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.


janangela said...

Sir baka po pwede ninyo ako bigyan ng mga contact numbers ng mga nagbebenta ng reconditioned multicabs? Mahal po kasi sa Manila. Thank you po.

PinoyApache said...

Of course not. I just wrote an opinion against it, now you want me to propagate it? Sorry.

LBSJR123 said...

Informative and well written. Gives an insight to the evolution of a simple vehicle modified beyond it's designer's dreams when safety and comfort are not a consideration.

Darrel said...

vero good po ang pag plot nyo ng info, natuto po ako. Ask ko lang sana kung anu ang standard air pressure ng tire ng multicab para mag ok at safer?


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Allan Manta said...

Multicab is great for family and business use. Its performance is proven and tested here in the Philippines.

Anonymous said...

Pleased be advise..anu p0 bang dapat gawin ksi ung multicab namin pag dumadaan sa elevated roads mahirapang umakyat din me tunog pa sa bandang likuran parang inuubo.tapos malakas nang mag consume ng gasoline.