The Habal-Habal is one of the basic modes of public transportation used in the southern provinces of the Philippines, especially in far-flung areas of Mindanao. Basically, it is a motorcycle that is modified to seat more than two persons. The invention of it was originally inspired by the need to come up with an alternative mode of transportation in places where tricycles and jeepneys (or any four-wheeled vehicle) cannot traverse; such as steep, narrow, rough and mountainous roads). However, due to its reliability and affordability, it has become a popular ride not only for locals but also for tourists who would like to try it out.
There are two types of Habal-Habal. The simpler type has an extended seat which protrudes over the back wheel. It can accommodate up to five persons, including the driver.
The more complex type of the Habal-Habal can accommodate up to thirteen persons together with their baggage. It is modified to have wooden planks installed on both sides of the motorcycle which serve as extended seats for passengers. Some Habal-Habals have an added canopy or a light roof to shield the passengers from rain and sunshine. In some parts of the country the complex type of Habal-Habal is called Skylab. The origin of the name trace down to either of these two sources: from the Skylab space station which has resembling structure or from the local phrase “sakay na, lab!” which directly translates “get on, love!”
A Habal-Habal carrying a bunch of people is an incredible spectacle to behold. Who would not be amazed or wonder how the driver manages to balance the motorcycle with such amount of load? Ridiculous as it may seem, this trusty ride is common and an efficient way to transport people and goods in places like Davao and Cebu. You might also be surprised to know that a Habal-Habal can transfer different sorts of goods, ranging from personal baggage and market items to poultry and even livestock.
Despite its popularity and general availability, the Habal-Habal is actually an illegal mode of public transport due to safety concerns and contradiction to existing laws. However, just recently, a proposed ordinance was submitted by the local sector in coordination with the Land Transportation Office and the Department of Transportation regarding the regulation of Habal-Habal operations, particularly in Cebu City.