For Independence Day â€˜09, The Indolent Indio is publishing a series of posts that touch on nationalism, freedom, and crass comedy.
This is the secondÂ post in the series.
A spectre is haunting the Philippines–the spectre of low to middle-class bikers on small-displacement motorcycles racing along city streets in defiance of How Things Are Done.
When unit prices of motorcycles went down because of cheap Chinese imports (with incredibly shoddy build quality,) every Juan now had the option of personal mobility, and really, that’s what freedom is all about.
Once relegated to Public Utility Vehicles that authorities didn’t really bother to check for safety or reliability, commuters were given an option over crowded train systems, deathtrap buses and jeepneys that harbored snatchers, pickpockets and robbers.
At last, we could go where we wanted, when we wanted, faster and cheaper than people in cars. And, perhaps, that is what pissed cagers off the most, that even if you’re in a Toyota Fortuner, you’re still also justÂ stuck in traffic while we poor kids zip past you.
As with many things, this is about class. This is about us taking back the roads that we also pay for with our taxes, this is about us exercising our right to travel.
Not surprisingly, the bad-ass bikers on Harley-Davidsons were the first to put us down. “Small-displacement, small brain,” they used to say, siding with the very squares and Establishment-types that the Harley image is supposedly against.
Other motorists were quick to follow suit, saying bikers should not be allowed on the road because they don’t obey traffic rules, they’re erratic, they’re dangerous.
Never mind that this is the Philippines, where there are no laws except when convenient. Never mind that they do the sameÂ thing. It’s a double standard, and it serves.
The Government has been trying its best to put us down and treat us as the second-class citizens they see us as.
The official reason given is that it’s to combat criminality, so they set up random checkpoints, and are quick to flag down bikers for wearing slacks or for whatever reason they feel like giving. I suppose cotton pants count as reasonable cause in the Philippines.
Lame-brained attempts to force us to emblazon our plate numbers on our helmets for easier identification were met with massive protests, but the threat is far from over.
Meanwhile, because there actually are criminals on motorcycles, our Philippine National Police wants to ban the use of full-face helmets and to declare certain areas of Manila off-limits to motorcycles.
Full-face helmets offer the best protection against the most common type of bike-related injury: trauma to the jaw, and provide the most protection of all helmet types.
Is the PNP saying that helmets that only offer 65-percent the protection of a full-face helmet are good enough for bikers?
Are they seriously considering depriving us of our safety to cover up for the fact that they cannot do their jobs?
And what about banning motorcycles from certain areas of the city? Can’t criminals just take cars instead? Crimes have also been committed with white L300 vans and ’90s-model Toyota Corollas, will they be banned too?
We have been treated as criminals and nuisances for far too long, and truth be told, the Hell’s Angels approach is looking more and more appealing by the day: If you have no respect for us, don’t expect respect from us.
Our numbers are growing. We cannot be stopped. We are legion. And this is also our Independence Day.
-The Mosquito Fleet
The Mosquito Fleet may or may not exist. They’re sort of like the ghost of Tom Joad, I guess.