Text by Patricia Pasion
It’s that time of the year once again! Brightly lit streets, different lantern colors and the enticing aroma of bibingka and puto bumbong. Yes, Christmas is definitely in the air! And you all know what that means: parties, events, night markets and midnight bazaars and sales for almost every weekend of the ber-months.
The pre-Christmas rush is already clogging the busy streets of Metro Manila. With all the shopping bags you have to carry home (or worse,being hammered from parties), you would definitely need a secure ride home. Here’s when taxi cabs are there to the rescue. But when the need arises this season, are they really your holiday heroes or the midnight menace?
Riding a taxi, though a bit pricey, is now the most comfortable type of public transportation in Metro Manila. But the horror stories of drivers victimizing their passengers now frequently circulating on the news and on social media are enough to make even the most exhausted shopper think twice about hailing a cab.
Kei, a Public Relations specialist and a daily commuter from Quezon City to Makati favors riding a cab more than any other type of commute. But being a loyal and well-informed cab-rider has not spared her from danger.
From getting overcharged to being assaulted, Kei has experienced it all. Once, on the way to work, she started to smell something strange in the cab. The taxi had been suspicious because the meter had been uncalibrated, but she hadn’t expected to fall victim to a modus she had only read about before on Facebook. After a few meters riding the cab, the peculiar chemical smell had started to make Kei dizzy. Luckily, it was daytime, and she was able to get safely out of the cab.
Another regular cab rider, Charisse, was equally unlucky with taxis.
Going home at the wee hours of the night was near part of the daily grind for Charisse, a Production Assistant for a television network. With a job that required her to stay late in the office, she often takes a cab ride home – that is why she is no stranger to criminal cabbies.
In three separate incidents, drivers tried to numb her body through a chemical spray. As her home was not too far from the office, she was able to tolerate the effect of the chemical and got home safely.
Many have already fallen victim to dangerous cab drivers. According to security expert Bong Oteyza, these unscrupulous men have devised different (and often creative) modus operandi to milk easy cash from poor commuters.
Here are some modus operandi you should be aware of:
Use of ‘batingting’
The taxi meter may seem a fair way to tell how much you are going to pay for a ride. But ever wonder why sometimes it seems that you paid way more for the distance you travelled? According to Oteyza, drivers are able to control how often the taxi meter drops with the use of a string attached to it. Drivers step on this so that they can add four pesos to the fare after just a few meters instead of the regular 100 meters.
Use of a chemical spray
This modus has been told and retold on Facebook for years, and the most talked about in the news as well. It is also the easiest to detect according to the security expert.
“Once you board the taxi, it’s either he has a towel or something to cover the nose. The driver will use having a cough as an excuse,” Oteyza said.
Another indicator is when the driver asks where you are heading and he immediately shoots the aircon up. This allows the chemical to reach the backseat faster. Although the chemical is still unknown to experts, some previous reports said that this causes nausea. It also seems to clog the nose so that the victim will inhale through the mouth which will let the victim inhale more of the noxious fumes.
“It usually happens during rush hour. Usually, for ipit gang, the taxi drivers have cohorts.” Oteyza said.
This happens to those who ride taxis alone. When a victim boards the vehicle, one of the driver’s evil-doing pals will push the passenger in and ride the cab. Another person enters through the other door sandwiching the victim.
“Anything can happen, rape, molestation, holdap.” Oteyza added.
Oteyza’s number one rule is:
Never let the driver hold your life.
Here are some of his tips to stay safe in any cab:
- As much as possible, always lead the way. Even when your body is dead tired from all the activities you had for the day, try to be conscious and alert to where your driver is taking you. it is always best to know the direction of your destination so that you will not be tricked by a driver with criminal intentions.
- Be mindful of the door’s child lock. When you board a cab, make it a point to check if the door is child locked. When it is on, the door can only be opened from the outside. It is located on the side of the door that touches the body of the car.
- Sit behind the driver. This could save you from the danger of being held at knife- or gunpoint by the driver. It also makes it more difficult for the driver to monitor you because he will not be able to check you from the rear view mirror.
- Make it a point to bring water and a handkerchief. Although the chemical used in the spray modus is uncertain, reports say that covering your nose with a damp cloth can prevent you from inhaling enough of the chemical to knock you out. So try to bring a bottle of water everywhere not only for your hydration, but also for protection.
- Board a cab through smartphone applications. They come with an additional charge on top of your meter fare but it is just a small price to pay for your safety. The app gives you information about the cab and a picture of the driver. You also have the option to post your ride details on social media so that your friends are informed in case anything happens.
With the hustle and bustle of public transportation mixed with the stress from the daily grind, sometimes it would just be nice to literally sit back, relax and never worry about your trip. You couldn’t wish more to have your own car and a personal driver.
But who said you can’t experience this simple pleasure? Now, you won’t just see chaueffeur services on New York-set movies and television series. Experience a topnotch ride with Uber!
Uber is a ride sharing service that connects car services to commuters through a smartphone application. It started in San Francisco and now operates in 45 countries and a hundred cities – including Metro Manila!
The Uber application can be downloaded free on Google Play Store and Apple App Store. Upon download, all you have to do is to sign up to hail an Uber car. Uber operates like a really fancy taxi. It has a base fare and a succeeding rate for every kilometer travelled or time elpased. No need to worry about tipping or additional charges because Uber charges its clients directly through credit card.
It has two options available in Manila – Uber X and Uber Black. Uber X is tagged as the “low cost” Uber. The vehicles available for this service are typically small sedans like the Toyota Vios, Mitsubishi Mirage and Honda City. Its base fare costs as much as a taxi, which is P40.00 and an additional P2.50/minute and P5.70/kilometer.
Uber Black, on the other hand, is the original Uber. These Uber rides are usualy SUVs like the Mitsubishi Montero, Toyota Fortuner and Ford Everest. It has a higher base fare of P90.00 and a rate of P2.10/minute and P12.92/kilometer.
Truly, it can cost quite a bit more than your usual taxi ride (but not always!), but if you’re gonna book a cab using special taxi apps, the costs evens out. And it’s definitely a small price to pay for a convenient and safe ride.
Uber also provides you with all the necessary information of your driver, including his photo and contact information, so you can be sure you are in safe hands. Some riders even sleep through their ride!
Other drivers provide small perks too. Some of them offer you a free bottle of water or a piece of candy or two, while others put out the royal treatment by opening your door for you, and adjusting the airconditioning, radio, and trip route based on your preferences.
So if you think you deserve a commute upgrade, download the application and experience the uber-comfortable and uber-convenient ride of your life!