Sunday, July 22, 2018

Habal-hahal of the Philippines

You know you are in Tagum City when sentinels of towering full-grown royal palm trees are standing on both sides of the highway and those crisscrossing habal-habals are cutting your way.

You must watch your speed limit to avoid hitting those habal-habal rides along the highway and streets in this City of Palms. They are considered illegal by the national law and rules and regulation of the LTO and LTFRB, but permitted by the local government of Tagum City and nearby towns and other cities in Mindanao.

Historically, habal-habal was first practiced in this country with the other design called "skylab" in the northern side of the erstwhile One Davao, now the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte. It was first popularized by the workers of small mining industries and traders of Mt. Diwalwal of Compostela Valley. If disallowed, that would make the lives of the locals difficult to move around to and from and within the locality. It became popular in places where there's no regular mode of transport by 4-wheel of 3-wheel vehicles. Later on copied by other towns, cities, provinces, regions, and phenomenally spread to Visayas and even to the northern tip-most of Luzon and remote places of Palawan in the west and Bicolandia in the east. 

The last 3 decades it invaded the streets of Metro Manila as the fastest way to beat traffic jams for those who are in a hurry. Like me, I more often took a habal-habal ride whenever I catch my flight at the airport during rush hour.

What is habal-habal and skylab

From my unpublished book about Philippine places and transportation, habal-habal and skylab are defined as:

habal-habal – (ha-bàl há-bal; [Mindanao and Visayas mode of transportation] dw Ceb. habal [copulate]) *(n.) motorcycle-for-hire \motorcycle ride for commuters; A motorcycle that is modified to transport more passengers and loads than its intended usual capacity or what is originally allowed by its manufacturer. So called because of the sitting position of riders somewhat simulating the copulation or the mating position of animals. A description of fully modified habal-habal has the following: It has a makeshift seat extended at the rear to accommodate at least five passengers seated in a row, and a small rack before the driver seat for one or two more passengers. An extended wide steel footrest is also installed around the lower side for holding cargoes. A steel carrier support are sometime installed on both sides near the muffler to accommodate two children, but only if they can hold to stand up throughout the trip. An improvised canopy is often installed using wooden or bamboo beams and plywood or trapal (tarpaulin) or luna (oil-cloth) to protect the driver and passengers from rain. The aforementioned design is a popular mode of transport in  the rural areas of northeastern Mindanao and the Visayan rural areas. A smaller version of habal-habal uses a scooter and has no canopy. It can accommodate only up to three or four passengers and can be found mostly in the cities, like in Metro Manila.

A group of habal-habals waiting for passengers in Javier, Leyte.
Habal-habal of Kananga, Leyte.
A variation of habal-habal in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley is installed with modern sound-system for  listening your kind of music and make your trip not boring.

The informal station of habal-habal (for-hire-motorcycle ride) at the foot of the stairs on the eastern side of Ayala/Edsa MRT station.
The habal-habal ride along Ayala Avenue extension road  to McKinley road going to BGC.

iskaylab(is-káy-lab; [Mindanao mode of transportation] dw Eng. skylab satellite) (n.) a contraption of modified two-tired motorcycle with long planks of passenger seats extending sideways like wings from the side of the driver seat towards the back seat, and sometimes installed with improvised canopy using wooden or bamboo beams and plywood or trapal (tarpaulin) or luna (oil-cloth) to protect the driver and passengers from rain. It carries cargo and can accommodate a total of least eight passengers seated like that of habal-habal with two or four more seated on the extended planks with their feet dangling on the side. A simpler variation of iskaylab only has beams extending sideways behind the driver seat, designed to hold big baskets or boxes on both sides for transporting goods. This mode of transport is popular in the rural areas particularly in the northeastern Mindanao. So called because the extending planks resemble that of the radar wings of the 'Skylab' which was a NASA satellite that fell back to earth in early 70`s, close to when iskaylab motorcycles started to appear in Mindanao.

A skylab ride of Nabunturan, Compostela Valley. You don't need energy drink to keep you awake. The thrill and nerve will do it for you for sure.

Due to restrictions imposed by traffic laws, only two passengers, including the driver,  are allowed to ride all kinds of motorcycles in Metro Manila, including habal-habal.

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About Edgie Polistico

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A lexicographer and author of Philippine Food, Cooking, and Dining Dictionary.  Blogger with 11 blog sites. Researcher of food culture, pop culture, places, structures, transportations, churches and whatever interest him about the Philippines. A visual artist. Travelled all over the Philippines.  Photographer. 

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