Vintage calesa joy ride never fades

LAOAG CITY, February 24 (PIA) – Despite the dominance of motor vehicles on the road, the demand for calesa-ride remains high as a preferred mode of transportation in this city.

The calesa (horse-drawn cart) is a centuries- old transport facility in Laoag City introduced during the Spanish colonial period.

It is nearly extinct in some areas but largely preserved in several parts of the country particularly in the Ilocos, Isabela, Cagayan Valley and some cities of Metro Manila.

Apart from Laoag City, the calesa still rules in Vigan City in Ilocos Sur, Ilagan City in Isabela; and Tuao and Tuguegarao City in Cagayan. The transport vehicle is used in Intramuros and Binondo in the city of Manila.

For now, the horse-drawn cart is used as public conveyance by the residents down to the poblacion and public markets and by tourists in visiting local attractions.

Roel Respicio, president of the Kalesa Association of Laoag with some 200 kutsero–members, believed that the calesa is a lasting transport facility in the city.

“When I took the reigns as president of kutsero group few years back, we only have 140 members. We have grown to 187 kutseros (calesa driver) who are subject for registration to become member,” Respicio said in Iluko dialect.

He said the calesa’s popularity will never diminish because it is a symbol of the Ilocanos’ rich cultural heritage that is being preserved by the city government.

“It is environment–friendly and a source of livelihood for many villagers who own horses and carts,” he added.

At least 50 percent of the city’s kutseros are senior citizens, the oldest is 80 years old while the rest are in their 40s and 50s.

“Calesas don’t depend on oil. We only need fresh grasses and rice brands to maintain the strength and endurance of our horses,” Respicio said.

Most of kutseros ply the city at an average of 4-5 hours daily from 8 a.m. to 12 noon or at 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

A kutsero earns an average daily income of P500. At present, the minimum fare for calesa ride is P11 per passenger and P150 for an hour rental.( Freddie G. Lazaro/PIA- 1 Ilocos Norte)