After my week Matsurfing at Robert’s, I’m moved across town and crashed on the couch of an old friend, Kev.
Kev is based in Fort Bonifacio (‘The Fort’). Apart from generally enjoying catching up, we took a wander and Kev and Kit showed me around the area. This included buying my first cake-milkshake (it’s as amazing as it sounds!), and taking a trip to one of the few bits of open space in Manila, the American cemetary.
On one of the days, we hire a car and take a road trip out to Tagaytay, a nearby ‘city’ containing the beautiful Taal lake and (still active) Tall volcano. We pick up the car and start our way out of the Manila urban chaos. The roads are busy for a Friday afternoon and the amount of construction work on the roads isn’t helping. We take a left, around some road work signs, and are greeted by a smiling police officer, suited and gloved, standing in the middle of the road to our left turn, hand outstretched and waving us to the side of the road.
“You have got to be kidding me!”, Kev says, “we’ve only had the car for 2 minutes!”
I’m not even sure what we’re being pulled over for. Kev pulls over and winds the window down.
“Hello Sirs”, the police office says, still smiling. And then points over to our right where we have pulled over.
There is a dusty no turning sign almost at ground level. With all the road works, it couldn’t be seen from the road. This guy seems conveniently placed!
“License please, sir”, the officer says……still smiling.
Kev hands it to him and the officer takes out a clipboard and proceeded to making notes on the vehicle. He does a full 360 for the car model and license plate, but not before taking out a stack of drivers licenses from his left front pocket which are strapped together in an elastic band, and waving them at us. The licenses of other drivers who have suffered the same fate as us that day?……or possibly a bunch of fake cards that I saw you could buy from the Manilla markets for around 10p each? Hard to tell, it seemed like a little threat either way…..if you don’t handle this well, the license stays with me.
“The thing is, I know I can bribe this guy……I’ve just never done it before”, Kev tells me. “How obvious can you be?…..And what’s the right price?”
This didn’t come as a shock. I’d already had multiple conversations throughout the past 2 weeks about how bribery and backhanders are very common in the Philippines, all the way up the ladder.
We discuss a 30 second strategy while the officer completes his loop of the car. Kev has a 500 peso note in his hand (around £7.50) and I have a 1000 note in my pocket as backup in case we have the figure wrong.
“Should I just hand it to him?”, Kev asks
“No idea……..Maybe, just have it visible in your hand?”, I offer….I have no idea, we’d just have to see how it panned out.
The officer comes back, reels off a pre-prepared speech around traffic regulations, that the license would be confiscated, and would have to be picked up and dealt with at the town hall. Neither of us have an idea what that means, but it sounds like an ordeal!
“I understand sir. Is there any way I could get the license back…….now?” Kev asks, slightly waving the note in his right hand.
“I don’t know, sir. You’ll have to help me”, the officer says with a grin.
Despite what was going on, I loved the way he said that! A bribe taking-pro! Very smooth.
The officer shows us the written up ticket on the clipboard with the license on top. Through the window (so it’s can’t be too obvious), the cash is slipped on the clipboard, and the card taken off. And we’re back on our way. The officer never dropped his smile throughout :-)
“What’s the right bribe price?”, we ask Ian a bit later, “…for something like that”
“About 300”, Ian says without even pausing for thought.
Not too bad, I guess. we picked up our new favourite phrase at least….the answer to any question for the next few days became, “I don’t know Sir, you’ll have to help me!” :-)
Tagaytay was postcard, picture perfect…..
….well at least in one direction! A 360 degree turn from the lakeside view and you can see how thin some of the people around here can live; a makeshift home on some garbage covered sand.
We finish up the day by making our way up the hill to get a view before sunset, grabbing a pancake and a coffee from a nearby cafe, and then starting our journey back.
Some other pics from the week. Cheers Kev, Ian, Kit, for the couch, and the lesson in bribing the police.