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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, February 6, 2018
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Baguio driving


I was driving in Baguio City the other weekend and it was a pleasant surprise to notice that the drivers there were generally better behaved than most other drivers in other parts of the country.

That observation started on our way up, while we were at the two-lane MacArthur Highway and traffic started to pile up on our lane while the opposite late was relatively free. As with most similar situations on Philippine roads, I was instantly on high alert, preparing to engage my passive-aggressive defensive driving skills to defend my position against the expected attack of the counterflowing morons but my heightened sense of awareness proved useless as most of the people we were traveling with didn't try to gain an unfair advantage by driving inconsiderately with impunity. This was when I started thinking that we had somehow slipped into the Twilight Zone of driving in the Philippines.

We passed the slow moving section of the highway without much stress due to well behaved drivers and moved on to the zigzags of Kennon Road. There we also didn't encounter too many reckless or inconsiderate drivers. Aside from a few dangerous overtaking maneuvers attempted by a couple of cars, our drive up the zigzag road was generally stress-free. If the vehicle we had been following had only been a little more experienced with driving in mountainous conditions, we would've have had to struggle much at all. It was a challenge driving a fully loaded, not-so-powerful mini MPV behind someone who struggled to maintain momentum at inclined hairpins but at least that driver was just inexperienced and not being a deliberate moron.

When we started driving around Baguio City I started to notice the good behavior of drivers even more. My guess is that the mountainous terrain that can make driving difficult, especially for those with manual transmissions, has made the drivers of that place a little more sensitive and considerate than those of us from the lowlands who rarely encounter difficult driving conditions.

One thing I noticed about Baguio drivers is that they give way more and take extra care not to block intersections, especially when one of the intersecting roads can leave all the cars that are on it “hanging.” I also hardly saw dangerous overtaking maneuvers on their curvaceous mountainside roads, even when some vehicles that were obviously driven by non-locals like us who were consulting with Waze or Google Maps while navigating the city's confusing roads. Seeing how Baguio City roads adapted to the terrain and comparing it to the grid-type layout of our roads back home made me realize just how spoiled we are as drivers. The problem with spoiled drivers is that most of them end up as brats.

Even the way they park is relatively considerate. I don't think I ever saw a car parked illegally with its hazard lights on the way the entitled drivers of Bacolod and Negros do without even thinking.

The narrow and curvy roads, along with the steep inclines make driving in Baguio City a challenge but it is the generally good behavior of its drivers that make it easier to drive there. I was preparing myself for the supposedly epic Baguio traffic that I had read about but to be honest, my driving experience there was more pleasant than day to day driving is over here. It feels different to see drivers make an effort to keep intersections open instead of stubbornly packing into them. If I come to think of it, I was given way and had given way more times during that weekend than an entire quarter of driving in Negros and that felt good. What was most satisfying was that there were almost no traffic enforcers and stop lights but the drivers of Baguio somehow managed to keep order.

After my experience with Baguio drivers, I can only imagine how much worse their traffic could be if their drivers had the attitude of most Filipinos, especially the super entitled Bacoleños and Negrenses.

Everyone who goes to Baguio City probably wishes they could bring its climate and atmosphere of back home with them. But if my driving experience that one fateful weekend is the norm over there, it would also be great to find a way to export the driving attitudes of its people to the drivers of the lowlands as well.

Anecdotal evidence says it remains a challenge for them but the people of Baguio have managed to keep traffic flowing despite the narrow, twisty and steeply inclined roads. Their terrain makes road widening efforts doubly difficult so they have to find ways to manage their traffic problem but I believe that the drivers and traffic managers of that area have somehow found ways to adapt and evolve. Comparing our roads to theirs, our traffic problem in Negros shouldn't be that bad. Our roads are wider, straighter and arranged in a more straightforward fashion. But because our drivers are terrible and enforcement is consistently lacking, traffic is becoming more and more of a problem here in our lowlands despite our many advantages.

The terrain and difficult driving conditions made Baguio drivers more considerate. We don't have that in the lowlands but if our public officials and law enforcement really wanted our drivers to improve their driving, they could do it. The only question is if they possess the determination to do it before it is too late.*

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