Baguio: Taxis and SM

by joanabagano

Baguio is known for its cheap taxi rates. You could go all over the city in just one cab and pay less than half of what you would be charged if you went from Quezon City to Alabang. Before the increase in mid-2011, locals and tourists alike enjoyed 25.00 as the starting rate and 1.50 increments per .4km.  The present fare is not a far cry though, with 35.00 as flag-down rate and 2.00 per succeeding 400m. To explain this, Baguio taxis require less maintenance because they have no aircon. Commuters enjoy the cold breeze while paying less.

However, despite the cheap rates, locals, especially female locals, now have less incentive to ride taxis alone. Word is, women are being raped and murdered by some taxi drivers and their cohorts. They say that the mangled bodies would then be chopped and scattered around the city. Favorite dump sites include ravines and nearby La Trinidad.

This is not news. As far back as I can remember, the fear of riding taxis began in grade school when the body of a nursing student from a local university was found somewhere near Marcos Highway. A lot of rape/murder stories have circulated since then, the latest of which would be that of a 17-year old girl who hailed a taxi to school at 7AM in the morning, got in only to be punched unconscious by the driver and find herself raped at 3PM in the afternoon. (Read news article here)

A few weeks ago, too, a friend was rushing to get to SLU to meet her research mates so she decided to take a taxi. I know her for being choosy with regards to the aesthetic look of the taxi but this time she didn’t have enough time to choose. She hailed a taxi of Tamaraw FX make and got in, recalling that the driver was staring at her quite strangely. Before she finally settled down, she saw a brown thing at the trunk of the taxi and immediately thought that it was a carton. It wasn’t because as my friend sat, the brown thing moved and she saw a man’s head. It wasn’t a carton, after all, but a jacket. My friend’s heart raced and before the taxi could wheel her away, she ran out. She remembers everyone outside staring at her when she fell out of the vehicle, to the ground. Her mind knew best to run away so she forgot to take the plate of the taxi which eventually speeded off.

Yesterday, I switched to the local news and saw a taxi driver getting rewarded for returning a bagful of valuables. It made such a big deal that a couple of public and private sectors wanted to acknowledge him and give the man some kind of support. On the surface, it was a good thing to know. Beyond it, there was a problem.

“These kinds of deeds are rare nowadays,” one taxi driver said in the local dialect.

Why, of course they are, I thought as I read on the rolling marquee that SM Baguio started earthballing the 182 pine trees on Luneta Hill just so it can continue with its mall expansion. It was heartbreaking to see that the project pushed through despite constant protests. What enraged me more, however, was the thought that it started even without the consent of Baguio City’s council. Why the hurry, SM?

If such “developments” will be condoned, I won’t wonder if our taxi rates will gradually increase because soon, too, they will be needing aircon for their cabs, not to mention that less and less people are hailing them for fear that a man in the trunk is waiting for new prey.