Past and Cu­ri­ous

Land trans­porta­tion be­fore cars and trains

Top Gear (Philippines) - - Car Culture - RICHARD wILHeLm b. RAGODON

Ac­cord­ing to some Filipino his­to­ri­ans, the carabao (water buf­falo) and the horse were al­ready in the country be­fore the Spa­niards ar­rived. The cow came later. Carabaos were ei­ther at rice pad­dies or co­conut plan­ta­tions, cows pop­u­lated hilly graz­ing grounds, and horses in­hab­ited moun­tain­ous ar­eas. These beasts of bur­den also pulled all the car­riages in the early days, even after the first mo­tor­ized land ve­hi­cle, the train, was in­au­gu­rated in 1892.

The sled, which was the sim­plest and cheap­est to make, can still be seen in ru­ral ar­eas. It is a small car­riage with no wheels, made for short dis­tance runs. The car­ro­mata was a pri­vate com­moner’s car­riage with two seats. The two-wheeled, four-seater calesa and the four­wheeled, 12- seater calesa- bus were considered public-utility car­riages. A cochero drove these units, and some calesa- bus even hired con­duc­tors. Sim­i­lar utility car­riages were the tar­tanilla in Cebu and the car­retela in Bi­col.

After the war, the calesa was per­mit­ted to op­er­ate in Divi­so­ria, Bi­nondo, and Santa Cruz through side streets. Its op­er­a­tion was ex­tended to In­tra­muros and Luneta for tourists.

For a time, the vic­to­ria car­riages also roamed the streets of Manila, Vi­gan, Iloilo, and other cities. This four-wheeled ve­hi­cle pulled by two horses and driven by a cochero was de­rived from the 1838 Bri­tish brougham used by Queen Vic­to­ria. The Gov­er­nor-Gen­eral, the Arch­bishop, and rich fam­i­lies used these to travel around.

The car­reton was a carabao-drawn cart that trans­ported goods from the Pasig River and other es­tero ware­houses to stores around Manila, un­til a Manila City or­di­nance was passed to ban its use in the early ’ 60s. Amer­i­can traders in­tro­duced horse-drawn wag­ons with roof and side pan­els in the 1900s. Manila po­lice also used horse-drawn paddy wag­ons to trans­port law vi­o­la­tors to Bili­bid Prison.

Pan­gasi­nan-based cat­tle-drawn car­a­vans sold hand­i­crafts like duyan, bi­lao, and salakot along the ser­vice lane of EDSA and Que­zon Av­enue in­ter­sec­tion un­til the ’ 80s. To­day, they have been re­placed by horse-drawn car­a­vans that trade along the Bu­la­can-to-Pam­panga sec­tion of the MacArthur High­way (for­merly North Road).

Ob­served in China, Ja­pan and Korea for cen­turies, jin­rik­isha or rick­shaw ser­vices were also seen in Zam­boanga and Jolo dur­ing the late-Span­ish and early-Amer­i­can eras. A cer­tain Lu­zon Jin­rik­isha Com­pany ap­plied for a per­mit to op­er­ate in Manila, but the city’s Ad­vi­sory Board dis­ap­proved the re­quest in 1902. Jin­rik­isha ser­vices in East Asia were even­tu­ally banned for be­ing in­hu­mane to la­bor­ers.

The porter ser­vice is an olden prac­tice that is still around. Filipino porters had used uri­mol (a chair sus­pended from bam­boo poles), duyan, or hamaca (ham­mock) to trans­port peo­ple in places where mod­ern con­veyances are un­avail­able or im­pos­si­ble to use—hilly ter­rains, steep moun­tain trails, and coast­lines with no dry docks.

Even as gaso­line-fed ve­hi­cles are grad­u­ally be­ing re­placed by elec­tric ones, porters re­main ever-present at hotel lob­bies and trans­port ter­mi­nals. Dressed in na­tive at­tire, they are also found in re­mote ar­eas like the base camps at Mount Pu­lag and Mount Apo. It pays to al­ways be nice and po­lite to them—a porter might be the one to save you from fall­ing down a moun­tain path or other such ac­ci­dents.

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