Road rage and the Filipino ego – like navigating a bubble through a forest of pins

Any motorist who’s spent enough time negotiating Manila’s potholed streets will attest to how the Philippines’ surreal complex of culturally-ingrained bad manners, ill-thought-out road layouts, inconsistent law enforcement, and the overall unsightliness that blankets the Philippines’ capital cities contributes to an experience like no other. At the root of the banal dysfunction of Philippine-style motoring is the world-renowned inflated ego of the Filipino

There seems to be something wrong with a psyche that makes us so vulnerable to getting upset or offended so easily. Filipinos get offended so easily from a perceived indiscretion and are often unable to move on to something bigger or higher than such trivial pursuits. We tend to be consumed with words that should mean nothing to us if they were untrue. This demonstrates a real sign of having an unhealthy ego and insecurity. As someone aptly put it, Filipinos can be onion skinned cry-babies.

What is notable about the immense bubbles of mere perceptions that Filipinos routinely create around their persons is how easily they are popped. Filipinos generally lack a key ingredient that builds robust character — substance. As such, the fragility of the perceptions with which they face one another — and the world — needs to be nursed and polished with very soft kids’ gloves. As this bubble of mere perception gets bigger, its skin gets spread thinner. And as its skin gets thinner and more fragile, the psychotic paranoia with which its owner nurses it gets more acute.

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Unfortunately for Filipinos, living in the Philippines is the equivalent of trying to navigate a bubble in a forest of pins. There is hardly anything about life in Philippine society that one can truly consider to be even remotely under one’s control. In the Philippines, it makes no difference whether one routinely does the right thing or does the wrong thing. The Filipino Condition seems to be ethics-agnostic. The vicissitudes of life in the Philippines often strike in an indiscriminate and random manner, and Filipinos are generally helpless. Most bizarre of all is that even rich Filipinos feel the same way despite the vastly superior resources they have at their disposal.

So the quaintly garish motoring scene in the Philippines offers us a nice steaming petri-dish filled with fine specimens of Filipino manhood with which we can observe the paradox of the insecurity of the Filipino wealthy. Because, unlike in advanced societies, owning a nice car is considered a sign of exceptional wealth in the Philippines, one would think that having a nice car would afford the average Filipino rich dude a bit of relative happiness compared to the pall of wretchedness the more average of his compatriots have to live under everyday.

But then a car, in the context of Philippine culture, is a very tangible embodiment of that renowned ego bubble that Filipinos walk around with. And Manila’s roads and traffic constitute the proverbial forest of pins that it navigates. While road rage is an affliction that many car-bound societies suffer from, Filipinos exhibit it with a uniquely perverse banality. Whereas road rage occurs in very discernible bursts in, say, the freeways of Los Angeles, it forms a continuum in the Philippine setting — a minute-by-minute blanket emotional state on Philippine roads.

Lord, guide me as I “share” the road with all the rest of them.

This is the Filipino driver’s prayer.

Like the unique way with which Filipinos approach “prayer”, this one embodies the perverse complex of a culture hopelessly muddled in religious hocus-pocus. The Filipino driver drives like he is on a mission — to get his kids to school, to make it in time for his kapihan meeting, to get to the mall in time for the Last Full Show; whatever — and it is the only one that matters in the context of the aspirations of all the rest. Indeed, he believes that God is on his side in his endeavour to accomplish this “mission”.

This heightened emotional state is kept elevated by the physical intensity of driving in the Philippines — a continuous exercise in jostling for meagre space and grabbing and accumulating small advantages over all the rest in the hope of shaving even just a few minutes from two-hour long travel times. Road markings and traffic rules offer no comfort whatsoever to the Filipino motorist. They are, by all intents and purposes, irrelevant. Only the Filipino’s primal ancestral instinct to hack his way through a jungle can be depended upon. But in 21st Century Manila, we indulge this ancient instinct with our cars rather than with machettes.

So we come back to what sits right smack in the middle of a psyche fatally infected by bizarre delusions of “mission”, prayer, pompous self-importance, and hunter-gatherer instincts — the car itself. Why is the Filipino so crazed by the illusion of importance afforded by driving a car? Perhaps it is because it is only inside his aidconditioned car that the Filipino feels in control of something. Outside of it, there is only a world where the air corrodes, the politicians steal, and the neighbour sings karaoke to the wee hours of the night.

* * *

This goes out to victims of the Filipino Condition among whom two stood out recently

The brother of a certain Anton Dans who ended up in hospital after an alleged road rage incident with the driver of a 2000 Volvo V70 with plate number WRU 865

After 5 minutes of driving inside Greenwoods Village, Volvo comes up behind Gabby, horns blaring and on full bright headlights. Gabby wasn’t going fast because there was a Meralco truck in front of him. Volvo tries several times to cut between Gabby and the Meralco truck. Gabby holds to his lane and Volvo fails several times to cut Gabby.

MMDA traffic enforcer Larry Fiala who was allegedly shot by Edward John Gonzales, 30, of 5393 General Luna Street, Poblacion, Makati City…

Witnesses said that the suspect got mad when Fiala issued him a citation ticket and hit the victim in the face before speeding away past 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Fiala pursued and caught up with Gonzales in Florida Street near the Shell Gas Station where the suspect reportedly shot the enforcer.

* * *

Systems are only as good as the individual behaviours of the elements interacting within them. Change a system without changing the fundamental behaviours of the elements it will be applied to and you set yourself up for the same sort of dysfunctional outcome that describes pretty much most of the Philippines — a nation that is one big result of too many actions uderpinned by very little thinking.

17 Replies to “Road rage and the Filipino ego – like navigating a bubble through a forest of pins”

  1. Commuting in Metro Manila doesn’t only burn butts because of traffic. It also makes one’s face turn a decade old-like because of frustration. And yet it still is a piece of cake to get a driver’s license here. Tsk tsk.

    1. ‘a piece of cake to get a driver’s license here’

      Aside from egocentric drivers, equally obnoxious PUV drivers who find pride in getting their licenses without any formal training or education is one of the contributing factors to making our roads dangerous. These guys see road signs are advertisements and side-mirrors as nothing less than a vestigial structure of an automobile. With drivers like that, who would dare go side-by-side with a jeepney in traffic? As if arguing with them while causing a scene and blocking the road would do any good.

  2. We are a dysfunctional people, living in a dysfunctional country; led by dysfunctional leaders; leaders who are in need of good Psychiatric cares…
    Road rage is just the tip of the iceberg, of who we are as a people…

    1. You know what would get me really ‘dysfunctional’? It’s those ‘more dysfunctional’ PUV drivers who stops at the middle of the road just to get and drop off passengers. It’s a much-ignored scheme, or hell, skill, that most traffic enforcers ignore. This inconsiderate act would frequently hold up the traffic, testing the patience of every other driver throttling behind, leading to horn-honking frustration, and ultimately, the display of raging intolerance. All because the fucking PUV driver wants all the passengers for himself, not allowing other PUV drivers to do the same.

      If you ask me, those inconsiderate and oblivious assholes deserve every fucking bullet that goes their way.

      1. The Political Leaders are very inconsiderate. Look at how they are behaving, while in power…where the Leaders go; the people will follow…

  3. FHM magazine even made a joke about Filipino Drivers

    1. The Street Racer
    Showing off your souped-up Honda to the rest of the commuting public by revving it hard, (and thereby destroying the eardrums of innocent passersby) and blasting through traffic like a madman is not classy.

    We get it, you have an awesome car, and it’s fast, just don’t brag too much about it. Also, ever heard of the psychology term overcompensation? It’s when you try to make up for a weakness, a flaw, a a fraility? So next time you find yourself wanting to show off, ask yourself what are you really making up for.

    How to spot: Look out for Japanese sedans with race decals, aftermarket parts labels and stickers, wide rims, and a color scheme inspired by The Fast and The Furious.

    When the street racer is in douchebag mode, a roaring engine sound can be heard from a mile away, sometimes accompanied with booming hiphop music.

    2. The Raging Bus
    The raging bus driver is one scary customer. He’s big, and fast, and thinks that all those white traffic lines are mere suggestions.
    With a elephant dinosaur of a vehicle, the raging bus driver swallows, swerves, and takes up road lanes like a bully takes poor Billy’s lunch money. Ultimately, the raging bus driver is like Lebron James, in a way that they both have no regard for human life.

    3. The Sneaky Scooter
    Sometimes, we don’t know what’s worse: the Raging Bus or the Sneaky scooter. The thing about scooters and motorcycles is that they have acquired the habit of squeezing themselves through the smallest of spaces in-between cars. The worse part is that you don’t see them mofos!

    During a traffic jam, or simply when the light is red, these guys will stop at nothing to maneuver themselves inch by inch to go forward, never mind that they might scratch your car’s paint as they go. Give them a centimeter of space, and they’ll take that opportunity, like a miner who suddenly spots a tiny speck of gold.

    The absolute worst thing: They do all this ziggy-zagging not just during a traffic jam, but even more so when you’re cruising along the highway. These guys seemingly appear from nowhere, cutting you off in your lane, just barely managing to avoid getting hit. Harrowing.

    4. The Jeepney Joy-rider
    A Jeepney joy-rider doesn’t believe other vehicles exist. He goes at his own leisurely pace, and stops wherever he wants to drop off or pick up passengers, never thinking for a moment that he’s screwing up the traffic flow.

    And the worst part is, they do all of this as they are in the middle of the road, never even bothering to take their vehicle to the side. It’s like all the other vehicles behind him are just a figment of his imagination

    5. The Black Parade
    No, we’re not talking about My Chemical Romance’s eyeliner fest of an album here.

    We’re talking about the “royal convoy,” which is like a normal convoy, except that it’s composed of politician/celebrity-carrying vehicles.

    When it rolls, the convoy divides the dreadful city traffic like it was the Red Sea, with sirens in full blast. And they’re escorted by police, who won’t, for a second, hesitate to use their batuta on your car in case you get to close.

    1. We all know that’s pretty much impossible, considering, say, our grip on Tagalog as what should always be the country’s national dialect. The jeepney though, should try to evolve with the times, not to mention the drivers and their dangerous driving orientation.

  4. Funny thing about cars. One should think that a person with a nice car is better educated. I think lot of them are major a-holes on the road.

    I also think most people in Manila still think they live in the barrio. That’s why they stop where and when they please. That behavior extends into driving behavior. Even motorcycle drivers think they are just walking/ running, just faster (or they are the evolutionary result of libag gaining consciousness).

    I also think that pedestrians have gotten used to bad behavior of drivers. I can’t count the number of times when people appear stunned when I actually give way to them. They even hesitate to cross the street whenever I do that.

    Road rage? Poor education + poor values + crowded roads = Road rage (I think).

    1. I think the system is sort of consistent but opposite of that in advanced societies. In advanced societies, everyone assumes the other will follow the rules. So they zoom through intersections where markings are indicating right of way. In the Philippines, everyone drives under the assumption that he/she is surrounded by ass-holes. So everyone’s guard is up all the time. Either way, they’re both “systems” that somehow work — except that the latter is inefficient. But then to be fair, there is no Tagalog word for “efficient”. 😛

      1. Oh, I tried assuming that everyone followed the rules. Big mistake here. LOL. There are assholes even inside them “upscale” villages.

        Anyway, the assumption that there are assholes up there makes one a defensive driver. Whenever I drive, I assume that the guy in front/ back/ sides are bound to make mistakes on the road. I avoid tailgating and always leave myself an out. I’m relatively slower on the road but I get to my destination without my blood pressure busting the sphygmomanometer.


  5. @ benignO:

    “Lord, guide me as I “share” the road with all the rest of them.”

    Love this one. I won’t be surprised if someone make a bumper sticker or a t-shirt out of this one.

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