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Women, declare your independence—drive

/ 07:00 AM February 10, 2019

It was only this year in Saudi Arabia that women were allowed by the government authorities to drive cars without getting arrested for flouting the law.

Women in the Philippines have been allowed to drive cars since modern times began and are entitled to other freedoms, such as, among others, voting, controlling the family purse strings and traveling out of the country without necessitating the consent of a husband.

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For me, the greatest entitlement that women should avail of, aside from working and having a bank account, is the freedom to drive motor vehicles.

Knowing how to drive is the declaration of independence for women, be they students, millennials, housewives, rich matrons or high-income professionals like doctors, lawyers, bankers, fashion designers, showbiz and corporate executives.

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Having to rely on a chauffeur to accomplish one’s tasks or errands, or to attend meetings and social events makes a woman an extremely dependent person.

Sure, getting around town in a chauffeured car gives some kind of status symbol, but it does not approach the status that the car itself bestows, whether it be a European luxury brand, a costly, late-model SUV or an old, mass-market subcompact tin can.

Women who know how to and continue to drive have their own stories about how they learned to drive.

‘Babae kasi’ 

As a woman who has been driving for 48 years, I don’t advise learning how to drive from your husband. Better go to a driving school.

When I was a young stay-at-home housewife, I nagged my husband (now my late ex) to teach me to drive. It was a guarantee for domestic quarrels.

He was so exasperated with me as a student driver on the road that he would say, “Pinagpapasiyensa ka lang ng ibang driver (The other drivers are just being patient with you),” or remark that I would be better off driving a forklift.

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Obviously, my late ex belonged to the tribe of men who think little of any female’s driving ability—you know, the “babae kasi (it’s a woman driver, that’s why)” attitude.

But, despite this lack of encouragement, I continued to drive and improve my driving skills. I think I can safely say now that among Metro Manila’s motoring journalists, I am considered an excellent driver—despite my advanced age.

Going back to the subject of knowing how to drive makes you independent, I remember the late great writer Chitang Guerrero Nakpil telling me that once, when she scolded her driver while they were stuck in heavy bumper-to-bumper traffic, he turned off the engine, got off, and walked away.

What could Chitang do? She didn’t know how to drive.

Indeed, women who depend on drivers sometimes get their daily schedule upset because of an AWOL or late driver.

Many of my friends who used to drive daily have hired chauffeurs out of exasperation with Metro Manila’s traffic bottlenecks.

When you’re stuck in a traffic snarl, you can take a nap in the back seat or fiddle with your smartphone to while the time away. I also understand that having a chauffeur exempts you from parking problems and is safer at night.

On the other hand, a hired driver won’t treat your car with the same loving care as you do.

So let me cling to my declaration of independence as long as I can. —CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: Driving, Saudi Arabia, Women
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