Monday, May 19, 2008

THE MULTICAB: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

THE BEST THING that happened to an average Filipino family wanting to own a family utility vehicle that is very economical in terms of availability, maintenance and operation is the introduction of the Suzuki Every 660 or its more rugged cousin, the Suzuki Scrum, which could either run on normal or on four-wheel drive mode, here in the Philippines. It is more popularly known here as the “multicab”, short for multi-purpose cab.

Its arrival here in our shores, particularly in Cebu, in the early ‘90s spurred the entrepreneurial spirit of every Filipino found sitting behind its steering wheel. First imported and distributed here by the NORKIS Group of Companies of Mandaue City, it has taken on many different shapes whether it is as a small light truck, a taxicab, a mini ambulance, a police car, a midget troop transport or even a souped-up street drag-racing mite. Later, 6R Group of Companies joined the fray by marketing yet a smaller multicab design.

It is lightweight, narrow and small and could navigate effortlessly through our narrow streets with such ease with a few feet (not inches) to spare. It is powered by three cylinders having a displacement of 1.2 cubic meters and uses gasoline as fuel. It consumes only 23.5 kilometers per liter. Its prevailing prices nowadays are from a low Php17,000 for second-hands to as high as Php350,000 for customized units.

There are many ingenious ways to convert the original multicab designs into your own customized version of your car of your dreams or a vehicle that ensures you of regular income. The latter found more appeal as the mode of public transportation changed shape with the introduction of the multicab to ply the streets of the different Southern Philippine cities. It has steadily replaced the post-World War II era jitney or PUJ (public utility jitney) and the tricycle as the main mode of transport in urban and rural areas as new routes and franchises were created to accommodate this new workhorse on the streets.

Relegated before to secondary streets and alternate routes, it has now jostled for prime space in major city routes like those found here in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapulapu and along busy stretches of the national and provincial highway from as north as Danao City and those in the south at Carcar City. As more and more multicabs are commissioned on the road it has generally choked what available space there is making life difficult even for two-wheeled vehicles like motorcycles.

However, much as we would like to appreciate these multicabs to complement our own version of the Filipino dream and giving us a new public transportation alternative, it does not conform to and even come close to existing American and European standards with regards to safety, comfort and convenience. Although designed for use in Far East and Southeast Asia, it still fell short of Asian standards for rugged use. For one, it is not designed to carry more than 1,350 kilograms of load. The problem with Filipinos is that they are prone to making innovations just like they did to the motorcycle making it work more than it was designed for, thus, taking away half of its working lifespan, exposing it to greater possibility of mechanical failures and accidents.

The biggest mistake that the Filipino transport regulating body, LTFRB, did is when it allowed the multicab to be used as a public utility vehicle. They know that it has a very light body that is very vulnerable and would collapse in the event of collisions with other bigger vehicles and offer scant protection to passengers and a very small room space that would create inconveniences to bulkier and bigger passengers. Multicab transport operators, already disadvantaged by the small room space as compared to the bigger and roomier competing PUJs, would let their vehicles get crammed with fifteen passengers, seven to a side plus one in the front seat, and that does not include the hangers-on. It sacrificed comfort and leg room and when that happens, a newly-embarked passenger would practically drag his foot and his body sideways to move from the back entrance into a vacant seat as opposing knees block the center aisle.

Some of these multicabs have their passenger handlebars placed in the middle making life miserable for a new passenger when navigating to find a seat while others are right over your head making your neck bend grotesquely to evade the nagging steel bar bumping into your forehead during a jolt. The afterdeck compartment is so narrow that my knees would kiss those of another's right across me when sitting and would block the middle aisle. In case somebody passes by, we have to move sideways a bit or raise our toes to give space. And, lastly, these multicabs are a torture chamber for those suffering from rheumatic or arthritic knees as their seats almost kissed the steel deck.

I am a big hombre and so possesses a pair of long legs which is not compatible riding in a multicab save for a passenger seat in the front. I am choosy when riding a public transport and would pass even PUJs, especially if they are almost full, much more so if they happen to be multicabs. I'll never sacrifice comfort and convenience even if it meant I would be late in my appointments. There are many people, more or less, like my build and they disdain to ride a multicab for the great inconveniences it does on them. Some of them are already matured and aging and seating in a cramped position like those found on this small vehicles make them gasp for air not to mention the pain they have to endure on their bended knees.

These multicabs are better left as private vehicles and the moment it was utilized for public use it showed the ugly head of capitalism cashing on lax and inutile transport governing bodies, an unrestrained and growing population and a rising fuel price. The first time I laid my eyes on a Suzuki Every 660 family van, I fell in love with it. For a reason. I like the simple style, it's very functional, economical and it could adapt to Philippine road standards – narrow and sleek. I have not owned a personal car before and, maybe, in my wildest dreams, it would become my first. Just keeping my fingers crossed hoping that this thought wouldn't be as thin as the air.

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Thursday, May 8, 2008



SOMETIME AGO on May 2007 while attending my first “regular” club membership meeting with the Cebu Mountaineering Society or CeMS after a hiatus of roughly 10 years, I first met this very active man in his early 60s when I was introduced to this current flock of members, comprising the old, the not-so-old and the new.

I am referring to none other than Mr. Rafael Tura, - Paeng or Tio Paeng, as he is fondly called (I would rather call him Sir Paeng right now) – who came all the way from Bohol to attend the meeting which was held then at the Third World Outdoors (TWO) flip-flop factory right below the Ayala fly-over together with Jon Consunji, Cankee Potamio and the couple, Loklok and Tata Caumeran, on board their mountain bikes.

Right there and then, Ramon Vidal of TWO began to “harass” Sir Paeng with a barrage of jokes and this rag-tag crowd of outdoor worshipers enjoyed, tickled to death, and loved the healthy repartee at that late late afternoon with which both gentlemen threw at each other. Soon Daddy Frank Cabigon, Lilibeth Initan and Andrew Flores joined Ramon's side. The tide of battle shifted to the advantage of Ramon and company, but Sir Paeng remained unperturbed and took all snipes gracefully, with a grin!

Watching from the sidelines, I was a bit amused and a bit bewildered at the same time as my long absence left me in a quandary on how to quickly adjust to this funny interlude which shifted away the attention from the formal discussions and I don't know whom to side whom preferring neutrality. Prudence kept the better of me as I decided to unleash my naughtiness later (at Sir Paeng, perhaps) at a later date and time letting this moment to focus on immersing back with my old club and acquaint better the roster of personalities ringing this lively group. Sir Paeng's arrival, at least, killed the ennui and the seriousness that were drawn on the faces of everyone in the meeting.

Later on, I learned that Sir Paeng just got inducted last 2006 as a full-fledged member and even while still new, everyone noticed his leadership qualities earning him votes to assume as CeMS vice president behind Rosebelle Daculan in 2007. A rare feat indeed for a new “kid” in town from Mabolo.

His active lifestyle led him to places where only eagles dare at the summits of Mount Apo in Davao or of Mount Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia; to the vowels of mother earth in Suhoton Cave in Samar or riding the foaming crests and rapids of Macahambos Gorge in Cagayan de Oro City. Along the way he touched many lives with his good-natured gestures of kindness and gained numerous friends off and on the trail with his wits and with his enthusiasm. He is quite comfortable to be with whether it be sharing the microphone of a videoke machine, as a biking buddy along a slippery bike trail or even just walking along with you as you hurriedly go to a CeMS meeting.

Throughout the many months that I rejoined CeMS, Sir Paeng attended almost all club activities and meetings. I get to observe him firsthand during the 2nd TWO Orienteering Cup held in the Babag Mountain Range last July 2007; at the Christmas '07 camp in Gaas, Balamban; in Matutinao, Badian and in Compostela last February 2008 and during the signage project in Mount Manunggal just this March.

It was in Nug-as, Alcoy during our year-end climb last December, that I get to work closely with Sir Paeng preparing a group presentation during an impromptu program. Sir Paeng did his best there. He got his prize – cooking breakfast for the whole group – with a wide grin that extended to us all.

Sir Paeng never ceases to amaze me in all aspects of his life, though I did not have the opportunity to know him better of his personal life, still he was too good a man, vim and hearty, to leave this present world onto the beckoning reward that his Creator prepared for him. There are, I think, too many good things that he is capable of doing if given the chance to live to a hundred, but who am I to question Sir Paeng's Creator? I am, but a mere mortal thinking of mere mortal thoughts.

I thought it was not yet his time when Dr. Abe Manlawe assured us in his text message last April 15 that Sir Paeng is okay and in an alert condition when he left him in the hospital. But, alas, Sir Paeng did go on his way, in a state of grace, last April 17, to follow the trail blazed before him by Sir Joe Avellanosa, Mme. Penpen Luego, Sir Roy Tabanao and others. We will have our prayers to guide you on your way Sir Paeng and you tell them the new tales you hear and saw while you were here and maybe someday, when our time will come, you'll hear newer tales from us.
Your memories will never be forgotten and, surely, there will be memorial climbs dedicated for you in the near future, you can be assured of that. In the meantime we will all miss you, friend.

Godspeed and see you soon on the trail...

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.

Friday, May 2, 2008


FOUR PERSONS RIDING tandem on a motorcycle met a timely vehicular accident at the highway of Looc, Oslob, Cebu on the afternoon of December 1, 2007. All suffered serious physical injuries and were all brought to the Oslob District Hospital for their initial medication and first aid.

There was only one municipal ambulance and one government nurse on duty at the hospital attending the patients. One of the patient, a woman in her 40s, was decided to be brought to a hospital in far-away Cebu City due to the severity of her injuries.

While en route, the woman died at the vicinity of the town of Dalaguete. According to a relative accompanying her in the ambulance, the patient was left to fend for herself while being transported and a bottle of oxygen, which would have sustained the patient's survival chances, was left unused owing to the absence of a competent medical personnel in the ambulance.

I could not comprehend, however, the Cebu Provincial Government, awash with so much cash that it spent almost Php1.2B to erect a ghastly monument of corruption, the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), which they hurriedly finished in time for the hosting of the 13th ASEAN Summit last December 2006; being not able to hire enough health personnel to complement their district hospitals throughout the province.

I don't know where lies the priority of the lady governor, Ms. Gwendolyn Garcia, who seemed to brag and lash about at anybody who dared criticize her showcase -- the controversial CICC. Engr. Cris Saavedra and Mr. Leo Lastimosa where some of the few who dared to remark and challenged her openly in print and broadcast media and took the brunt of her ire by suing them in court.

CICC is a high profile project that stank of controversies apart from its astronomical budget. Said edifice allegedly used substandard materials in its construction. Prices were allegedly rigged to accommodate cheap and low-end equipment for its operations which resulted to breakdowns on their airconditioning units, door locks, escalators, toilet bowls, etc. Don't forget about the leaking roofs – it's highly documented!

In the meantime, a woman died because the provincial government could not afford to hire additional medical doctors and nurses and complementary personnel to man their hospitals. It had not been the first case of neglect and this neglect would continue as long as this current leadership knows where to place those priorities that are more urgent and remedy the situation quickly than just sitting on their laurels after snaring their bragging rights!

Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer, Trebuchet MS font, size 12.