DAVAO CITY--And so it was that I found myself in the front seat of a Route 10 jeepney that I had boarded in Bangkerohan, the city’s premiere market, chatting with the driver. I had spent two hours getting acquainted with the vast complex’s nooks and crannies, familiarizing myself with that ever so lovely aroma of putrescence. Not as piquant as Carbon’s or Pasil’s, mind you, but just as horrid. And I mean that in a very nice way.

I wanted to experience the real Davao and where better to do that but in its marketplace. After all, that’s what tourists do in Hong Kong, Tokyo or even Paris.

As the French would say, “pourquoi pas?” So off I went.

However, this column is not about Bangkerohan. Apparently, markets in the Philippines are so blase. Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.

Some things, however, do stand out. A moro-moro here is a tamarong back home. Or a matambaka is what we would call bodboron. Or was it the other way around? Anyway, a vendor laughed at my ignorance when I wondered, loudly, why the batong was called sitaw. It’s the same thing, she said. Only “sitaw” is Tagalog. Well, pardon my French.

Back to the driver. I was complimenting him on his driving skills. That we were constantly screeching to a grinding halt reminded me of being on an amusement park ride. What was it? Oh yes, the bumper car. No, he was not actually hitting other vehicles or hapless pedestrians, it just seemed like he was.

He told me he had gotten a ticket earlier. Not him, I protested, the Michael Schumacher of Davao City’s infamously long, long roads. Oh yes, he said. He was doing 31 kilometers per hour (kph) in a 30-kph zone. For his violation, he would have to pay a fine of P1,200. He was lucky he wasn’t going 40 kph, he said.

Otherwise, the penalty would have been steeper.

Some traffic enforcers here are armed with speed guns. Yeah, the same ones Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama said he would get for Citom personnel monitoring traffic at the South Road Properties. To prevent fatal accidents that have claimed several lives on the six-lane stretch, Rama proclaimed.

The Cebu South Coastal Road does have its fair share of signs professing the 40-kph speed limit, but no one heeds it. However, I do and I did, on my way to a friend’s house in Talisay City for a lechon get-together last month. My friend’s son, who was my guide, thought I was joking. “Tito,” he said, “even the bicycles are overtaking us.” “Let them,” I said in my most sanctimonious-I-know-better-voice. “Tito, mabugnaw na nya ang lechon.” And so I stepped on the pedal.

Where was I? Oh yes, the jeepney driver. He told me he wasn’t expecting the traffic enforcers to be so diligent at catching speedsters. Not at 6 a.m. But when he spotted them in front of Davao Light on J.P. Laurel Ave. it was too late, he said. They had already aimed their speed gun at his multicab.

I pointed out to him that at least they have the run of the road. Jeepney drivers here can basically do whatever they want within the confines of the law, with only a scowl from the enforcer as a rebuke for stopping in the middle of a busy street to pick up a passenger.

Then I proceeded to tell him what I thought of Davao traffic and its public transportation.

In Cebu City, I told him, size does matter. For more lucrative and longer routes, the jeepneys are bigger, with seating capacity reaching 30 (if you include the stragglers hanging on to dear life at the back entrance), while multicabs are only found on side streets or older neighborhoods where the roads are very narrow.

So why does Davao insist on the multicab? I asked him. Traffic signs here are few and far between. Roads are generally wide, perfect for small buses that masquerade as jeepneys in Cebu.

And traffic can easily be avoided. Davao motorists have several alternate routes going to their destinations. Their Cebu City counterparts have no choice but take the Ban-Tal corridor if they want to go to the city from Banilad. Oh yes, they can go on A.S. Fortuna, turn left on Hernan Cortes or just go straight to the highway. But why would they? The Ban-Tal corridor is purgatory compared to the alternative hell.

Metro Cebu needs to find a solution to its worsening traffic situation. It can’t go on widening roads or building inadequate flyovers. It just doesn’t have the room, unlike Davao, which has plenty of it.

Then the driver asked me, “So what unit do you drive in Cebu?” “Me? Oh no, I’m not a PUJ driver,” I said. He just smiled.