If you Google riding kalesas in Manila, you’ll be put off by the number of stories you’ll read about kutseros (kalesa drivers) cheating passengers. But I really wanted Luke to experience riding one, so we decided to go anyway. Mor and I just seriously kept on praying that we’ll meet an honest kutsero who won’t cheat us.
And God sometimes has funny ways of answering our prayers!
Riding Kalesas in Manila
Riding a kalesa, also known as a horse-drawn carriage, is now a novelty, even in downtown Manila. I used to ride kalesas frequently with my mom whenever we were at the area because they were cheaper than hailing a cab. But now, they’re used mostly just for tourism. Not to mention that the kalesas now look nothing like the kalesas we used to ride! I call these “glorified kalesas!“
In an effort to encourage Luke to appreciate his country at a young age, we decided to take him around Intramuros and its surrounding areas. The main goal for the day however was to take a kalesa ride!
Kalesa Fares and Dishonest Kutseros
According to what I researched online, if you take a kalesa ride from Intramuros, it will cost you around P500/30 minutes. If you take one at Luneta, just near The National Museum, it will cost around P350/30 minutes.
Dishonest kutseros however, would apparently say P500 at the beginning and take you around for hours. Then after the ride, will say it was P500 per 30 minutes per person so you’ll definitely be shocked when they tell you the final bill! They could charge you anywhere from P2000-P5000 with that kind of scam!
Obviously, we were horrified at the thought of being cheated but we really wanted to go for Luke’s sake so we decided to just go ahead with the plan. We just prayed to God that He will give us an honest kutsero. At the back of our heads though, we were also devising several back-up plans in case we encounter a scammer. Haha!
Choosing our Kalesa
We decided to go to The National Museum because as noted above, fares were supposedly cheaper there. The moment we got out of our car, we were immediately greeted by a kutsero asking us if we wanted a ride. We asked him how much a ride was and he agreed to giving it for only P250!
Of course, it seemed too good to be true especially because we were expecting funny business so we clarified it to him that we wanted to ride for only 30 minutes and that the P250 was for all of us already. He said yes, for real, it’s just P250!
Little did we know that this guy was really the real deal, and more!
Meet Kuya Jaime and His Amazing Story
We asked Kuya Jaime Mayor about being a kutsero and he tells us he’s been doing this for 34 years. He also said he has 4 kids whom he was able to send to school just from his kalesa earnings. As we got talking more, he then casually tells us the story about how he once returned money that belonged to a foreigner amounting more than P200,000!
He said if I search his name on YouTube I would find him, and no kidding, I really did (you can watch a link to the news report here!) He was even awarded at Luneta Park because of what he did and shared his excitement about meeting past president NoyNoy Aquino.
We prayed for an honest kutsero and got one who was given awards because of his honesty! How amazing is that?
Our Pleasant 30-minute Kalesa Ride
We had a wonderful kalesa ride. It was just a short trip around the area but it’s been a while since I visited Manila and I really felt like a tourist going around an unfamiliar place.
Luke had fun riding this huge kalesa, which could easily fit 6-8 persons. I wonder what he’ll think about the old kalesas I used to ride. Haha.
The pleasure is always mine whenever I take this little boy out. My little traveler in the making.
Stopping by Rizal Park
We asked Kuya Jaime if we could stop by Rizal Park (a.k.a. Luneta Park) just to take a few photos and he agreed. It’s funny how Mor and I have passed by Rizal Park countless times but we never really went down to check the place out. Happy we got the chance to do this now; I’m no longer a stranger in my own city!
“Whatever it is, I didn’t do it, okay?!” I asked Luke to raise his hands like he was saying “YAY!” but he did this instead. Haha.
After this stop, we just went back where we began. We paid Kuya Jaime, took some more photos with him and thanked him for a wonderful ride. Then we went on exploring the area, which I’ll tell you guys more about next time.
I saw this kalesa when we got out and was secretly very impressed! Haha! I love how there are lots of different kinds of kalesas here. I’ll be sure to try the other ones the next time we visit.
Tips and Things to Remember:
- Number one tip: Look for our kutsero, Kuya Jaime Mayor, and get him. Haha!
- Get a ride at the National Museum instead of Intramuros for a cheaper fare.
- Agree on the rates beforehand; clarify the duration and number of pax.
- If you can, offer to pay before the ride begins so that he can’t backtrack anymore.
Have you ridden on a kalesa in Manila before? How was your experience like and do you have any tips you wanna share? Leave a comment below!