RT Cunningham


Transportation in Olongapo City and the Subic Bay Area

Manila jeepney - transportation The methods of transportation I’m talking about affect Olongapo City and the Subic Bay area. The Subic Bay area includes parts of the Zambales province because Olongapo is located within that province even if it’s autonomous from it. It also includes the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, formerly the United States Subic Bay Naval Base. I can’t speak for other areas in the Philippines because I don’t know enough about them. One thing I know is that transportation is more restrictive in Olongapo than it was the first time I was there (in 1983) because of its fast growth and past abuses.

Methods of Transportation

The two main methods of transportation outside of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone are jeepneys and trikes. Jeepneys were invented after World War II from surplus United States military jeeps. I don’t know when the trikes were invented. They’re just motorcycles attached to covered sidecars.

There are other vehicles I’ve seen that I can’t name, including trikes without motors (bicycles attached to sidecars). I’ve heard the terms pedicabs and multicabs, but I have no idea what they refer to. I haven’t seen any kalesas (chariots or horse-drawn carriages) in this area – the only place I’ve seen them is in Manila.

Inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, commercial jeepneys and trikes are prohibited. Only private vehicles are allowed, except for the taxi and shuttle services.

Commercial transportation services with private vehicles exist, but I don’t have much information on them. I rented vans shortly after I moved to the Philippines in 2006. I didn’t need to rent anything after I bought our car a few months later.

One or two bus lines run to and from Olongapo City and they aren’t expensive. The last time I checked, going from Olongapo to Manila was 300 pesos (under $10 USD) one way.

Certain Restrictions

I don’t know about most other places in the Philippines but in Olongapo, “body tags” are required for commercial jeepneys and trikes. They can only be used privately otherwise. When I visited a nephews family in San Narciso, Zambales, I noticed body tags weren’t required.

It’s a double-edged sword, so to speak. Olongapo won’t issue new body tags to keep the number of jeepneys and trikes from growing. I know for a fact they haven’t issued any in the past eight years. If you want to buy a jeepney or trike from someone, you’ll pay a lot more than anywhere else in the country because you also have to pay for the body tags separately – they have to be transferred, just like the title for the vehicle.

Choosing Transportation

When traveling around locally, shopping and otherwise, jeepneys and trikes are okay as long as you don’t have a lot to carry. If you do, you’re better off getting a taxi. The taxi service at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone services Olongapo somewhat. Jeepneys aren’t much fun for taller people like me because the roof is too low. Trikes are fine if you want to ride alone (unless you’re skinny, where two can fit).

I use my car for shopping and trips to Manila and that’s about it. A bilas (sister-in-law’s husband) uses the car on occasion, so I don’t know what the odometer reads today but I’m sure it’s under 25,000 kilometers. Considering it’s already eight years old, that’s pretty low mileage. It may outlast me if I don’t wreck it or trade it in.

I won’t use a jeepney or a trike unless I can’t avoid it and those circumstances are extremely rare. Still, it’s much cheaper to use those methods of transportation to get around that the way I do it. The main thing I don’t like is how long it takes.

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By RT Cunningham
September 15, 2014
Travel and Transportation

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