07 October 2014

Why are there no Taxis in Batangas?

Image credit:  Wikipedia
When I was young, there were two things that were sure to turn the heads of little boys and girls and make them hurry after these as though the Pied Piper himself had arrived.

The first was the sight of anybody with white skin, just for the sheer joy of being able to call out “Hey Joe!” Joe would be the American G.I., the saviour of the little brown men from the Japanese way back in WWII.

By the sixties when I was a small boy, Joe was just anybody with white skin.

The second was – drum roll please – the taxi!!! Not just little boys and girls turned their heads but even adults.

Oh, everyone had seen taxis before from trips to Manila, but so rarely were they ever seen in Batangas that the standard remark upon seeing one was, “Taxi! Naligaw!”

It is cultural in the sense that people complain about a 20-peso tricycle fare – at least in Lipa – as a rip-off. This means that the Metro Manila flag down fare of PHP 40 for taxis will be thought of as prohibitively expensive.
Of course, the taxis that came here were never really lost. There was somebody from the Big City who needed to come here, did not have a private car but had money to pay for a taxi. Most probably a balikbayan.

Or, maybe the taxi driver himself had business in Batangas.

These days, white fellers do not turn heads as much as they used to; and little kids do not hey-Joe them anymore. Especially in urban centres like Lipa, Batangas and Tanauan, young people are a tad more sophisticated than we used to be in my youth.

But taxis? Once in a while, I still hear the comment “naligaw” because to this day, there are no taxi franchises operating in Batangas.

I have been to many of the country’s biggest cities and most if not all of them have taxis plying the streets. Moreover, taxi drivers are polite, proud to show off their cities and do not rip you off.

In Baguio, for instance, one youthful driver looked almost embarrassed when I told him he could keep my 20-peso change.

When I come to think about it, and this is solely from my own experiences, it is only in Metro Manila where I had encountered ghouls among taxi drivers.

You have to keep your eyes on the metre; give clear directions if you know your destination so you do not get taken around in circles; and ask for your change because sometimes, drivers will make you feel that it is your tip and that you do not have a choice about it.

But back to the subject of taxis in Batangas – or the absence thereof – I understand from one Internet board that there used to be a Perez line of taxis operating in Batangas City as far back in the sixties but had obviously stopped doing so.

I only have a vague recollection of this – if at all – because I live in Lipa, where I do not recall there has ever been an operational taxi franchise in my lifetime. If anyone does, do enlighten me.

It cannot be the narrow roads, because every city has its share of narrow roads and yet there are taxis operating.

I am old enough to recall horse-drawn calesas plying the streets of Lipa. In many other cities around the country, the natural successors to these carriages as motor vehicles became more viable were cars.

In Lipa, and most everywhere else in Batangas, tricycles rather than cars subsequently took over from the calesas. Moreover, they are all over the place.

Most of the cities in this country that I have visited relegate the tricycles to the side streets. The main streets are for buses and jeepneys.

You would think that emerging urban centres like Lipa, Batangas City and Tanauan will have taxis on the streets just like most other major cities in this country. Why they do not, it can be argued, is both cultural and a matter of economics.

It is cultural in the sense that people complain about a 20-peso tricycle fare – at least in Lipa – as a rip-off. This means that the Metro Manila flag down fare of PHP 40 for taxis will be thought of as prohibitively expensive.

It then becomes a matter of economics because supply always follows demand.

But I am really only guessing. I do not really know why there are no taxis in Batangas. Perhaps you do? Pray tell, then!

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