I’m 26 and I just recently learned how to drive. But to be fair, I never really felt the need to. Growing up in the province, my parents drove me to and from school every day. When I entered college, I moved to Manila and stayed at an all-girls dormitory that was only a three-minute walk away from school. It was only when I started working that I felt like driving is an essential skill, although I never really got around to doing it because…well, EDSA.
To say that the traffic in Metro Manila is insane would be an understatement, and you don’t realize this to its full extent until you’re already the one who’s behind the wheel. You’ll have to be on the same road with buses and taxicabs who misguidedly believe that they are the kings of the streets—sorry, not sorry! But personally, this had me scared stiff for the longest time, which was why I’ve never even bothered to try. And then luckily, Top Gear Academy happened.
A brainchild of Top Gear Philippines, Top Gear Academy was born for a very specific purpose—to improve our country’s overall driving condition through the younger generation. In hopes “to address the lack of understanding of the road rules, share lessons in proper road etiquette, and eliminate road rage,” the select students underwent a special driving curriculum with A-1 Driving School. Most of the participants were college students, although after being invited by Top Gear's team publisher Jeff Reyes and associate editor Paulo Subido, I was privileged to be included in the first batch and to experience what Top Gear Academy has to offer. And believe me when I say that I had close to zero knowledge prior to joining the program.
ILLUSTRATION Gab Gutierrez
Each student was required to attend ten hours of hands-on driving lessons. For a month, I dedicated my weekends to Top Gear Academy, trying to comprehend the technical terms and automotive-related jargon to the best of my ability. (I can go on all day talking about why I love Maria Grazia Chiuri’s first collection for Dior despite its familiarity to her work in Valentino, or why Kim Kardashian should already stop trying to make sheer happen. But this whole thing with driving school? It’s basically alien concept to me.) Still, I showed up to all my scheduled sessions. I didn’t miss even a single lecture. In between writing and editing articles about Korean face masks and patched denim jackets, I squeezed all the time necessary for me to really learn and build up the confidence I need to drive along EDSA and get out of it alive.
Of course, learning how to drive was just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re already being taught about the fundamentals of driving, you might as well learn the whole shebang while you’re at it, too. So Top Gear, in partnership with Bridgestone and Ford, also had us go through the necessary seminars—we attended lectures on road safety, Tires 101, and the works. Because whether we admit it or not, these are basic yet crucial issues that drivers in general tend to overlook.
I guess what I’m getting at is that driving is not something that you can learn overnight. You have to put in time and effort to understand how responsible driving works—and I say this not because I’m a girl, mind you. It’s because driving in itself is a big responsibility. This goes far beyond minor car scratches and traffic violation penalties. One wrong turn and you can potentially put lives at risk, and this is why I don’t take any of these lightly. And frankly, no one should.
P.S. I drove going to work today! ;)