Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Kuliglig: Philippines' "Modern" answer to "Old" Benz's Motorwagen

The Kuliglig: Philippines' "Modern" answer to "Old" Benz's Motorwagen

It was a year ago when this writer had remembered vehicles then dominating in the streets of Manila.

Those vehicles, somewhat reminiscent of Karl Benz's Motorwagens and Ford's Quadricycles in its how-to, had to be started manually by a pulley system as a drive train contrary to the usual key used in cars, jeepneys and even motorcycle driven pedicabs. Quite indigenous so to speak that since the Motorwagen had to be started by steering the flywheel, the Kuliglig had to use a pulley to start the engine straight and man over. 

Originally known for a two-wheeled trailer, and a handy tool for farming and other agricultural purposes, the Kuliglig had became known as a transportation vehicle similar to a pedicab. Obviously, its steel frame had to be similar to a pedicab and fitted with a diesel engine in order to run. Its procedure had been similar to a boat in starting its engines prior to running.

How wonder working class Filipinos in downtown Manila afford to create such vehicles especially in carrying vegetables from the port to the market such as in Quiapo or Aranque. That, those vehicles, reminiscent of Ford or Benz's in their early vehicles, used manual especially in starting its engines. Most had no keys and instead having ropes to start the wheel; and of course, they use gasoline especially diesel.

In fact, not all Kuligligs are similar to those from Manila nor look as much same as the rural one. In the provincial towns, it even made similar to a jeep but a three wheeled version. Again, using the same engine to man the wheels as farmers, also as traders had to drive people if not their produce from the farm to the market; and with all with their ideas regarding improvisions are perhaps as if similar to the inventors of long ago whose engines ran in steam and few on paraffin and gasoline.

The difference? the latter made the engine, the former just had bought the engine from a supplier. But both of course had enough ingenuity to create something different yet out of purpose. Farmers didn't create the vehicle or rather say bought the engine for nothing, it took months or a year to concieve an idea to make something possible other than a hand tractor or a mill, or a water pump to make things least easier.  While in Manila, wherein some of the roads as narrow, Kuliglig and its motor-tricycle Pedicab had to pass to transport vegetables if not for a shortcut due to traffic aside from ordinances disallowing them to enter public roads such as Recto, Avenida or Morayta.

Otherwise, quite strange as well for the Government not to support local craftsmen, if not inventors who took time concieving an idea and improvise, if they do, more of a paper statement and telling people "they're expressing concern" over those who had spend time doing their craftsmanship better. Sadly, some people desribed alot that Kuliglig had been known for noise, pollution, hindrance to traffic and other matters that made the Manila City government attempting to ban altogether that resulted to a protest action that happened two years ago.
Most drivers had been wounded and arrested because of their right to livelihood, they even provide proofs that their vehicles don't do smoke as they use unleaded gasoline or they can seriously observe traffic rules and regulations including those of disallowing themselves to enter public roads like Recto or Avenida. But then, people in Manila would say that those vehicles are rather eyesores that they wanted altogether to be banned in the capital's roadways.

What a crappy reason to say so if that's the case to think about those vehicles as eyesores. Like Jeepneys, these are byproducts of native ingenuity and appropriate technology (appro-tech) as they improvise things that are supposedly temporary. Jeepneys are made due to lack of mass transport such as the pre-war Tranvia. However, the influx of cars, and government's near aloofness in urban mass transport made the idea of reviving the Tranvia never happen until it was superseded by the LRT at Avenida and MRT at EDSA. Idealistically speaking, mass transport, other than easing traffic, also meant for easier, faster transport of goods especially in urban enclaves.

But despite these, how come jeepneys survived as well as Kuligligs and Pedicabs in Manila and other parts of the metro? To think that the Manila city government had even banned Kuligligs in every street especially in downtown Manila! But anyways, despite all the events that happened affecting those vehicles, it's up to the drivers and craftsmen how these vehicles survive. Of course, they wanted improvement and modernity as well in order to provide a good transition. Again, few dared to heed the call of modernity in making things happen from the engine, applying airconditioning, to the appearance to make itself presentable and modern.

In a way that Tuktuks in Bangkok, Thailand somehow they had been trying to be presentable and modern as possible rather than contented as what people see about Pedicabs or Kuligligs in Manila. Jeepneys at least had tried to improve in a way from having air conditioned jeeps to the "E-Jeepneys" sponsored by the Department of Energy and Greenpeace. For in fact, the idea of "just" improvision, no matter how it helped in making these happen isn't enough so to speak nowadays with craftsmen trying to make new things, march with time rather than getting contented and eventually left out not not offering themselves their own transition to a new kind.
The Kuliglig itself had been a variety of uses and perhaps willing to improve more other than a transport for vegetables and people same as the Pedicab. It needs some improvement alot nowadays in order not to be deemed as eyesore in the eyes of the near-choosy "thinking class" as Henry Ford and Karl benz did in their prime years as craftsmen in the beginnings of automobile industry. 

But the good thing? Least that the Kuliglig itself had been trying to relieve what the Motorwagens had made, yet least abit "modern" out of being "purpose-driven."

Anyways, kudos to the makers whom perhaps trying to replicate, no matter how they tried to look "modern", the craftsmen of the past.