Philippines’ Habal-habal

One of the common transportation in the Philippines is the Habal-habal. It translates to motorcycle-for-rent-including-the-driver-and-you-the-passenger.

Etymology, Epistemology, and other Ologies

The etymology of the word comes from the local dialect term for animals mating: habal. It must be the position of the people on the motorcycle that is why it is called so. Interestingly, the word is repeated and it signifies in the local dialect that it is actually a pseudo mating. Usually, a stand-alone word that is repeated would mean that it is not the real thing. Enough of the epistemological dimension of the word.

How it Works, or How to Hire One, or How it Works

To the uninitiated, this is how a habal-habal works. You approach the driver, or most of the time drivers of habal-habals mob you, you tell them where to go, you mount onto the motorcycle, off you go to the destination, you get off, pay the driver, and go your way. Well, sometimes a driver would pick up other passengers if you did not pay the driver to be the only passenger. But it is more likely even if you paid more that you will be with other passengers if you are in a remote place where there are only a few transportation available. It becomes a duty for drivers to pick those passengers.

In the Cities

Habal-habals are abundant in cities. They serve as the bridge between inland housing of cities and the main roads where the route of the jeepneys are. In short, they supplement the limitations of the jeepney within the city, as the jeepney has only a specific route to follow. You would literally see them swarming a jeepney that halts at their stop to get the passengers, or them carrying the passengers to the jeepney stops.

In the Provinces

In the islands, like Camotes, Siargao, Guimaras, to name a few, it is the common if not the only mode of transportation. It also swarms in far-flung places like mountainous or cordillera-type places. This is because roads are small and precarious for four wheeled vehicles to pass, or if there are actual passable roads existing.

Types of Habal-habal According to

a type of habal habalThere are different types and shapes of habal-habal. This one at the left is a provincial-type habal-habal. It is a four-stroke motorcycle that is dependable for long distance travel. The one at the picture has an addendum: a make-shift roof. That indicates the travel is far, and the sun beats the road as there are no trees covering it.

Its city counterpart is usually two-stroked, and I would call it city-type habal-habal for obvious reasons. (Sorry I do not have much imagination). They are setup to be fast and sleek to maneuver through the traffic during the day. It is not surprising to know that some habal-habal drivers involve in illegal racing games during the wee hours of dawn with their ride they use  for a living.

So, if you travel around the Philippines, be prepared to meet this curious sight, and perhaps an adventure for foreigners who get used to safety.

You might also like:

Rizal’s Place in History
Season of Lent: Outside Looking In
B as in Banka or Bugsay
When men become doors

Liked the post? Get more by entering your email address here:

Delivered by FeedBurner


  1. cille says:

    this is a great funny post hehehe and you do have a way with words, way to go!

  2. fetus says:

    thanks for the compliment! hehehe…

  3. Cacai M. says:

    Hehehe.. this is a cool post! It made me smile bringing those memories as was still in there.. mind you, I got to ride on that habal-habal.. hehehe.. yep, the one with all that extension! But that is better in far-away places than riding in our slippers, right? :-D Thanks for sharing.. ;)

  4. Sam says:

    Nakakatawa nga ang word na habal-habal. Pero napaka useful talaga ng habal-habal lalo na sa hinterlands na maliit ang mga daanan, rough road pa. Thanks for this nice post and God bless you always:)

  5. Pinoy G says:

    i wish i could ride the habal-habal someday, better yet, travel as much as you do. dami ka siguro pera pang travel. hehe.

    btw, nice, new look for your blog. :)

  6. fetus says:

    uy hindi naman… mga travels to for the past 5 years in my life. ang kokonti pa nga nito eh. :) thanks!

  7. sterndal says:

    meron din habal-habal sa cebu! hehe :)

  8. SA Calbayog City hometown ng mama ko me habal-habal din.
    I haven’t traveled a lot in the Philippines but am looking forward to see the habal-habal in action…
    medyo katakot lang tignan hehehe

    Thanks for the avid dropping of EC to both my blogs.

  9. Kikit says:

    i take the habal-habal everyday to work. mura ko ga-taxi pero open air lang. hehe :)

    btw, pasensya kung dili na kaayo ko kabisita. i miss my old blogging days dwin! :(

  10. kat says:

    ah, the habal-habal does fascinate me. i haven’t seen one with the seat extensions at the sides but i’ve tried riding on one, fortunately there were only two of us as passengers.. i have seen it carry as much as about six (with kids). quite dangerous but it’s probably something you’ll only see in the philippines. :)

Leave a Comment

4 − four =