I finally got my driver’s license, albeit a temporary one. To say that this is a milestone for me is an understatement—it took me many hours, a lot of money, and stressful months to learn how to drive a stick. I had an irrational fear of driving and it took me a while to get past that. It didn’t help that I have an extremely challenging driveway (zero clearance!), plus the craziness that is the streets of Manila.
I don’t know exactly how I got over my fear, and in fact, I still get scared when I’m on the road. If you have no other choice and you must drive a manual car, there is no getting around it: you’ll have to keep practicing. It’s the only way for you to allay those fears. In my case, I did it slowly but surely for four months and for the sake of my mental health, with a few weeks of rest in between. Many driver-friends advised me to keep on going and never stop so I won’t lose momentum, but in my case, I found that I got better after each mini break.
Smart Driving School was able to teach me the basics, but it was an amiable and extremely patient neighbor who was able to improve my skills. (In fact, Smart wouldn’t endorse my LTO application. I’d sour grape further, but to give them credit, I did learn my basic driving skills from them.)
Early this month, I felt ready to apply for a driver’s license in LTO East Avenue all on my own.
* * * *
Everything I needed to know about applying for a new driver’s license, I learned from this dude. (Isn’t it funny that you don’t get all these info from the LTO website itself?)
I got there at 7 a.m., and immediately, a bevy of fixers descended on me. I ignored all of them—I only talked to the security guards to tell me which building to go.
I first had to get a ‘medical exam’ a bureaucratic process that merely confirms what your height, weight, clearness of vision, and blood pressure are. This needs to be done by an LTO-certified doctor. One of the fixers—even without my asking—led me to one. (I was going there anyway, based on the instruction of the LTO guard.)
Note: The ‘clinic’ is at the end of the third floor of the building (with the spiral staircase outside) at the intersection of East Avenue and Magalang St. Afterward, proceed to the LTO office, to the compound where the Office of the Assistant Secretary is. The applications and driving test sites are somewhere in front of that building.
While I was at the ‘clinic,’ the fixer tried to get me to avail his services by saying that:
- the application will take the entire day (not true; it took me half a day)
- the entire process cost P1,500 (not true; it cost me about P1,000 in total, including the car rental for the driving test)
- that he has ‘contacts’ inside the department (
If you can truly drive, you don’t need one; actually, you should never resort to using a fixer’s services.)
Basically, don’t believe ANYTHING the fixer says. When I stood up to leave, he asked for a ‘balato‘ (or tip—I ignored that, too).
- The Public Assistance Desk, the first step in the process, opened at about 8 a.m; the clinic was open by 7 a.m.
- For the written exam, go to this site—the questions I encountered were ALL there.
The practical driving exam
The course: you drive out of your parking slot, stay on the right lane, make a few turns, go up a steep ramp, then do a reverse parking back to your original slot. For manual driving, the car is a tiny Suzuki.
There were about five examinees ahead of me. The first one took several attempts to do a reverse parking. I’m not sure if he passed—I was about to faint out of nervousness at this point, lol.
The second and fourth examinees failed: the former immediately stalled, then it took a couple of minutes for him to get up the ramp—when we saw the car coming down, it was the examiner who was already driving.
Number four kept stalling and never even made it out of the parking slot. Needless to say, he didn’t pass.
The third examinee passed without any hitches. She drove an automatic.
Number 5 did two attempts at reverse parking. He passed.
When my name was called for the test, I was a nervous wreck. Ako kaya si Boy Staller! Lol. I stall every time—even if I was driving my car during my lessons with our neighbor; what more if I was to drive this Suzuki for the first time!
Check the car’s surrounding (for show), adjust the mirrors and your seat, wear your seatbelt, and pull down the hand break. In my case, I also asked the examiner for a few seconds to get a feel of the clutch, accelerator, and break because it seemed important that I do not stall, based on the results of the previous examinees. (If you are going to do this, make sure you are on neutral and your hand brake is on.)
Once I settled in (it all took me about half a minute), I set off. I was clutch-driving the entire time, lol. I used my turn signals; stopped a few seconds when I was asked to make a right turn; stayed in my lane; and drove pretty slowly. I also did my reverse parking in one take :-). I’ve never been happy to receive a grade of 79, lol. (Passing score is 70.) I thought that except for the clutch driving, I deserved a higher score, but I didn’t care at this point as I was only too happy.
I can honestly tell you that if I can do it, so can you. My driving skills absolutely sucked when I was still learning, but hey, I did not even stall during the test and I got the reverse parking correctly in one attempt. (Though I eventually rear-ended a couple of cement barriers days after the test at home, lol.) Good luck, or keep practicing!