Old Transportation in the Philippines: Cebu’s Tartanilla

Tartanilla Driver takes care of his horse at the Junquera Street

The Tartanilla is the chariot jeepney of Cebu, one of the top forms of transportation in the Philippines.

A commuter has many options to take when he wants to get around Cebu. The city is filled with many forms of public transport that you can use at your disposal. Whether you want to go uptown or midtown, there are many vehicles you can take, and you can also mix it up sometimes. The tartanilla is popular, cheap, and historical among the Cebuano populace. If you want an endemic ride among the busy streets, then hop onto one of the oldest forms of transportation in the Philippines.

A tartanilla is a horse carriage ride that traverses downtown Cebu. Coachmen maneuver their steeds to carry passengers among the busy Cebuano communities. These rides will only take you to a select few places, but before, they had much longer routes, and it was ultimately a more popular form of commute. You might even say that it was the only way to commute.

Tartanilla at the Junquera Street

Commuters can experience a horse carriage ride along downtown Cebu, all thanks to the Tartanilla.

History

In the Filipino dialect, the chariot jeepney is known as the calesa. You may have heard that name somewhere, but there is a difference between the calesa and the tartanilla. Calesas (which are found in places like Manila) have seats that are separated through rows. Tartanillas, on the other hand, only have one row with two benches facing each other. These look similar to what we now know as traditional jeepneys.

At one point, horse drawn carriages were the top mode of transportation in Cebu. Back when motor vehicles were in their infancy, Cebuanos were only able to get around Cebu through tartanillas. Passed on from generation to generation, these tartanillas remain today as a staple in the Filipino commute, even with the innovations we are now experiencing in public transportation.

Tartanillas were pretty much the jeepneys of the road. The carriage itself was even painted with notable designs for it to stand out, similar to the jeepneys we see today. City roads were filled with carriages roaming around different Cebu transportation routes. Now, you don’t see a lot of them anymore.

Tartanillas line up at Junquera Street

An itinerary in the Philippines would sometimes consist of a ride on one of these chariots.

Tartanillas Today

Right now, there are only around 100 tartanillas left traversing the streets. The health risks and the many ways on how to get around Cebu are big factors. Times have changed and jeepneys are now the kings of the road. Everyone wants to get home as early as possible, and horse drawn carriages are way too slow. What’s more is that public transportation in the Philippines will be upgraded through the jeepney modernization program, making these carriages even more primitive.

Horses are also under threat of sickness with continued exposure outside. They are not allowed to pass by highways and long roads so as not to worsen the traffic. The gas emissions and the volume of speeding cars could possibly harm them as well.

Only places like Duljo, Tabo-an, and Pasil, which are all very close to each other, are the only places where you will see these horses. Other areas also have tartanillas, but only one or two can be seen passing by. Though it’s difficult, you can’t pass on the chance to get in one.

Leon Kilat Street, located beside the University of San Jose Recoletos, is where most of the couchmen will wait for passengers. There won’t be a lot of competition to get on one, so all you need is to line up and you’ll be in one in no time. The area is also near the Carbon Public Market, so if you want to do some shopping, you can definitely get in one.

This is a great social exercise since only four people are allowed to get onto the back. You can have very memorable conversations with the people you ride with, even if it’s for a short time.

Lasting Presence

Tartanilla crosses the street

Despite many public transport options, the Tartanilla is still a popular mode of transportation in Cebu.

Despite the fact that we all would travel through modern ways, in Cebu, the tartanillas have a lasting presence because of their spot in the culture and society in the Philippines. It isn’t just a form of transportation, but also an activity to boost up the country’s tourism. If you wish to travel to Cebu, you might want to put this on your Philippines bucket list.

Its historical context is similar to that of the public utility jeepney. An itinerary in the Philippines should include a ride in one of these historical items, especially since we’ll never know when we’ll be able to experience them again.

Our ancestors thought of the chariot jeepney as the most important innovation in transportation in the Philippines. A car that was pulled by literal horsepower. It isn’t the most sophisticated form of technology to get on with. You won’t be wowed by an innovation that they started, but you will definitely appreciate the long lasting impact it had on the people in downtown Cebu.

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