I got hit by a taxi, but that’s not the worst thing

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ August 30th, 2010. Updated on November 30th, 2010. Published in: Travel blog » Discover World Culture » How to live overseas » Philippines.
Taxi in traffic in the Philippines

Taxi vs The Longest Way Home ...

I wasn’t going to write in my journal about such a trivial event like being hit by a taxi. Trivial because, because aside from some arm bruising, I am fine. What happened minutes afterwards is however, leaving a lasting impression on hospitality in The Philippines.

Why walking is a virtual crime in the Philippines

I walk to many places. A rarity in the Philippines as the majority, and by majority I mean 98% of the population seem to have an alergy to this human activity.

Heat & dust is the causal excuse. Sweaty clothes, skin and exertion are closer to the truth.

Taxi vs The Longest Way Home

It had been raining most of the night as I walked out onto the city streets. Giant puddles already evaporating away in the morning heat. I walked down a not so busy two lane road that lead to a mall.

Nothing was different to any other time I walked there. I side stepped a parked car.  Up ahead the odd on coming car passed. I side stepped a motorella being repaired. There is no sidewalk here. It’s the road, or the drainage ditch.  Ahead of me a taxi approached at speed.

I was sandwiched between a broken motorella and an empty two lane road; little to worry about.

And, the taxi stuck

Whack! He clipped me with his side mirror.

There was a slap of plastic, a thud of recoil and a shout from me.

A car behind him swerved and sounded their horn. I turned to see the taxi keep going. His mirror bent back at an angle. Then, a tricycle pulled out, and he got stuck behind him.


The taxi was stuck, and could not move. I stood there and thought about what to do. I thought at the very least he would take this opportunity and get out of the taxi to see if I was alright. But, no.

Then I saw a hand appear from the passenger side that tried to fix the sidemirror. With this, I lost the plot.

Storming over I roared some furious words through the passenger window.

The drivers eyes widened, he waved and bowed. I continued my tirade and he continued his bowing. What happened next was worse than  his incessant excuse for an apology.

Road and tires in the Philippines

Which is the sidewalk? It doesn't matter in The Philippines

No one did anything

I looked up in an effort to think about how far I should take this with the bowing taxi idiot. The whole road had come to a standstill. People had come out of their stores. Stopped their cars and were all staring in silence.

This all started the moment he had hit me. But I paid little attention to them at that time.

I walked back along my original path, holding my arm. Not a person said a thing. No one approached either me, nor the taxi.

East meets west

The whole scene was taken from a developed country. See a person on the road in trouble, and don’t get involved in case it affects you too. But here, in the ever so friendly hospitality endowed Philippines, surely someone would offer help?

Or even just ask if I was alright?

No, they did not. Not a soul. And, that hurt a lot more than my arm.

Is hospitality in Asia only skin deep?

I will be the first person to admit I don’t always get things right. But deep down I’ve always harbored a suspicion of Asian hospitality. Is it only skin deep?

My case in point. World War II. Look at old documentaries of nations surrendering. The Asian side always looks emotionless. In loss or victory. The other side whether in defeat or victory show emotion.

Here in The Philippines there are set times put on things like grief. Someone does something wrong, and after a set time everything goes back to normal.

Sure as a tourist you get the hospitality of a thousand smiles as you pay your hotel, pay the waiter, pay the laundry. Say hello, say goodbye and it’s all waves. But step out of line. And, the smiles drop faster than a bullet to the head.

And it continues …

After being invited to an event recently, I bought some people a small thank you present. Only one said thank you in return, no one else did.

Am I so detached from the rest of the world to think that people don’t say thank you here anymore? No, but it’s becoming rare. Take, take take is on the increase. Or maybe it was always there.

Taxi vs Culture

Taxi drivers are pretty awful the world over. But, I must say in The Philippines I’ve only been cheated by about 5% of the ones’s I’ve taken. That’s a very low number.

On this day who knows what was going through his mind. I imagine it was switched off. He made a stupid mistake. So what. What’s really wrong is he never stopped, he never got out, and he never apologised.

Worse than the taxi were the people standing around that did nothing in a nation that’s meant to be so good, and friendly. And, that is my point here.

Is The Philippines at “that” cross roads

Go to a poor area here. Away from the malls. If you slip, stumble or trip, people will ask of you.

Go where there is money, and chances are you’ll be left to fend for yourself.

What I was meant to write here today was a list of things I don’t like about the Philippines. That list is now getting longer. Which is a shame. The only good thing I can think about this, is, perhaps. If my suspicion is true. I may well have finally understood about social integration here.

Coming Soon:

Things not to like about The Philippines

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39 Great responses to I got hit by a taxi, but that’s not the worst thing

  1. Francoise says:

    Firstly, thank the travel gods you weren’t seriously hurt!

    I’ve often wonder about a culture’s sincerity. Like you say, most places, on the surface, offer a smile and thank you’s in basic day-to-day transactions. On that level, any culture can appear courteous, friendly and even caring.

    That being said, whether I’m immersed in it for a few days or several months it’s difficult to judge unless certain situations present themselves.

    Was faced with a similar situation in Egypt last Summer. Long story short, I was accidentally pushed out of a moving train and was very very lucky and escaped with only minor injuries.

    Onlookers (locals) were quick to rush and help, offer assistance. Though, strangely, none of the Western tourists around (and there were many) stepped up, they just stared.

    One incident can either make or break the image of an entire culture.

    • I’ve noticed the not helpful nor, quite frankly nice, tourist problem too. In many places. I don’t get it. I think they feel detached from a scenario when in another country. As if it’s not their place to help or do anything.

      Very glad to hear you not hurt more seriously. A moving train is very different to a taxi, and I amazed you only had minor injuries. While I know how one incident can make or break a country. Things are starting to pile up here

  2. ayngelina says:

    Taxis in the Philippines are and odd bunch, especially if you take one at night.

    While living in Cebu I thought a taxi was taking the long way to increase the fare and I began to tell him that I was not a tourist but that I lived there and he responded:

    Oh yes, well all know you, you’re the girl that walks everywhere.

    • Yes, I think taxi’s all over the world are odd. Who can really blame them really. Being locked up in car all day would do most peoples head in. But you are right, they are always watching!

  3. Marnie Alvez says:

    It’s a hard truth that we have to accept. Filipino genuine hospitality is indeed a fading trait. I’ve been back in Manila for more than 2 months now and I can’t remember a single time I’ve felt sincerity and care amongst my countrymen. I do recall crossing the road on a rainy day without an umbrella, with 3 others crossing the road with me at the same time with huge umbrellas, and no one even bothered to share one with me. Things were very different years ago.

    I would still keep an open mind and heart though. Believe that somehow there’s still goodness in people everywhere in the world, specially in the most unexpected places. This I learned on a backpacking trip to Zamboanga almost 2 years ago. I went to Taluksangay to see some vintas or colorful local boats, against the advise of some locals that it’s a dangerous place for non-Muslims to be in. I have to say, it is where I met the most honest pedicab driver in the whole of Philippines, which totally changed my negative perception of Muslims in Mindanao.

    Good to know that you’re safe and just slightly bruised from the accident. However, I know that bruise on your heart from the uncaring nature of some Filipinos would take some time to heal.

    • Interesting observation on the umbrella. A few months back I was in a mall village and such genuine hospitality and caring still existed. If it rained people would beckon you in to shelter. In the big city they close their doors. Sadly, this mentality is spreading out to the countryside too.

      These small enclaves of friendly communities are becoming increasingly rare the world over. I’ve said it before: Instead of listing yet more buildings and sites that will become destroyed by tourists, UNESCO should start trying to preserve places and communities what exhibit something equally as unique these days.

      Lot’s of things are mounting up here in The Philippines in regards to this incident.

  4. jessiev says:

    i am SO GLAD that you are ok. how scary, esp when it is like a bad movie when no one is really getting what is going on.

    that said, i can’t imagine living somewhere where basic human kindness *as i understand and live it* is so absent.

    i agree with marnie – it might take longer to heal from this than you think.

  5. So much of Asian hospitality has to do with face politics. People are nice to you to gain social regard, they pretend that you are not there if it means that their is a risk of loosing regard or entering into a compromising situation. Don’t let it get to you, almost all hospitality is a surface game — I would not call it fake or false, it is just the way that people interact with strangers: if you are socially isolated they will help you to the farthest extent, but the moment it becomes a “social” event — the moment that you are sucked into an issue with a local it is not their place to even acknowledge you.

    I suppose if I saw myself through the lens of those around me I would probably act differently too haha.

    Don’t let it get to you, at least they were not pointing and laughing at you.

    • Very good point about social regard Wade. Africa is full of that, so why not Asia. Even developed countries, that whole get a photo with a movie star type of mentality is there too.

      A shame hospitality has come to this. Maybe it never was anything else? The “token” foreigner is a concept few people understand. But, on this day, one would think that a person is a person no matter where they are from.

      Such things do not get to me as a whole. But they do leave a lasting impression on whether the place is right for me or not.

  6. Barbara says:

    I would speculate that when you confronted the taxi driver so aggressively, you stepped outside of the accepted pattern of behavior which does not allow for confrontations and loss of face. The bystanders were at a loss because the confrontational, direct behavior shocked them. This, plus maybe some shyness about a foreigner, must have overridden the concern they most likely did feel about your injury.

    • TCC says:

      Agree. The taxi driver must have been scared out of his wits that you would ask him for money for hitting you (which is quite normal in the Philippines as recompense for the injury made), hence the reaction of not coming down from the car (now this was plain wrong of him but i’m guessing it’s self preservation reaction).

      However, from how you reacted, the situation went from bad to worse… And with such an aggressive behavior, no one would dare come help you (obviously given your aggression, people would think you are already ok and didn’t need the help).

      All that said, it’s good you were not injured.

      • Barbara / TCC Let’s not forget the scenario here. I shouted only after I walked all the way back to the taxi driver who was 100 + feet behind me at this stage. He only stopped because another vehicle had pulled out.

        If I had done nothing, there is no doubt in my mind that he would have continued driving on. And, still no one would have done anything. No one approached in the moment it happened, nor in the moment afterwards when the taxi continued on.

        Should I have cowered on the side of the road in pain? In the vain hope someone would come over. What if I had been hit more seriously? Or been knocked into the parked vehicle. I could almost hear the words in hindsight “he just drove off”.

        The taxi man was more concerned with damage to his mirror than to what or whom he just hit. And that, to me, is so wrong on so many levels.

        In a country where jeepney drivers and bicycles swarm any vehicle that nudges them, the same is not true for pedestrians.

  7. Karin says:

    Your post really made me think. I’ve met so many seemingly warm and generous locals here whilst traveling solo in India, inviting me into their homes and on trips with them. But now I wonder, were the smiles and kindness genuine, or was it to gain social regard amongst their friends? :( Perhaps its a bit of both, and a genuine curiosity.

    • I think it’s as bit of both. It’s easy to be suspicious these days. Many times in Morocco I was invited in, only to share food and tea. Other times out would come the henna to a tourists hand, and then another hand would follow asking for money.

      In very touristy areas, I am quite sure most of it is to do with a return. In a countryside it’s curiosity and a friendly culture. But such things are becoming rare these days as commercialism takes hold.

  8. ciki says:

    you are lucky they didn’t knock you over and flee! I tell you if it happened at night, the driver would not think twice about leaving a bleeding body on the floor! Sigh. Anyway, people with manners are a dying bread. It’s not what people do in broad daylight that worries me. It’s that polished suit that does good in front of people in the light of day, but runs away from an injured body in the night that scares me more. No one will save you. No one can save you. No one can be bothered.

    • He did try and flee. Only another vehicle stopped him by accident. And, yes, if it had happened at night I have no doubt he would have made an effort to drive away even faster. Sad to say but you are right. In this case, no one would let alone save you. As to even help you.

  9. Danette Vernon says:

    ….seems you created your own misery today, that you forgot that all events are nuetral, that only we give them shading and meaning..maybe it is time to come home, find the people you used to love, or who loved you. Connect.


  10. ciki says:

    get well soon dave! did they break ur bones?!! grrrr…

  11. Earl says:

    I’ll never forget walking down the street in Bangkok when a tourist walking in front of me suddenly fainted and started having seizures on the sidewalk. There were literally dozens of people around, including police officers, and not one person did anything despite her boyfriend begging everyone for help. People even stepped around her and continued walking down the sidewalk. And I think it’s safe to say that Thailand is generally considered to be an overly friendly and hospitable country.

    I think hospitality has its limits. Perhaps people such as those around you when you were hit by the taxi simply didn’t know how to react to a foreigner getting hit. Maybe they didn’t know how you would react and once you reacted, they didn’t know how to interpret that. As a result, they chose not to get involved, simply because it is an unfamiliar situation to them. While it may seem easy enough for a person to just say “are you ok?”, it’s probably a lot harder to do when it involves a foreigner whose ways are unfamiliar. Perhaps yelling at the driver scared off the bystanders?

    • I really would not want to be in a situation like that in Thailand, nor here either to be honest with you. There is a distancing. Once you’ve been in a place a while the tourist affect wears off and people treat you a little differently too. Sadly, it doesn’t cover events like this. The opposite really.

      Hospitality may have it’s limits, but I would think that human nature to help our fellow kind would step forth. If a local bike gets nudged by a taxi here, the others will swarm around the taxi. Unfortunately this does not seem to hold true for the pedestrian, or is it foreigner. I hope pedestrian, but fear it’s both.

      • Earl says:

        That’s an interesting question. Are they ignoring the pedestrian or the foreigner? I too would hope it is the pedestrian but would tend to believe it may be the foreigner.

        And I only say that because I just returned from a night market a few minutes ago where I was ignored for 15 minutes by vendors while I tried to purchase their food. The vendors were smiling, chatting, laughing with the other Mexicans, but they avoided eye contact with me and showed no interest in me or my money. While that may be a little off topic, it just reminds me that foreigners are always viewed differently and as a result, normal everyday situations might not turn out as we would expect.

        Glad to hear you’re alright though, or at least your arm is, after the incident!

        • Funny you should say that. The same happens here in local markets and vendors too! I could be standing there and have people push through and be served first. I literally have to reach out and shout to be served. It’s not an language barrier thing either as it’s English over here. I keep getting told it’s a shyness thing. I can partially get this. But then a lot of market traders are anything but shy!

          Yep, all healed thanks!

  12. Daniel N. says:

    Sad to hear that Dave.
    This kind of stuff doesn’t only happen in S-E Asia, but also in other parts of the world. Hospitality in the UAE where I lived was pretty horrible too. You are less than nothing over there.

    How about doing another experiment living in CHiang Mai, Thailand, since you are so close? ;)

    • Yep, happens all over the world. Some places people do still help though. Pakistan, Iran, and Nepal are three places I remember where people helped each other.

      Chiang Mai, it’s still two flights away :) But, never say never

  13. Keith says:

    Glad to hear you weren’t seriously physically injured. Sad to hear about the emotional damage.

  14. yee says:

    Really glad that you’re ok!

    I think the skin deep hospitality happens everywhere. This post remind me of things happened to me before and questions that has been roaming inside my head for quite some time.

    When I blacked out and fell on the busy parking lot in developed country, nobody helped me or even checked if I was ok. But, I still remember clearly how people rushed and asked for help when they found out I fell down emergency exit stairs in Asia.

    I’m still trying to find the answer myself… maybe it’s like what Earl has to say… people simply don’t know how to react when they see foreigner being hit…
    However, don’t let one single incident ruin the image of a country.

    And again… it really good to see you’re not seriously injured.

    • I think it’s more a society thing. Particularly western, which seems to influence many others. People are indeed scared to interfere in a situation they nothing about. Or, in our case, to help an unknown person.

      I think back to Nepal. Here people do still help you. Likewise in just about any country, the further you get from big cities, the more friendly the people. I think when we find the answer to this, the the question of skin deep hospitality will appear too!

  15. kwpang says:

    i think not only Philippine has this problem, but i had experienced in few other country particularly Vietnam, while i paid 200k their currency from the airport to Hanoi city, a different taxi charge me the same fare for a mere 1km journey!!

  16. Tim says:

    The situation is highly pronounced in the densely populated areas here. Walking in these areas is risky even if there are no vehicles as people will walk headlong into you. The comment about “face” or “hiya” was partially correct. Add that to the shoulder to shoulder population and the Filipino need to avoid confrontation and people will experience a weird paralysis. In these densely populated areas where there is money to be made individuals put themselves into a “bubble” and focus only on their objective to acquire pesos. Out in the provincial areas it is much less pronounced, at least when dealing face to face with others. I appreciate your frustraton, however, in the urban areas it’s “dog eat dog”.
    Taxi and tricycle drivers are at the upper levels of aggresive behavior here. At the same time, I’ve seen pedestrians do some incredibly stupid things. The responsibility for being defensive should primarily rest on the drivers but there’s only so much you can reasonably do. I’m not saying you did anything wrong and have come close to being hit more than I care to think about. I believe over-population to be the primary problem and why I will leave Manila for the provinces as soon as I can.

    • A shame the dog eat dog mentality exists in so many cities. There are however cities it does not exist in the world. I got hit by a bike in Delhi, India, only to have locals throw things at the bike man as he drove away. Culture here is different of course.

      However, if this is the start of how things are going here, it will spread to the smaller places too.

  17. Ace Macaro says:

    That is a very bad experience. But the first thing you must is say help. Especially if you are foreign in a one place in philippines. People look what is happening, but they dont know what to do? Do you need help? Are you OK? Do you have a gun? Are you going to wack the taxi? Lots of question for the by standers. The driver probably scared if he go out of the taxi, people will going to hit him(it happens alot). “Sorry” is an insult to some people in philippines, you better run than to say sorry. To some “Sorry” means you are responsible for what happens and so people has the right to hit or mob you. Best way to say sorry, look to them, nod or show your palm, and just walk away. I dont know, but thats the way in manila. If he doesnt accept your apology, be ready to fight or run.

  18. FrenchyFreddy says:


    Taxi’s in manila… i had some issues too with some of them hehe…
    But as counterpart of your misadventure, i would say that i’ve been helped by the staff of the hotel where i stayed in that issue i had with a taxi driver… they had nothing to win by helping me as i was leaving their hotel and never come back.. Of corz i gave them a tip but they seemed very embarrassed of this. So i believe that all humanity hasn’t totally fade away from big cities….

    I’m glad to hear that you wasn’t severely injured in this incident, that’s the most important fact.

    This is a situation that i saw many times too in different countries, it seems to be a worldwide phenomenom… its sad but poeple become more and more individualists….
    In case of Philippines, maybe, like other said, some of the poeple were just schoked or didn’t know how to react but in big cities, indifference is spreading like a cancer.

    At last, a big thumb up for your blog and articles, its very very interesting. And i hope your quest of a place to settle down will be successful.



  19. Kendo says:

    Drivers in Philippines are far more couteous than in UK. There are certain unwritten ‘rules’ though that need to be known. One of them is the use of space. Road marking or traffic direction do not matter so much as the space (road width) NEEDED to get by. If I am a motorcycle, and I’m appoached on my side or the road by a Bus overtaking a lorry, then I must more over sufficiently to allow him to pass.
    Thus, you needed say 2 feet of width and he needed 6 feet. If the passing point had 8 feet of free width then there was sufficient and you would be unwise to take up more than you alloted 2 feet. Get it?

    As for losing your cool. Don’t do it in Philippines (or Asia) Its lesson #1 really.


    • “Drivers in Philippines are far more couteous than in UK” Where? Utterly fruitless statement I am afraid, with the exception of small rural towns, and possible Davao which is administered quite differently. If there was 2 feet of available space on a road in the Philippines, your can be sure it would be filled with some sort of vehicle.

      And, if you’d read this fully, you would see I was walking. And, there was no room other than a drainage ditch.

      As for loosing one’s cool in The Philippines or in Asia, no that is not the normal way things are done. But, as anyone who lives here will notice, it gets the job done rather than taking a hit. One must respect customs, but also not let locals take advantage over you either.