We Filipinos are a very unique and discerning breed amongst motorists. If you're the observant type, ther are actually a lot of little things that really separate our car culture from the rest of the world.
Just to get it out of the way, this isn't a story about counterflowing, running red lights, blocking intersections or other bad driving habits of Pinoys. Rather, this is a lighter look at some of the more unique habits that many of us grew up with as car-loving Filipinos.
Some are rooted in our culture, and some are rooted in faith, but many of these habits are derived from our affinity for cars, especially when it comes to preserving that brand new feeling.
We bless our cars
A population with a devout and religious majority, having everything blessed by someone of the cloth or a leader of faith is very commonplace. New homes are blessed, new businesses are blessed, and, of course, new cars are blessed.
When a car is new, or sometimes even before we bring it home, we Filipino car owners typically have it blessed for safe travels. Though car blessings are not particularly unique to us, it is a tradition that we Filipinos strongly adhere to compared to a lot of other cultures.
While Catholics can get a car blessed at most churches, one place that is known for blessing automobiles is the cathedral in Antipolo. The reason for this is the wooden image so aptly named as Our Lady of Peace of Good Voyage enshrined there since the 1600s after travelling the Pacific Ocean aboard a galleon from Mexico.
Every day officials of the Antipolo cathedral conduct blessings at the parking lot beside the church and pray over their vehicle for safety and security on the road. Such is the reason why -when driving up to Antipolo either via Ortigas Extension or Sumulong Highway- men on the side of the road try to flag down new vehicles with no plates (with hand signals like they're praying) seeking assistance for a blessing.
Whichever your faith may be, there's probably a tradition to have your car prayed over or blessed for safe travels.
Don't peel off the protective plastic. Ever.
Do you still have a plastic bag covering your sunvisors? Is there plastic film still covering the chrome moulding on your doors? Are those blue foam squares still attached to the edges of your doors? If so, chances are, you're one of us.
We Filipinos are rather obsessed with preserving that brand new feeling when it comes to our cars. It's only natural; we as a culture take great pride in our belongings, and that's why we leave those stickers on the frames of our TVs or the ones on the surfaces of our laptops long after we bought them. How can you tell? If you remove them, there's a profound “tan line”.
The same applies to our cars, especially as they're often the second most important and second most expensive purchase many of us make.. The plastic on the visors are often left in place, and some owners even cut out a portion to allow you to see yourself in the mirrors. That's why you'll see cars like the Innova or Vios still with the blue protective film on the chrome bar on the outer door mouldings.
Cover the seats, double the mats
And if that wasn't enough, we like to double up on the covers when we can. Whole businesses and industries are dedicated to preserving that brand new feeling, and that's why you have so many options for seat covers, carpets, and lately, protective film to preserve the paintwork. Heck, we even cover our plates with clear glass or plastic; something that generated a bit of uproar a few years back when the LTO said they will be apprehending motorists that have them.
Yes, we're a bit obsessed with protecting our cars from the elements and even ourselves. I've ridden with cars that have standard seat covers, yet the upholstery is leather. There are those who purchase ribbed leather covers for their steering wheels. There are owners out there who double up the mats to protect the carpets. The newer trend, however, is the popularity of paint protective film; some are clear to defend against stone or pebble chips on the highway, though some alter the look of the car altogether.
Thankfully, we're not seeing much of the dashboard “shields” that were popular in the nineties. Not only would they block or disturb the passenger airbag, they look like carpets on the dash.
The recirculate button is always on
See that button or lever with the curved arrow on the climate or aircon control panel? When was the last time you deactivated that function?
Yes that's right: we don't like to turn off the air recirculation system. Ever. We as a motoring culture generally think the outside world is smelly or smoggy, and so we keep the air recirculating inside at all times.
Technically it's a bad habit; on long drives the carbon dioxide we breathe out will be bad for us if fresh air isn't allowed into our recirculated cabins. Such is the reason why European cars automatically open up the vents to let in outside air from time to time, much to our annoyance.
One drop is dirty enough
Have you ever been annoyed when -after driving out of the car wash- a wayward drop of rain falls on your windshield? Believe me, I know the feeling. What's worse is when your car gets in the way of a bird, uh, dropping bombs.
Really, it's a never ending struggle; our streets are very dirty with all the construction of infrastructure and new buildings with all kinds of dirt and debris around. All it takes is one puddle is enough to throw up dirt on our clean cars. And we haven't even counted the rain yet.
One rain drop, one speck of dirt, is enough to annoy a motoring population with perhaps the cleanest collection of cars in general, and so it's off to the carwash. I have no data to support this, but I'm willing to bet that -in the NCR- there are more carwash shops per square kilometer than any other major city in the world.
That conduction sticker isn't coming off
Take a look at your nearest parking lot whether you're in a mall, at the office building, or on a street corner waiting to cross. There's a good chance that a majority of the cars you will see still have their conduction stickers on the top right corners of the front windshield and upper left for the rear. We're not talking just about new cars; some of them were even sold in the nineties.
Oh yes, those conduction stickers will never come off even if they're already completely faded, much like a patina on an antique. Much like the protective film on door mouldings and such, it's a habit of ours to not remove those conduction stickers, ever.
They're reminders of the time when our cars were new and fresh from the showroom. Some even retain the old LTO registration stickers on the windshield or the little tags on the plates.
Chances are only the second owners will remove them. As for the lack of supply of plates, well, that's another issue.
New Car is probably your favorite scent
Lastly, there's a good possibility that the air freshener you keep in your car is of the “new car” variety.
Some people opt for the lemon, the strawberry, or any of the other fruit- or flower-derived scents available at the local home depot, but new car is still one of the most popular. And that's regardless of brand or form factor from the can or the iconic pine tree that you hang from the rear view mirror.
With that said, I think I need to get a new can of new car scent too.