Bottled juice? No, bottled fuel.

I visited a beach in Bgy Binduyan today. The barangay, <bin-du-yan> is pronounced the way it’s spelled, is one of the 31 rural barangays of Puerto Princesa City.

Route "Bgy Binduyan Map"

Route to Bgy Binduyan

There’s only one road. That road makes up the province-wide road system. It’s called the National Highway (meaning that it’s part of the National Highway system).

You simply follow the highway to get to Binduyan. This segment of the National Highway is beautiful since it snakes around the coastline. There are a lot of curves so you have to be an alert driver.

Binduyan’s center lies at Kilometer 79. I mention that since the signal that you’ve arrived is the kilometer marker. This marker counts the distance between the marker’s spot and a starting point. Bgy Binduyan is 79 kilometers from the starting point–perhaps to the location of the Provincial Capitol Buildings.

But before we got there, I ordered a fuel stop. Binduyan’s 79 kilometers one way. This van probably runs 10 kilometers to a liter. And I had filled up with enough fuel (500 pesos) to buy eight plus liters. Since it’s 10 kilometers to a liter and I bought eight, it meant that I had enough fuel to drive me 80 kilometers. In short 500 could only buy enough fuel for one direction. I needed another 500. As soon as I figured that out, I ordered a fuel stop.

And to my mild amazement, we did stop to buy fuel. At a sari-sari store and that was stored in coke bottles!

"Bottled Fuel" Green unleaded "regular leaded" "retired No Way"

Bottled Fuel - Green is unleaded, other color is regular leaded

Unleaded gasoline, the only type I ever bought in the States, looked unfamiliar in a Coca-Cola bottle.

Unleaded cost 70 pesos per liter bottle. The other type was simply called “regular.” At first I didn’t understand. What was regular? Regular unleaded, I wondered. Then it struck me. Regular was regular leaded.

What The F! Why was leaded gasoline (i.e., gasoline that contained lead in the form of an additive) still being sold? Stateside, mere possession of leaded gasoline in a regular on-road vehicle carries a maximum $10,000 fine. It’s that bad. It’s a bad idea to let lead (which poisons us) be in anything that humans contact. And lead is poisonous not just by  touch, but also by smell. In the Philippines, is leaded gasoline that much more profitable that it’s retained as a choice?

Could it be driven by profits? I don’t think so. Leaded gas contains lead and adding lead, or anything else for that matter, just increases cost. I don’t know. Maybe you know someone who does. I’d love to know.

Further not making sense is the fact that regular leaded was selling for 66 pesos a liter. That’s four pesos cheaper than unleaded. It’s four pesos cheaper for what appears to be a more costly product to make. That doesn’t make sense. Why don’t the manufacturers drop the regular leaded, sell only unleaded, and sell four pesos more per liter? The answer may not be economic. It may be political. I’d love to find out.

Diet Coke or Coke Zero

Diesel was not Diet Coke, Coke Zero, or even a cola. It wasn’t sold. And that puzzled me. Why not? Diesel engines are overwhelmingly preferred in the Philippines. It gets better mileage and diesel fuel is 10 pesos cheaper, per liter, than gasoline. So why not sell diesel to the larger population of diesel engine-powered vehicles? In the province, the largest consumer of diesel fuel are jeepneys. But most jeepneys are public utility vehicles and thus, are maintained so that they don’t run out of fuel. Their owners are more scrupulous. It would be a minor catastrophe if a jeepney ran out of diesel so they don’t allow it to happen. That’s why diesel in plastic liter bottles never caught on.

"Bottled Fuel" Green unleaded "regular leaded" "Retired No Way"

Replenishing my van with unleaded coke

There aren’t enough fuel pumping stations across Palawan. Supply therefore is being met by ingenuity–entrepreneurs selling fuel in recycled bottles.


So who buys gas? Motorcycles of course. Motorcycles have become a very popular part of life here. Surpassing the notion of basic transportation, motorcycles are permanently changing people’s behavior in ways that match the way cell phones did.

Motorcycle Family "Retired No Way" Binduyan

But this is crazy! Count the arms on the father's back. No helmet. A human seatbelt. A young girl human seatbelt.

It’s been an exhausting day. But Binduyan made it worth it.

"Alex Cooper Pronove" "Retired No Way" Binduyan

Alex Cooper enjoying the shade at Binduyan.


One response to “Bottled juice? No, bottled fuel.

  1. East is East, West is West. And It’s not just gas, it’s waaay lot more that causes culture shock. I, myself, am next to the capital in a armed guard protected high class private subdivision with squatter area just around the corner and even yesterday bought an orange coke bottle from my neighbor cause that’s the only one he had and I was also a bit concerned to step outside of the entrance gates.


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