Cebu Island, Philippines
“City? White Beach? Waterfall?”
Several of the drivers lounging around the local tricycle stand called out a choice of destinations. Relaxing in their vehicles or leaning against a nearby low wall, they laughed and joked amongst themselves, waiting for their next fare.
“City today please. Fifty pesos?” This request resulted in a lot of loud, excited back-and-forth conversation. Which driver had been there first? Okay, over here. Fifty pesos? No, no, no — it is seventy pesos to the city, non-stop, immediately, no other passengers.
“Just two small bags? You want to hang on to them? Okay, you in front, you behind.”
Unlike the “child’s bicycle” design consisting of one front and two back wheels, a Philippine tricycle is a combination of a motorcycle — or bicycle — and a sidecar.
Being hand built, no two are the same. Some sidecars boast one or two rows of seats, padded or otherwise. Some are covered, some are not; others make due with a large umbrella. A variety of custom-built models carry strictly freight. Depending on the number of passengers, amount of luggage, weight of cargo and units of livestock, loading a tricycle can be quite a balancing act.
The driver yelled a farewell to his buddies over the loud belching of his motorcycle engine, circling around a large hedge covered with pink hibiscus flowers, turning towards town.
The tricycle bounced along the dirt road, weaving left and right to avoid, as much as possible, the larger puddles and potholes … and the other traffic. The early warning system — the loud metallic horn — was in constant use, alerting all other vehicles and each and every pedestrian to clear the way. It was early morning and the road was hectic.
“Where are you from? Germany? Australia?”
Joseph was an enthusiastic young man with wraparound sunglasses His pale blue basketball shirt billowed in the breeze, inflating the orange number three on the back. Frowning at wayward chickens and dogs, waving at friends, he spaced his conversation between staccato beeps of the horn.
“Canada. It’s cold there now, yes?”
Large sheets of clear plastic that would be zip-up windows during rainy weather flapped around. The front bucket seat was, probably, at one time part of a car. The rear bench seat had been solidly constructed out of wood to suit its purpose; the vinyl cushion covers sported every primary colour plus purple. The metal side door refused to close properly; it was wisest to keep one hand on it at all times, especially when careening to the right.
“No, I have never seen any snow. Wait — yes, in a movie. What movie was it?”
Brushing past a row of flowering shrubs, the two bright yellow Tweety Bird stickers pasted on the back of the tricycle ahead flashed in the sunlight. Red and gold foil streamers attached to an ornament that would be at home on a Christmas tree swayed below Joseph’s rear view mirror. Three stuffed toy ponies were tied to his front dash.
“Okay,” Joseph smiled and motioned across the street as he came to a halt. “The market is just there. You will like the market. There are many things to buy.” He paused.
“When are you going home? I will pick you up here. What time?”
Catherine Millar is a Whitehorse-based writer on a months-long tour of far-flung places. Her chronicle appears here every Monday.