When I lived in the Philippines I bought the wrong car. It was a 1993 Mitsubishi Lancer sedan. It was red, which was why the wife liked it. She had always dreamed of marrying a foreigner and having a red car. I was desperate for my own wheels and the price was right. Thus, The Red Terror was spawned.
The woman we bought it from had covered the dash and rear parcel shelf with soft toys, crucifixes and all sorts of junk. These went before she had even left the yard. The interior was otherwise clean and tidy and the exterior had been cared for; but the mechanicals? I think not.
I quickly learned two things: the location of the Mitsubishi dealer in Cebu and that there were no ‘proper’ mechanics or workshops in Bogo. I had trouble with the cooling system from day one and replaced the radiator, water pump, thermostat, hoses and the manifold before I got that car sorted. The electrics were rubbish and my brother-in-law (the Aussie one married to my sister), re-wired the lighting for me during a vacation trip they made. It probably saved someone’s life because prior to that the lights had gone out on the road from Calape to Bogo and that is one dark mutha of a road. Fortunately it is also pretty deserted after ten at night, bar the odd dog sleeping in the middle of it. Silly sod woke up and sat up… just as we drove over the top of him. He wouldn’t have gotten a head ache and gone off yelping into the night had he remained lying, er, doggo.
Mechanics in Bogo can be found but their workshops are just a few tools and a jack on the side of the road, next to the ‘vulcanising shop’. Tyre repairers often have little more than a bath of water to find leaks with and a candle powered vulcaniser. But they get the job done. One mechanic replaced my shock absorbers by jacking the car up using a bottle jack under the towing eye. I calculated the entire vehicle was held up by contact with just five square millimetres of metal! Then he got underneath it and arc welded a repair… without any eye protection whatsoever.
If I needed a part the mechanic would have to go to Cebu on the bus, with a companion of course, and hopefully be back sometime that day and more hopefully, with the part. No ringing ahead to make sure they had the bit he needed. More often it was the kano customer who made the three to four hour ride each way. I even had the car re-sprayed, in the street! The two painters accompanied me to the paint shop to buy the materials and then did the job on the road outside my house. Forget overspray, every time a trike went past I could see the dust adding character to the duco.
By the time I sold the car it was well sorted. Mechanically it ran very well indeed and so it should given what I spent on it. It had carried six or seven people, three pigs and a stack of stuff over the three and a half years I had it. It had left us by the side of the road once or twice but it taught me a valuable lesson: buy the best car you can afford, which we’ll discuss next time. Buying a Car Part 2