28 Aug2012

It’s definitely a “double-edged sword” when your Teen announces that she would like to “learn how to drive” this (past) summer. At 16, she is eligible for a student driver’s permit which means she can take lessons, and drive in a vehicle as long as another adult with a valid license is present to guide her. Under Philippine law, she can then convert that student permit into a proper license when she turns 17. Considering the scary statistics for driving, period, let alone, teen driving, one has to take a deep, deep breath before acquiescing. However, learning how to drive is a MAJOR Teen milestone, a sign of independence, a growth in responsibility… and so rather than fight or delay it… Mrs. MM and I both agreed that if she was going to learn how to drive, she might as well do it as professionally as possible.

The first non-negotiable item was that the Teen was to learn on a manual transmission. If she could master the stick, then and only then could she use an automatic transmission car. It seems a bit archaic to insist on this, but we wanted her to be able to drive in a stick shift car just in case, it’s a skill we consider useful. Like if she ever joined the “Amazing Race” series and had to drive in some weird location which only used cars with stick shifts… :) But really, it’s because learning on a stick shift makes you better appreciate how a car engine works, and how gears and speed are related… Of course the other rationale we used is that anyone in their right mind would only buy a fabulous sports car with a stick shift, not automatic transmission… so if she ever aspired to a beautiful two-seater classic sportscar, she would need to be able to handle a stick shift.

The second non-negotiable item was that we would NOT teach her ourself. We sent her to A-1, no, not the steak sauce, the driving school. Ten hours of professional instruction with a driver (whose methods I would probably disagree with)…but it wasn’t me, nor was it Mrs. MM or the Manongs (drivers) she had grown up with. She was a very QUICK study. Within two sessions or 3 hours of lessons her instructor had her driving to Greenhills from Makati, on EDSA and on narrow back roads! On her first day she stalled the car several times, but by the third lesson or so, I don’t think she ever stalled again. It was actually rather amazing how quickly one picks up a skill if they are determined to do so.

Once the formal lessons were over, we made sure the Teen practiced roughly 30 minutes or more everyday for the next month or so. It is here that her Mom and Dad and Manongs layered on the advice to the basic skills she had acquired. We covered safety concerns, parking issues, humps, merging onto fast traffic, de-fogging the windshield, etc. She drove on highways, busy city streets, village roads, etc. She parked the car in our garage, took it out frequently, parked parallel on the road again and again and again. She still thinks 40kph is a nice speed, but was able to nudge herself to 80kph on the highways…

The more she learned, the more we demanded. My dad was a rereational rally car racer, and my brothers race enthusiasts as well, so I learned some tricks from the old man. The Teen had to drive around our village with a plastic glass half-filled with water on the hood of the car, and it couldn’t spill. She nailed the task the first time around. I asked her to drive specific tires of the car onto marked “boxes” on the road in front of our house. A way of teaching her exactly where the tires were. We placed lines of tape on the asphalt and asked her to stop the car so that the front bumper was just shy of the masking tape, a way of knowing where the edges of the vehicle are.

Making sure you have enough gas when you start a trip, checking the back seat when approaching your car in a parking lot before you open the doors (to see if anyone is hiding there), looking around the vicinity before getting into your car, locking your doors, etc. are all the things that one has to drill into the Teen until she thinks they are second nature.

She is still very much a student at this point. But I think she will be a very good driver in the long run. As with anything important that we do in the MM household, I think education, preparation and practice are the keys to success. Oh, I just remembered, have to make the Teen change a tire on her own later today… :) Mrs. MM said that her dad told her that if she got a flat tire, she should get out of the car, flag down a cab driver, and pay him to change the tire. I told Mrs. MM, that wasn’t the way the Teen was going to do it. She agreed. :)



  1. Skye says:

    I’m a new driver myself (already in my mid-thirties with lots of “kaba”) and I just may try that masking tape exercise. Thanks for the tip.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 4:32 pm

  2. scott says:

    From what I have read over the last couple of years, not a doubt in my mind the Teen will be a model driver!, those were actually some pretty good tips MM thank you, and btw driving here in Cebu scares the heck out of me it is all offensive driving for sure.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 5:10 pm

  3. Bong says:

    That was a good decision making her learn to drive a stick shift and not doing the instructing yourselves.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 6:05 pm

  4. Jannah says:

    Funny that when you said you want Teen to learn how to handle stick shift, I was thinking of “Amazing Race” too. I watched an episode where one female driver was crying because she doesn’t know how to drive a manual car.
    When I was taking my driving lesson here in Abu Dhabi, all my “instructors” was asking me why I choose manual car. I got fed up explaining to them why so I just told them I am a driver. But at least my license says that I can drive both manual and automatic car. Expat here can’t buy car without driving license and if your license say automatic car dealer will not allow you to buy manual car.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 6:37 pm

  5. Susie says:

    Gosh..umpteen years ago, I did the A-1 course as well. I am glad I learned from them on the back streets of Makati on a stickshift. I absolutely think women should learn how to drive; I couldn’t imagine being stuck because I never learned how to. I learned how to change a tire, check the oil guage..all that fun stuff, too. When it is M’s time to do all of this, I will make sure she knows how to as well. Well done, Teen :-)

    Aug 28, 2012 | 6:48 pm

  6. bobby says:

    another place to learn how to drive is the honda driving academy at the east service road
    between bicutan and sucat exit they have a very good facility and professionally recently
    sent a batch of truck drivers for a 1 day saferty driving seminar

    Aug 28, 2012 | 7:01 pm

  7. EbbaBlue says:

    I got 2 girls who are now in their 30’s. They learned their driving “education” from me, but the actual practice – hahha – from their dad who is more patient.

    I have to admit that I did not teach them those “safety” issues on the parking lot. I will have to do that myself as I have a practice of just barging in and out of my car without looking around.

    Thanks, I learned a lesson or two in this post.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 8:51 pm

  8. Mimi says:

    A-1! That’s where I learned how to drive over 20 years ago! My elder sister was taught by family members and she may have traumatised them so much (kamuntik mahulog sa bangin and she smashed the rear end of the family car while backing), that I was enrolled in driving school. During my time there were fixers at the LTO offerring to pass you even without taking the written and practical exams! I am proud to say that I got my driver’s license without resorting to this.
    Good luck to the Teen! And Good Luck, MM and Mrs MM! I would be so anxious when my son tells me he wants to drive. And after he gets his DL, new set of rules to make..,

    Aug 28, 2012 | 10:10 pm

  9. Mart says:

    Did the driving instructors take the Teen around town so he/she could do some errands? I think not otherwise we would have another fishpan post instead. :P
    My wife took lessons in Manila around a decade ago and her instructor directed her to drive to the mall then had her park there while he ran some errands. About an hour or so. At least he did have the courtesy to extend their time so total “instruction time” (if you could call it that) was what she paid for.
    When my wife and I took one driving lesson here in the US, we also had a Filipino driving instructor and, believe it or not, she also had us drive to a pinoy store where she had to exchange some phone cards. Sigh.

    I was also going to suggest changing a tire until I reached the end of your post. You have to do it once so you know the proper steps. Before I changed one myself, I used to just think that you just jack up the car and then unscrew the nuts on the tire.

    I think it is better that the Teen learns driving in the Philippines. Cars don’t go that fast compared to streets in the US. But then again, streets in Cebu aren’t that congested compared to streets in Manila.

    Aug 28, 2012 | 11:50 pm

  10. millet says:

    woohoo! and happy trails to the Teen! and blissful slumbers to Mr. and Mrs. MM!

    Aug 28, 2012 | 11:50 pm

  11. Connie C says:

    Oh MM, do not forget: the things Teen needs to know in case of an accident and hope she does not get into one. I learned the hard way as I lost my wits in the process: insurance information , how to react, what important info to jot down, etc. etc.

    Good luck on the new rite of passage!

    Aug 29, 2012 | 1:18 am

  12. Tercer says:

    I feel for you MM. My 16 yearold boy just got his driver’s license last Thursday. My wife being from Holland, we both wanted him to learn on the stick but unfortunately, manual transmissions aren’t readily available here in SoCal. Though I think he’ll still need more instructions and experience to be able to drive safely in Europe especially the autobahn (which I just love!). Just curious, my son’s CA license has restrictions for 1 year i.e. has 11p-5a curfew, minors/teen passengers not allowed, etc., is this same for Phils?

    Aug 29, 2012 | 1:46 am

  13. aprilsful says:

    I too used the A-1 driving school ages ago. ‘Learned stick on a blue beetle and drove around Manila Memorial Park. There were a few cars and no one complained!

    Aug 29, 2012 | 4:41 am

  14. Laine says:

    My grandpa taught me how to drive using a shift stick and in an old car which steering wheel is as hard and heavy as half a sack of rice! And oh, he made me learn go backwards in the rice fields’ pilapil. He he he. Later that day he had to change the muffler.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 5:48 am

  15. Marketman says:

    Tercer, in the Phils, on a student license, you MUST drive with a licensed driver in the car… no curfews to my knowledge. When you do get the full license at 17… I am not sure if there are any time restrictions, I doubt it. Connie C, thanks for that. Yes, basics like where the regisration papers are, what to look for in a police report, etc, photographing the scene, etc.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 6:58 am

  16. Dragon says:

    This post is timely MM – my 25 (!) year old still doesn’t drive!

    I was raring to drive at 17 (eons ago). My dad laid the condition that for me to get a license, I had to take driving lessons. On my first day, my instructor told me I was driving like a taxi driver – :-). Back in Manila, I kind of sometimes still do.

    I have been trying to convince daughter to, at least learn to drive. A couple of years ago, she said she doesn’t want to, nor need to. Weelllll….Australia, even Melbourne, is a huge place and it is really beneficial (if not important) to either have a car or at least know how to drive one. She is very, very slowly coming around (groan…) I have stipulated that she learns the stick as well (hubby and I agree on this as we both know how to drive stick), to which she is amenable. For sure, I will not have the courage nor the patience to teach her or accompany her.

    The system here is interesting but I wouldn’t totally agree it’s efficient. You sit for an exam to get a Learner’s permit (L’s) so you could take lessons. Under the Ls, you have to acquire 120 hours of supervised driving (documented) under various conditions. Then you sit for another exam to get your Provisional plates (P’s). You hold your Ps for 3 years (I think) under two levels (green and red – different restrictions). Under Ls & Ps, you display a card indicating you are such. Under Ps, zero alcohol tolerance, cannot have a full car of passengers, only one passenger allowed, etc. The policies are in place but (1) there is so much room for cheating; (2) penalties can be quite light if caught despite the demerit system; (3) cars are still powerful here and attitude of drivers (young and old) is an issue. The number of drivers being caught with P plates who break the law. Drinking here is not cultured, i.e., drinking here is about getting totally smashed AND then getting behind the wheel of a v6 or worse, a v8. No curfews. And most people say it’s a rite of passage..until these same drivers lose control of these vehicles and their senses. They are wanting to introduce that Ps should not be allowed to drive powerful cars.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 7:45 am

  17. ami says:

    Practice is very important. I learned how to drive at 17 but only got to drive regularly 3 years after. Though I learned stick, I forgot a lot of the fundamentals in the years that passed since I didn’t get to practice what I’ve learned (hanging is a pain). Good thing I’ve only been driving automatic cars since then but I guess if push comes to shove I can still manage to drive stick probably destroying the clutch in the process.
    Mart – my driving instructor took me around town to do his errands too! I even reached Cavite on one errand.
    Changing a flat tire is one useful skill I’ve learned. I’ve done it 4 times already.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 8:38 am

  18. Ted says:

    I believe in Cali the law is, if you are under 18, you have to attend a formal driving class (theory), that’s the only time you can get your learners permit. Then u have to take at least 6hrs of lesson from a licensed professional from an accredited instruction school, and get 50hrs of driving lessons with any licensed driver over 21 (all of these have to be documented). Once you complete all those requirements, you can then take the written test from dmv and not have more than 6 mistakes then an actual driving test. Once you pass all that, you get your driver’s license, but for the first 6 mos of acquiring your license, you can’t be driving alone from 11pm to 5am and you cannot have any passengers under 21. All of these will cost you or the parent between $600-700.

    Most kids wait till they turn 18 so that they dont have to worry about all the above requirements. Once you are 18 you can just register for a drivers permit and pass the written and and actual driving test.

    With 2 kids over 18 now, been there done that. A lot of sleepless nights when they are out and about. Actually caught one of my kids driving with all his friends as passengers, while he was still not allowed to have any passengers under 21. Of course he got grounded for 2mos. and keys taken away ;-(

    Aug 29, 2012 | 10:00 am

  19. Gigi says:

    Just wanted to say I got the RH Bill stickers. Thanks MM!

    Aug 29, 2012 | 10:57 am

  20. la emperor says:

    As Ted similarly pointed out, the hardest part of this “rite of passage” is waiting nervously in the wee hours only to be calmed down by the sound of a car parking in your driveway.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 11:15 am

  21. Kaya says:

    This made my morning: “We sent her to A-1, no, not the steak sauce, the driving school” LOL!

    Aug 29, 2012 | 11:28 am

  22. jay p says:

    good work MM. Proud of you :) will take notes for when i need to do this as well someday.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 12:07 pm

  23. lookie says:

    Welcome to the club MM.It’s nervewrecking and your only relief is when you hear the garage door opening and closing and the footsteps coming to her room.Prayer got me through it. Thank God she now lives in New York and dont have money to pay for parking space so the car has been in the garage.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 1:14 pm

  24. Ging says:

    MM, i wish you were my dad. he never taught any of us to drive, my brother included so he turned out stealing the car one day.

    i took driving lessons after college and bought my own car soon after that. but i had no one to teach me the basics about parking so i always ended up hitting posts, gates, and other vehicles as i turned into parking lots. and i never learned how to parallel park or park “butt” first, so there, i always needed a wide space where i could position the car hood first.

    nowadays, i dont drive anymore, i have driver. and when he is absent, on his day off or when he goes off duty at 7 pm, i have to take cabs or rely on friends to take me around :-(

    The Teen is lucky to have supportive parents like you and Mrs. MM :-)

    Aug 29, 2012 | 2:29 pm

  25. PITS, MANILA says:

    you’re a dad, MM — and it shows!

    Aug 29, 2012 | 2:48 pm

  26. Marla says:

    I so agree with learning how to drive a stick! It’s also the better car to drive through some water with. Might be another safety skill to add to the Teen’s education given how a sudden downpour can cause even just minor flooding in some streets.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 4:02 pm

  27. Marketman says:

    Ging, it’s never too late to pick up the skill again. Just 10-20 hours of instruction and a bit more practice… will make you mobile whenever you want. :) We have drivers too, but I drive myself fairly often.

    I forgot to mention that there is a positive thing from all of this… now there is someone to “order” around to get some bread or some eggs from the grocery… or drop by Mercury Drug for some medicine… :)

    Aug 29, 2012 | 4:07 pm

  28. Teresa says:

    Interestingly there’s a cup near the windshield. Just the other day i saw a phone application much like a cup of water on the dash board. Well that is you have to place the phone on the dashboard…the more water spilled the less you are of a good driver. The graphic visual is the top view of a full glass of water. :-)

    Aug 29, 2012 | 4:31 pm

  29. renee says:

    Fun! I remember when she used to be the known as The Kid and The rest of us were proud virtual tito’s and tita’s when you said she loves dark chocolate and other gourmet food.

    Aug 29, 2012 | 7:44 pm

  30. Connie C says:

    When asked if my newly turned 16 year old grandson is excited about the prospect of learning how to drive, he was lukewarm, if not cold about the idea. He says he is afraid he would be sent on errands. Kids….. these days……

    Aug 29, 2012 | 11:37 pm

  31. tercer says:

    Very funny about teen driving and first car. Enjoy.

    Aug 30, 2012 | 3:28 am

  32. Getter Dragon 1 says:

    ‘The more she learned, the more we demanded. My dad was a rereational rally car racer, and my brothers race enthusiasts as well, so I learned some tricks from the old man. The Teen had to drive around our village with a plastic glass half-filled with water on the hood of the car, and it couldn’t spill. She nailed the task the first time around “.

    Its a real life Initial D (or Initial Z…get it?)

    Attn: Teen – The anime is better than the HK produced live action.

    Aug 30, 2012 | 5:47 am

  33. Betchay says:

    Congratulations to the Teen on this new achievement! I learned how to drive in my mid 30’s so I could bring my son back and forth to school. I remember I cried when my hubby forced me to practice repeatedly! Ha!ha!ha! I was so nervous driving side by side with jeepneys, tricylcles and buses and being stuck on traffic ascending a bridge( I learned on Manual) but in hindsight if he didn’t do what he has done, I might still be relying on drivers. Driving is a skill and gives you a feeling of independence and freedom! Good for emergencies too! BTW, it is payback time, my son now drives me around occasionally! :)

    Aug 30, 2012 | 7:39 am

  34. marilen says:

    Alternately, happy and nerve wracking moments when my children learned how to drive. Best idea, MM, that they learn how to drive stick shift.

    Aug 30, 2012 | 9:10 am

  35. melody says:

    i still haven’t nailed parallel parking. i remember one time when my bro was trying to teach me that by making me park between two trash bins. i kept hitting one or the other. exasperated, he told me, “it’s not as if they could MOVE, you know”. also, i avoid bridges/flyovers as much as possible. hanging is such a pain.

    Aug 30, 2012 | 10:19 am

  36. bagito says:

    Ginger is an “adult” so she can accompany The Teen on errands. ;)

    Aug 30, 2012 | 1:00 pm

  37. Pam says:

    Wow. Teen is very lucky to have you and your wife as parents. I am so happy that another responsible driver will be added to the road! I hope that when it’s my child’s turn to learn how to drive, I will be as patient and as responsible a teacher as you both are.

    Aug 30, 2012 | 1:06 pm

  38. Skye says:

    Ging, you may want to enroll at Honda Safety Driving Center along East Service Road (after Bicutan exit SB). They have their own track where you will drive around before going outside. The on-road sessions is not sufficient so you really have to practice driving. Parking (vertical and parallel) is also taught. Before you’re given a certificate you’ll have to drive without instruction (service road and SLEX) and you have to get no more than 20 demerits.

    Aug 30, 2012 | 1:09 pm

  39. greens_blossoms says:

    Melody – I am just like you…no parallel parking and hate hanging…Parallel parking for me is if I am the one at the start or end of the line – nothing in between or I will be stuck until the car in front of me or at the rear has left….When I had to drive a manual car I would ask for silence inside the car as I make “timpla” the gas and clutch….

    Aug 30, 2012 | 5:31 pm

  40. MP says:

    My Dad made sure my siblings and I learned how to drive after we had an emergency at home and our parents were out with the driver and no one could drive my brother to the hospital! I distinctly remember dreading the driving lessons as my teacher was a bit on the heavy side and was sweating profusely even with the AC turned on! I gifted him with a few face towels after I passed the written and practical exams!

    Melody and Green Blossoms, maybe it is a gender thing but most of those that I know who have problems with parallel parking are women, me included!

    Aug 30, 2012 | 7:47 pm

  41. KB says:

    I live in the US and I am reading this blog for my philippines culture class. I was just curious whether or not there is an actual driving test that you have to take to either get your permit or license in the Philippines.

    Aug 31, 2012 | 3:33 am

  42. Marketman says:

    KB, yes, there is an actual road test with parallel parking, three-point turns, etc. given before you are granted your permanent license. I actually took my driver’s license test in New York City many decades ago, and it wasn’t that difficult at all…

    Aug 31, 2012 | 7:21 am

  43. Cai says:

    A friend enrolled in a driving school and the instructor made her drive from Alabang to Tagaytay to buy fruits hahaha!

    Stay safe The Teen!

    Sep 3, 2012 | 10:36 pm

  44. GayeN says:

    Just like The Teen, I learned to drive just this past summer and also on a stick shift. I’m already in my mid 30’s and decided it’s time I need to learn rather than hire someone to drive for me. I got my license almost three weeks ago, no fixers but it took me almost 6hours at the LTO.

    Sep 11, 2012 | 1:41 am

  45. rita_n says:

    driving is far better when driving a stick. even when my husband and i were living in the States, we’ve always bought cars with manual transmission. so when we finally visited the States and we had to rent a car, we had to deal with automatic cars, because stick is few and far between. sigh.

    Sep 15, 2012 | 7:44 am


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