway through the boulevard. The Vios, without warning, decides to turn left then and there. The jeepney driver honked out a warning, and slowed down a little bit in order to give him room to turn. Nobody wanted a fender bender so early in the morning, after all. But the guy just really had to turn left. As a matter of fact, it was so bad that he didn’t care when his rear bumper hit the front wheel well of the jeep. It didn’t seem to bother him either that the impact, and his subsequent acceleration tore the entire bumper away from the body of the car.

In fact, it was almost like it was of no importance at all, since after he’d cleared the intersection, he switched gears and zoomed up the otherwise clear stretch of España Boulevard.



Boom. This guy really made my day


He was going slow throughout the whole turn, so I was able to take a photo of his car after the bumper tore off. One of the standbys at the opposite corner immediately rushed to the middle of the street to pick up the torn bumper, no doubt to sell it to people looking for Toyota accessories (Toyota stores in Banawe abound).

We couldn’t really do anything after that. There was minimal damage to the jeepney, after all, and the guy had pretty much vanished without a trace (except for the plate number up there on my photo), so we didn’t know what to do. The driver apparently didn’t care enough to report us to the police, or he would have stuck around to get the name of our driver and the jeepney’s license plate. Meanwhile, we were all laughing about it in disbelief. After all, who gets rear-ended and doesn’t stick around to iron things out?

Manila is such a hotbed of strange individuals that sometimes I wonder what’s going to crawl out of the woodwork next. But in this situation, I’d imagine that that guy either needed to take intensive driving courses in Manila, or a better way of waking up in the morning.


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