Gray Matter


Transportation in Olongapo and the Subic Bay Areas

RT Cunningham | August 3, 2020 (UTC) | Culture, Travel

transportationThe methods of transportation I’m talking about affect Olongapo and the Subic Bay areas, regardless of any current restrictions in place. The Subic Bay areas include 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 U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay. I can’t speak for other areas in the Philippines because I don’t know enough about them.

Methods of Transportation

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

There are other vehicles I’ve seen that I can’t name, including tricycles 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. They’re still street legal but I really can’t see why.

Inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, commercial jeepneys and trikes are prohibited, except that they’re allowed to refuel at the gas station near the Kalaklan gate. Only private vehicles are allowed any further, 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, 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 nephew’s family in San Narciso, Zambales, I noticed body tags weren’t required.

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 since before 2006. 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 of 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 using something else. A taxi service at the freeport zone services Olongapo somewhat. An Uber-like service called “Grab” exists. 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 thin, 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 still under 10,000 kilometers. Considering it’s nearly five 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 than the way I do it. The main thing I don’t like is how long it takes. The average speed in Olongapo is 40 kph (almost 25 mph). It’s not much faster at the freeport zone until we get past the main business area.

Jeepney Photo Attribution: gloverbh222 from Pixabay
Edited and updated. Originally published at one of my other websites in September 2014.

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