Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Good ol' Gas Days

A visit to the gas station nowadays feels like going to a dentist for tooth extraction—both are painful. Every time I drive by the gas station near our house, the posted gas prices seemed to be a million dollars more than the previous day. Every person that visits the pump grumbles and feels that they are being robbed clean. Though there are a lot of wise ways to save fuel, many still miss the most effective way to save fuel and that is to ease on the gas pedal while driving. A few minutes of delay getting to one’s destination could save a substantial amount of fuel.

Back in 1963, the price of gasoline for Philippine government vehicles is 18 centavos per liter while a private vehicle pays an additional 3 centavos per liter gasoline tax making the total price of fuel to 21 centavos per liter.

During the Pacific war in the 1940s, lots of cars and buses in Manila used charcoal as fuel because of the shortage of gasoline supply. The Japanese military mostly controlled the fuel supply of the Philippines.

In Manila during the Japanese occupation, the best known transportation was the streetcar or tranvia which was operated by Meralco. Horse drawn caretela and calesa were also the popular mode of transportation. The well-to-do residents of Manila use the docar which was built like a car but pulled by a horse. There were also the caretela bus that had open sides for passengers to board and were pulled by two horses

A Manila resident named Larry Henares claims that during World War II, his father invented a contraption called IPOPI Charcomobile. This clever invention contained a large barrel size gas generator that is usually installed on the back of a car or bus and it uses coconut charcoal as fuel. The furnace inside the barrel would generate carbon monoxide which is flammable. Carbon monoxide would then be filtered and directed by a large tube to the carburetor which would fuel the engine. IPOPI stands for Industrial Products of the Philippines Incorporated. But many Filipinos jokingly gave it another name which was: “Itulak Para Omandar Pag ‘Into” (Push to start when it stops). IPOPI vehicles were also known to be underpowered. Every time it reaches an uphill road or an arced shaped bridge, all its passengers had to get off the vehicle and push it up the hill or over the bridge.

The idea of retrofitting vehicles to run on charcoal was resurrected in the later part of the1970s and early 1980s in the Philippines. I remember seeing a number of Philippine government pickup trucks that were fitted with two small charcoal burning barrels behind the cab of government owned pickups. Before the driver is able to drive these fuel saving vehicles, he/she has to first light the charcoal inside the barrel and wait for the charcoal to burn and produce carbon monoxide (not dioxide) before the driver is able to drive the vehicle. Since the vehicle was a bit cumbersome to operate, when the gas crisis eased out a bit, all of the charcoal vehicles were converted back to using regular gasoline.

The world wide gas crises back in 1973 created quite a scare among motorist because nobody ever expected to see a gas shortage on a world wide scale. I was an elementary school student when the gas shortage happened and I remember seeing signs being put up by gas station owners saying that they can only sell a few liters per car. Gas stations would sometimes sell gasoline to the first 50 cars then announce that they are out of gas. Enterprising people would line up at gasoline stations with containers to fill up which they would in turn resell to other motorists desperate enough to pay their exuberant prices.

During the gas crisis, my father never lined up at the gas station to buy gasoline for his Mazda car. One of his close friends owned a Shell gas station near the San Francisco Church in downtown Naga city. An hour after the gas station put up their “WE ARE OUT OF GAS” sign and the crowd of motorists had left to search for gas scalpers, my dad would quietly drive to the gas station and the owner would fill my dad’s car with gas. I guess it always pays to know people in gas places.

Twenty years ago here in California, the average gas price at the pump was $1.16 per gallon. I owned a small Toyota Corolla and $12 would normally fill my gas tank. There was even an outrage among gas consumers during the early 1990s when the prices went up to $1.27 per gallon causing people to cut back on gas consumption. If my memory serves me right, I think it was in 2000 when the prices of gas dove down to an all time low of $0.89 per gallon. It became so low that everybody was filling up their gas tanks and gas guzzling SUVs were flying off the car lots of car dealerships. One day while I was filling our van with gas, I decided to take a picture of myself with a gas price sign behind me showing the gasoline price of $0.97 per gallon. I took the picture because I knew that the low priced gasoline is just temporary and will shoot up again after a while. As expected, it went up days after that picture was taken and it rarely went down again.

Though pain is felt on every visit to the pump, we can ease the sting of the experience by using alternative or traditional ways of getting to other places. Walking or riding a bicycle are the best known ways to travel to other places and the effort will only costs you a small bundle of calories. This spring and summer seasons, try saving a few gallons of gasoline by leaving your car in your garage. Go around your city the way our parents and grand parents used to do it during their time—by walking. You will be surprised to discover that the old ways are sometimes the better way.

Riding through the good ol’ times.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

very informative, thanks

12:07 AM  

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