Riding in tandem shouldn’t make us criminals.

I am frustrated by the growing bias people are beginning to have against people who ride motorcycles in tandem. Moreover, I am furious that there are efforts to formalize this bias by making it into a law. While I do not deny that there are people who commit crimes while riding in tandem, I do not think that riding in tandem itself should be made illegal.

According to Senate Bill 2344, “An Act Prohibiting Backriders on Two-Wheeled Motorcycles/Scooters and Exceptions Thereto” introduced by Senator Sotto III, “No back-rider shall be allowed on a two-wheeled motorcycle or scooter unless the passenger is the spouse, child or parent of the driver.” The minimum fine is P20,000 for the first offense.

There are good citizens who ride together on motorbikes who do not shoot other people or commit hold ups. Many ride in tandem just to save time and money. Others simply do it because it’s fun. I do not see anything wrong with these. Furthermore, I find the exception for passengers who are the “spouse, child or parent” of the driver too narrow. Among people who ride in tandem are friends, dating couples, domestic partners, and even neighbors who may have just agreed to ride to work together for practical reasons.

When told that many are reacting negatively against his proposal, Sotto responded saying, “This may be frowned upon by some members of society, but we have to think of the higher good of protecting the life and limb of our citizens.” (Canadian Inquirer) Wow! Are we motorcycle riders not citizens too? (When I bought my motorcycle, I had to pay tax. When I register my motorcycle every year, I pay tax. When I buy gas, I pay tax. Why are we being treated like we’re just secondary citizens on the road? My hope is that the taxes we pay will somehow translate to a safer riding environment for riders.)

The proposed law is not only insensitive; it is also stupid. How are the police and the traffic enforcers going to check if people who ride in tandem are indeed qualified for the exceptions? This means that they will have to stop every pair on a motorbike. This can mean that more enforcers will be needed and more traffic for everyone. This also means that every rider with a passenger will now have the burden of proof and can be flagged down even if they are not doing anything illegal. Oh, and does this mean that we now all have to bring marriage certificates and birth certificates? A driver’s licence used to be enough.

On the other hand, if I were going to commit a crime, all I have to do is avoid main roads and check points, or even just drop of my passenger a few meters before a check point. Regular commuters who ride to get from fixed point A (house) to fixed point B (work, school, etc.) without being late will not enjoy the same flexibility.

 

 

Related Articles:

https://www.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=16&q=SBN-2344 (This is the official government site where the bill is registered)

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/93132/riding-in-tandem–sotto-wants-ban-on-back-riders

http://www.tribune.net.ph/metro/sotto-files-bill-banning-motorcycle-back-riders

http://www.canadianinquirer.net/2014/08/17/senate-bill-banning-motorcycle-back-riders-draw-mixed-reactions/

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/371995/news/metromanila/ordinance-bans-riding-in-tandem-in-mandaluyong-except-for-family (The City of Mandaluyong has implemented an ordinance patterned after the Bill.)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/mcrightsorg/permalink/1014692505223623/  (Riders react on Facebook)

 

Photo Credit: http://www.pexels.com/photo/2120/

 

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Fearless or Foolish?

When would you call an act courageous and when would you call it stupid?

What do you think?

Let me tell you a story that has been handed down in my family for generations. People who hear it today have different reactions. Let me know yours.

 

Marcial’s Hospitality

What happened took place in the Philippines during the Japanese Occupation in World War II. My grandfather, Marcial, was a young man then who had a family of his own. His wife and children lived in a small house.

One day, a friend came to visit Marcial. It so happened that he was still out on errands. His wife told their visitor that Marcial was expected to return in a little while and so the visitor just decided to wait for him.

Suddenly Japanese soldiers barged into the house. There was a lot of commotion. They were apparently capturing all the fathers in the neighborhood. Since the visitor was the only man in Marcial’s home at that time, they thought that he was the head of the household and so they took him.

Marcial returned home soon after and his wife told him what had happened. His wife was trembling. Children were crying. Everyone was afraid of the Japanese. Simeon decided that it was not right that a guest in his own home who deserved his hospitality should take his place in danger. Despite his wife’s and children’s pleas, he immediately left the house again to run after the soldiers and his visitor in order to tell them that they’ve captured the wrong man.

My mother told me that his family never saw my grandfather nor his guest ever again since then.

 

So, what do you think?

My grandfather is not known by many. He is neither known as a legend nor a hero. He is just one of the many victims of war in our country’s history, but his story was passed on by my grandmother to my mother and then to me. I have told this story to younger relatives. Some admire my grandfather for his courage. Others criticize him for leaving his family. What do you think, is this a story of virtue or imprudence?

 

Photo credit: http://pixabay.com/en/question-mark-question-response-96287/

What People Who Have Nothing to Do with Rape Have to Do with Rape

The title of this post is a tongue twister, I know! Well, to simplify, this post is about rape and most people. Most people know that rape is bad. Most people probably have no plans of raping anyone either. Most people, like most of us, are just bystanders. We have nothing to do with heinous crimes like that. Well, think again. As long as we belong to a society where things like these happen, we can do things that can affect other people.

To Intervene or not to Intervene

We often take for granted that bystanders can have a major role to play. The following video I first saw on Upworthy shows scenarios of men trying to pick plastered young women at a bar. People react differently, but see the difference it can make to a person’s life and family.

Standing up can take a lot of courage. In this video, what I find really amazing is the part where people started cooperating with each other after a few women started responding to the scenario.

Blaming the Victim

But more often, we aren’t even there when it happens. Still, even our perceptions play a major role.

I know someone who was raped in her friend’s car. She didn’t want to report the incident to the authorities because she felt that she will subject herself to further shame and judgement if she did so. People will just ask her why she was in the guy’s car in the first place.

This dilemma is very unfair to women. Rape victims are often doubly victimized. And we “bystanders” can play a role in rape victims’ double victimization–victimized by their rapists and by society that often looks negatively upon them. Rape, sex without consent, is never the choice of the person who is without consent. Nothing–looks, behaviour, demeanour, nor clothing–can ever be an excuse for violating someone. I totally agree with this poster:

Click on the picture to see the original post in the Facebook page of
Rape is NEVER the victim’s fault (from Think Progress Visual)

(There are some guys who may say that it’s not their fault that they are tempted either, and I agree. Being tempted isn’t a choice a person makes. However, what a person does regarding the temptation is a decision.)

The overpowered need empowerment. Rape victims are more than what has happened to them. I hope we could have a society that can help them believe in that.

Seven Thieving Techniques and How to Avoid These

It’s the holiday season but amidst all the fun and cheers, there is danger lurking around. There is that constant threat that makes us clutch our bags a little tighter and walk a little faster. It is the painful  unspoken side of receiving a really pleasant gift. It stirs up in us the terrible fear of losing everytime we receive something. I am talking about a seriously dark magic. I am talking about the evil art of thievery. Yes, stealing involves magic: “Now you see it, now you don’t.” This can even be followed by the evil inner laughter of the perpetrator. And, as evidenced by the following theiving techniques, it requires skill and art. The following techniques are modus operandi I and people I personally know actually witnessed or experienced so none of these are made up. All these involve grave moral danger so don’t try these at home all.

credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/javierarce/4144325882/

 

  • #1 – The Venomous Spit Technique
    • This technique involves someone spitting on you, another person offering help and another person actually taking your stuff. This is practiced by what most call the Dura (“spit”) Gang. Kat (not her real name) became a victim of this. She was just walking along a side walk when someone suddenly spat on her. Eeeeew! Someone then came up to her and offered her help. Distracted, Kat talked to the stranger while she opened her bag to find tissue. After wiping the spit off, Kat realized that her bag was still unzipped and that her laptop was already missing.
    • How to Avoid This: Try not to lose your temper or your head when someone spits on you. Calmly remember where you are. If you’re in an unfamiliar area, don’t open your bag anymore. It would also be better to just carry tissue and other things in your pocket or in your bag’s pocket so that you wouldn’t need to open the main section of your bag every time you need something (change, tissue, alcohol, etc., except valuable, see why in #2).
  • #2 – The Coin Toss Trick
    • Hulog Barya (“Coin Drop”) is another method by which thieves distract their potential victims. This worked on Ann (also not her real name). She told me that the sound of the coins hitting the floor of the LRT station really caught her attention. The coins even bounced a bit and she tried to follow where these went so that maybe she can pick up some. By the time she stood up; however, she noticed that the phone in her pocket was already gone. Someone stole it from her when she bent down.
    • How to Avoid This: Yes, free money can really be appealing but no, there is no such thing so keep your head up. I did mention above that it would be safer to keep things you need in your pocket than in your bag, but this advice does not include valuables because pockets bulge when there are gadgets in them. Pockets do provide quicker access for you, but it also provides quicker access to the thieves around you. One way to prevent your phone from getting stolen is to chain it to your belt or to keep the phone in a small bag pocket (facing you) and avoid bringing it out in public.
  • #3 – The Vanishing into Thin Air Spell
    • This is one of the simplest thieving techniques but it’s probably quite hard to master. It’s also painless during the act of stealing but it surely stings afterward. This technique magically results in something precious to you just vanishing into thin air without you even knowing that it’s gone until you try looking for it. I lost a phone on my birthday, thanks to this technique. A lot of people were greeting me so I had to take my phone out quite often. Towards the end of the day, I couldn’t hear my phone anymore. That’s when I noticed that my bag was open and my phone was already gone.
    • How to Avoid This: Don’t wear backpacks on your back in public places. Yes, you may find other ways of wearing backpacks (like in front or at the side) funny but this is better than losing stuff in your bag. Also, keep your gadgets where other people could not easily see them. You may be already flaunting them without intending to do so. I realized that it was my carelessness that attracted whoever took my phone.
  • #4 – The Dopleganger Chase
    • This is another interesting technique which requires more than two people in order to be successful. Robert (not his real name too) was in a bus when he felt someone steal his wallet from his back pocket. He immediately turned around to see a guy rush away from him and get off the bus. Suspecting that this was the thief, Robert also got off the bus and chased the suspect. Because Robert was muscular and athletic, he was able to catch up with the suspect and grab him by the shoulder. He then asked the guy if he could take a look at his wallet. Robert looked at the man’s wallet and discovered that it wasn’t his. More men came to surround Robert and offer that he take a look at all their wallets. Robert looked at each wallet one by one, but failed to find his. He then left disappointed. It was only when Robert was already on another bus that he realized that he could have gotten into some serious trouble. The men who offered him their wallets were all knew each other and were in cahoots with the one who actually did the stealing. One guy stole Robert’s wallet and passed in onto another guy so that when Robert caught up with him, his wallet was already with someone else. The rest of the people in the group simply brought out wallets they stole from other people while making sure to keep Robert’s.
    • How to Avoid This: Men often prefer to keep their wallets in their backpocket but guys, be careful. Also, Robert’s first reaction was to pursue the man who stole from him but he realized how unwise his reaction was. He ended up getting off the bus in an unfamiliar place with a group of guys who were all in connivance with each other. More often than not, your life is more precious than whatever your wallet contains so be prepared to just let it go when it’s gone.
  • #5 – The Subtle Samurai
    • A sumurai can really slice clean and a blade in the hands of an expert can also do the same to our pockets. I was on a bus once and I didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. It was only when I got home that I realized that the back pocket of my pants was cleanly slashed. The damage was obviously not accidental because it was very neatly done. Of course, all my pocket contents were already gone by that time. Luckily, by contents, I just mean P20. The same technique can also be used on bags.
    • How to Avoid This: Avoid putting anything in your pocket that will bulge and make it look interesting. Longer tops that can cover the butt area can also be a slight deterrent against this.
  • #6 – The Horror Taxi
    • Camille (another name I’m just arbitrarily using) rode a taxi from work at around 6pm and we found her kilometers away in a very dark street outside her usual route home passed 2am crying. In between 6pm and 2am, three men got into her taxi, and abused and threatened her. They took all her gadgets, all her atm and credit cards, he phone, everything! This happened just last Christmas season. Luckily, despite minor physical injuries, she was able to go home from the hospital after the incident a day later.
    • Seeing a friend go through the painful process of healing from such a trauma was also painful for me, but I am proud of Camille because she has been really fighting to live her life (and commute) normally again.
    • How to Avoid This: As much as possible, don’t ride cabs alone. If you have to, make sure to text the taxi’s plate number to someone you who will be looking for you in case you don’t arrive at your destination on time. Also, taxi’s in the Philippines are also supposed to have their numbers written inside the cabs, on the doors right below the windows. If the taxi doesn’t have this, you can doubt if its legitimate. Sit at the corner of the back seat and not in the middle where you will just leave space between you and both doors. Finally, make sure to lock the door of the taxi and pay attention to where the driver is taking you.
  • #7 – The Boy Who Cries Werewolf
    • My friend, Andrew (fake name), is a big guy who also rides a motorbike. He was desperately craving for a certain kind of ice cream one night so rode to go to a more or less isolated 24-hour convenience store. Along the way, a boy flagged him down. He later told me that he just thought that the boy was just going to ask him for directions. He stopped and the boy suddenly sliced his lower back with an ice-pick. He didn’t feel the wound at first. He just thought he was punched so he reacted by immediately accelerating to leave the place. At the same time, he saw a number of guys coming towards him. He even bumped into a wall was lucky enough not to fall down during his escape. It was only when he was already on the main road that he realized that his shirt was wet because he was bleeding so he drove himself to the hospital
    • How to Avoid This: Don’t trust just anyone who looks cute and innocent. Try to stick to main roads when driving at night. Oh, and just look for that special kind of ice cream at another time if you can.

The tips I shared about how being a victim of these modus operandi can be avoided are unfortunately no guarantees. If we want a substantially more secure life, we would have to go beyond just personal precautions (without, of course, undermining the importance of these). From a bigger perspective, crimes are symptoms of grave social ills. Our reality is marked by poverty and loss of values. We live in a world where it’s becoming even more and more difficult for us to trust one another. It is from this depressing horizon that I think about January 1, 2013. The end of each year and the beginning of a new one presents me with a choice between despair and hope. And I choose hope. I choose to keep longing and working for a transformed world where smiles don’t have to be second guessed and where gifts are shared, not stolen. Who’s with me?

Christmas at Marikina Riverbanks

I drove to Marikina Riverbanks the other day because I was feeling a bit down. I thought some exposure to nature would make me happy. Well, I sat down by the river but the experience wasn’t exactly rejuvenating. Assorted garbage floated here and there. The water was murky even under the sunlight. And the sight matched the stench. I felt even more depressed. “It’s such a shame,” I thought. Marikina River must have been a wonderful river. And having some place nice to go could have been a treasure for city people like me.  It’s such a shame that more and more generations are deprived of beauty that could really have been.

But then, the place turns into something very different at night; it comes to life! I went back to Marikina Riverbanks and saw some great stuff and activities outside the mall beside the river. The place turned out to be a nice venue to spend time with friends or with a loved one without spending too much. I would even recommend that you check it out. The guard told me that the place is open every night until 12 midnight up to January 16. Here’s the place at night:

Romance and Friendships

Shopping and Bargains

Of course, I have to make special mention: Under the “shopping and bargains” category are also motorcycle stuff and riding gear.

*As mentioned in one of the captions, the helmets are locally made and bear BPS (Bureau of Product Standard) stickers. For more information about this, please refer to my other blog post ICC Stickers for Helmets to Mark the New Year, to Information on the Safety of Motorcycle Helmet by DTI, and Manila Standard Today‘s report about DTI’s requirements.

Food and Drinks

Rides and Games

What I saw in Marikina Riverbanks is the Filipino’s undying spirit— the Filipino’s undying capacity to smile in the midst of problems, to give despite hardships, to find humor in the simplest things and to celebrate life no matter how difficult life may be. The sordid state of the river has not prevented many from riding boats, dating along the banks, shopping and enjoying family time. The tiangge, the rides and all the food remind me of how we Filipinos like putting things together– as we often also do when we decorate our jeepneys, when we mix the main course with the dessert when we eat at parties, and when we prepare halo-halo. All these mark celebration.

I think this smile sums it all up.
I think this smile sums it all up.

At the end of the day; however, after January 16, when the Christmas lights have been turned off and when the decorations are once again put back in their boxes, we have to remember to clean up the river (and many other rivers). After all, Christ came into our the world on that first Christmas to change this world because God meant it to be “very good“. May our celebration remind us of a common hope for a better world and give us the strength to transform our everyday lives, hard work and, yes, even rivers into something that is always worth celebrating.

Spot the Difference

I have two sets of pictures to show you. Can you spot the difference between the two sets?

Set A:

Leslie Porterfield
Deborah DiMiceli
Chithra Priya

Set B:

“Girl on Bike Wallpaper”
“Biker Girl Motorcycle Wallpaper”
“Sexy Girl with Motorcycle”

At first glance, it’s quite easy to notice that Set A presents women fully clothed while the women in Set B are barely wearing anything. The women in Set A are just on their bikes while the women in set B are posing seductively. Moreover, the two sets of pictures come from very different websites. The websites from Set A feature women who are actual riders or those who would really want to ride. Leslie Porterfield is the AMA Racing Female Rider of the Year in 2008 (source: www.big-diesel.blogspot.com), Deborah DiMiceli is a rider from Los Angeles featured by Harley Davidson for Women’s Month in Vanity Fair (source: www.talkingmakeup.com), and Chitrhra Priya is the first Indian woman to finish the Saddlesore Challenge (source: www.motorbeam.com). On the other hand, the websites from Set B simply present these pictures as photos or wallpapers and present no name or story behind these women. One might say that in Set A, the women are subjects who relate to their motorbikes as riders. On the other hand, the women in Set B are objectified–they and the bikes on which the women seem out of place simply function as eye-candy.

Why am I pointing out these differences? I am doing so primarily because of the similarity that, though may be hidden in the two sets,  is truly fundamental. In both sets are real women–whether named or nameless, whether with stories that are told or untold. In both cases (as in all cases), women deserve respect. It is because of this fundamental similarity that I feel obliged to point out the difference. Sadly, it is only in the first set that women’s ability to actually ride and relate is recognized and respected. The types of motorbikes found in both sets require skill to ride–naked sports bike, cruiser, sports bike (Set A); chopper, cruiser, sports bike (Set B). Don’t get me wrong, I am not against women who look pretty and sexy, but I believe that every woman should be recognized and portrayed to be more than a pretty face or a sexy body.

M&M