Until I moved to Manila, my only experience with motorbikes was limited to hiring one while on holiday and riding around on a little day trip. I never imagined that I would be using one on a daily basis, but then I came to Manila.
While I lived and worked in Makati, I also played football in Merville, and I had some friends who lived in Bonifacio and Malate. Going back and forth to these places during heavy traffic seemed to take forever, and I soon became exasperated with the traveling time. Also, I was spending a lot of money on taxis, especially as, due to the heat, even a ten minute walk to the shops seemed to be an ordeal that soon had me flagging down an air-conditioned carriage at every opportunity.
Then I bought a motorbike, mostly in order to be able to join my friends on weekend excursions, and it changed my life. Getting a license was easy enough, and it merely involved going down to the Land Transportation Office (LTO), having an eye test, handing over my foreign driving license, and getting a Filipino license in return (it’s actually slightly more complicated due to the fact that you need to have a Filipino car license for a month first, and then go back for your bike license).
Now, popping out to play football, to see my friends, to go the mall, or to run an errand are simple tasks to complete. While the traffic seems to be bewildering and dizzying, it is actually fairly safe due to the fact that the streets are so congested it is practically impossible to go too fast. Of course, when you’re on a motorbike, you can weave in between the cars, which means you’re always moving and thus get to your destination so much quicker.
Also, it allows you to go on road trips during the weekends (I recently went on a fantastic two-day bonanza through the Batangas countryside and around Taal Lake), which is the best way to see the wonderfully lush green interiors of this beautiful country, and also a perfect respite from city living. One thing to take into account, which I was unaware of at the time of buying my motorbike, is that you cannot go on the highways with anything under a 400cc engine. While there are only a few highways in the country, they are the quickest way of getting out of Manila, and going anywhere out of the city will take twice as long if you only have a small bike and have to use the smaller roads.
The other thing to consider is the rainy season. It’s a fact of life that downpours can suddenly occur without much warning, so it’s best to get a box to attach onto the back of the bike where you can always carry some wet weather overalls. Driving through heavy rain is not particularly fun but you soon get used to it, and you soon learn to wait for the storm to pass over before setting off on a journey.