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Manila to Train Lady Bus Drivers

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Download Ask residents from almost any metropolis around the world which city has the worst traffic, and they are bound to answer theirs. 

The Filipino capital, Manila, is no exception

Traffic can slow to a crawl during rush hours and it seems at times that motorists there operate on a sort of jungle law.

But some say if there were more women in the driver’s seat, of a bus in particular, the streets might be a bit safer.

Jason Strother has the story from Manila.

Bus driver Ronnie Asahan stares out through the windshield at the line of cars ahead of him. 

The 33-year-old is headed back into Makati City, one of Manila’s busiest districts during rush hour. He says that after a decade behind the wheel, the traffic here is really getting to him.

“Yeah it’s really bad in Manila, the traffic here. I’m so very tired about traffic, I am so tired.�?

In Manila, privatised buses compete with taxies, motorbikes with sidecars and passenger trucks called jeepneys for customers as well as space on the roads.

Many buses weave between lanes and make random stops, so that conductors can step off and call out for potential riders.

Some Filipinos complain that these drivers, who are all men, make the city’s streets even more congested and dangerous. 

And now some city officials say they have a solution for this problem.

Francis Tolentino is chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the MMDA.

His agency is training women to drive Manila’s commuter buses.

“Most of the accidents here in Metro Manila are caused by male drivers. And studies will show that based on attitude, latent hormone composition of female drivers, are lesser prone to be more aggressive and not reckless when it comes to drivers’ behavior.�?

One of those studies that Tolentino cites is from Carnegie Mellon University, which says male drivers have a 77-percent higher risk of dying in car accidents than women.

The MMDA hopes that bus companies will hire the lady drivers once they complete their training this month.  

One trainee, 50-year old Olivia Pabriga, says she knows her stuff.

“Change oil, change tires, and everything, pressure of tires, you have to know that, before you start the car you have the check the water and the oil and what you call this, the air brake fluid.�?

Pabriga says she used to drive a jeepney and is comfortable behind the wheel of big vehicles

She says during her first bus test drive, she remembered to do everything, even turn on the signal light. 

“That’s why they told me you passed, you passed, the training, because, the first time that you trained, the first bus driver lady to use the signal light, I’m the only one, 32 of us, I’m the only one to use the signal light!�?

Pabriga agrees that women drivers generally keep their cool better then men.

But some critics say that while lady bus drivers might prove to be less aggressive, the MMDA’s plan ignores the real problem, a lack of traffic law enforcement.

“If the rules are not being followed, then still we will have traffic problems.�?

Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Catholic Archdiocese of Manila says because bus drivers here are paid on a quota system, they often break traffic laws.

“In many other big cities, public transportation is subsidized by the state. And it is flowing because it is a service to the people. Whether they get more passengers or not, they get their own salary. But here, the drivers the conductors, they get paid depending on how many passengers they get. So naturally they will run after more people.�?

And some passengers also aren’t so sure if women bus drivers will make any difference to Manila’s streets.  

One passenger tells me that there are many other factors on the road that contribute to safety, not whether the bus driver is male or female.

Another rider says he doubts women are physically capable of driving a bus.

“It’s hard for them to drive a big vehicle like this�?.

But, bus driver Ronnie Asahan says women won’t have any problems handling a bus. Though, he adds that a woman’s alleged resistance to risky driving will actually work against them.

“Because if you are not risky here in Manila, then you are so slow. The passenger is angry with you, yeah. The passenger throw coins at your head, you are so very slow, I am late!�?

Bus driver-in-training Olivia Pabriga says whenever Filipina women try something new, they always get the same reaction from men. But she says she’s not letting that get to her.

“So that’s why they are always talking, no lady drivers in the Philippines, they cannot, they cannot, they always say they cannot do that, only men can do that, because they never try. But when we start this, they will know.�?



1) jungle law: hukum rimba

2) residents: penduduk

 3) windshield: kaca depan mobil

 4) rush hour: Jam pada lalu lintas pada jam masuk dan keluar kantor

5) random: acak

6) exception: pengecualian

7) vehicles: kendaraan

8) doubts: keraguan

9) lanes: lajur

10)prone: cenderung


1. What is one of the busiest districts in Manila during rush hour?

2. Why is the MMDA training women to be bus drivers?

3. How long does this training take and what kind of things do they have to know?

4. What will passengers do to bus drivers if they drive too slow?

5. How did some men react when they heard that women are being trained to be bus drivers?

Last Updated ( Monday, 21 February 2011 18:12 )  
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