Urban Trekking is one of my greatest pleasure.

I enjoy a good walk around any place as long as the weather permits it. I'd rather walk than wait inside a jeep or taxi specially when the traffic is moving slow. I take pleasure in looking at every buildings, houses, corners and the people roaming around each and everyday.

The only thing that tops this is trekking in the country side - which is far more exciting since I don't get to see it very often and the environment is much more conducive for such an activity.

Aside from the fun of just plain walking and its health and cost benefits, I also get spared from the troubles and stresses brought by commuting with or without a car.

Having your own vehicle means daily gasoline expenses, weekly and monthly maintenance costs and of course parking and traffic jams.

Using public utility vehicles is even worse. Although it is more cost efficient, there are a lot of hassles in using one and if you're not prepared for the culture of commuting in Metro Manila then I advise you to just stay at home or use a bicycle instead.

Anyway, here are some things that I always remind myself when commuting via public utility vehicles here in Metro Manila:

  • Always carry with you small change (1 peso, 5 pesos and 10 pesos). This is very useful when riding all kinds of vehicles. Pedicabs, Tricycles, Jeepneys, Taxi, Buses and even LRT. This will prevent drivers from making the lame excuse of not having any change to make you pay more than the usual fare. If possible plan everything and carry with you the exact amount that you need to pay for your fare. There are a lot of vultures out there so don't be a victim.
  • Expect the long lines of the LRT and MRT stations specially during rush hours and on end stations like Baclaran, EDSA Rotonda, Cubao, Monumento, Santolan, North and Recto. Again prepare the exact amount and wear comfortable clothes because almost all the stations specially the MRT line is not properly ventilated. If you're in a hurry don't bring lots of stuff because searches takes so long except for the Santolan station because they have x-ray bag scanners.
  • The holidays are almost here, if you need to bring gifts with you that are already wrapped don't take the LRT and MRT because they're going to ask you to open it. Although they have blade cutters there and scotch tapes ready for resealing, again, this will take a lot of time and trouble.
  • When taking a taxi, check for the air conditioning first because this is one of the main factor why you chose to ride it in the first place. There are still a lot of cabs out there that have terrible air conditioning.
  • Ask the taxi driver if he knows the place you want him or her to take you. If you know the place and he doesn't, then be a backseat driver but if you don't know the place and he doesn't also, it is best that you look for another cab who knows the place. This will minimize the risk of getting a lousy driver who will take advantage of you because you don't know how to get there. So when you arrive your bill is 3x higher than the usual trip.
  • As much as possible, don't take cabs that ask for a contract-out fare. Remember, tips are not to be settled before you enter the taxi. Ask always for a flag down and if they insist on contract payments go look for another one. Tips should never exceed 20 pesos. A 10 peso tip is very decent.
  • When paying for your fare to a jeepney driver, make sure that your payment is acknowledged. As much as possible don't bring out your pay when others are still paying or waiting for their change to avoid confusion.
  • Lastly, know your rights as a commuter or a passenger be courteous but also don't let yourself be fooled.
I have mentioned all of this because one time when I was riding a jeepney, the driver was all theatrical and complaining (which reminded me of Carlos Celdran) about passengers not having small change and that it was still early. But I can tell that he was just acting it all out just to pull up a scam, and I was right. Because majority of those who didn't have the exact fare when they paid were not able to get their change because the driver would let out an angry excuse that he already gave them their change. So, the passengers avoiding an early morning stressful confrontation just silenced themselves and let the driver make a litany of how they should've brought the exact fare in the first place.

I asked a college student who was seated beside me if she already got her change from the 10 pesos she gave the driver. I said that if she wants i'll remind the driver. She said "No, it's okay.. it's just 4 pesos. Thanks." Feeling that she didn't want to get embarrassed because the driver is being irrational, I respected her wishes.

Many injustices happen because we let them happen. So if you are not ready to defend your right as a commuter, a passenger or a consumer... then make the effort to not leave any room for anyone to fool you or take advantage of you.