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Iligan Tartanilla

Iligan Tartanilla – the former King of the Road!

Listen! clikity clak…clickity clak…did you hear that?

Way before the jeepney, the Iligan tartanilla or “kalesa” (horse-drawn carriage) was the Philippines’ king of the road.

It was the country’s major mode of transportation.

It was then when life seemed simply easy and slow…

Drift back in time for a moment before World War II…back in the 18th century, the “kalesa” now tartanilla, was introduced during the Spanish occupation. And in those years, Spanish nobility and rich Filipinos called the “Illustrados” used the kalesa as their primary means of transportation: for personal travel as well as commercial.

So what happened?

Well, the need for tartanillas diminished after World War II when the jeepney came along. Read the story how jeepney became the king of the road.

Just between you and me, even when the jeepney came, the Iligan tartanilla was still going strong. I’m sure you will agree with me…you see them around town. You see them around schools, in the old market near the pier, basically you see them everywhere!

They were all over the city back then. Back when I was still in high school – when Iligan City National High School was still called Iligan City High School.

Iligan Tartanilla

Ride the Iligan Tartanilla Before They’re Gone For Good

Now allow yourself to imagine…

It was the month of May and the year was 1986… It was my family’s first visit to Iligan. My daughters and husband was just thrilled to see this horse-driven carriage. They were so excited! They have seen horses before in horse races, cowboy movies, and western horse-drawn wagon, but not like the tartanilla here in Iligan.

Obviously, we rented a very special Iligan tartanilla to see Iligan in that way. It was nice slow city tour (a full circle around town).

The kids were ecstatic! In fact, they wanted to ride again. On the other hand, my husband had just about enough after the first block. He whispered, “I feel bad for the horse. In fact, I should get out and walk.” I can’t really blame him; he stands over 6 feet tall, strong, and can walk faster than the horse. He felt guilty riding it. But for the kids, it was truly fun!

Today, many years past, I can still picture my daughters’ little faces with sheer joy and excitement on their first kalesa ride…that was in 1986. Loud and clear! I can hear them laughing and giggling. Memories like these are etched forever in my heart!

Are you beginning to see the simple pleasures in life?

Here’s a thought. Horse-drawn carriage rides are a wonderful way to experience the town.It would be a great tourist thing to do in Iligan. Like New York, they use horse-drawn carriages to tour Central Park. Why not use Iligan tartanillas to your Iligan? How about horse-drawn carriages for rent for a wedding?

STOP! listen to your own thoughts.

The reality is…times must have been hard for the Iligan tartanilla.

Recently, friends traveling to Iligan had such a tough time locating one to hire for a city tour. They eventually found one in Kabulihan but it couldn’t take them to the city proper anymore.
Iligan Tartanilla
…waiting for you

You probably know these horse-drawn carriages are no longer allowed in the main streets of Iligan. A City Ordinance must have banned them from the street routes as they used too.

You can catch one from the Pala-o Supermarket but they can only take you if you’re going to Saray or Tambacan. Also, they are only allowed to use Badelles St.

Clearly, modernization in the city has made Iligan tartanilla outdated. And in today’s fast world, being slow on the road can only mean chaotic traffic.

Horse Throwing a Tantrum

Nobody knows what triggers it. They just get wild and become uncontrollable, but leave it to Mr. Kutsero, the rig driver. He knows exactly what to do.
Iligan Tartanilla

When the horse refused to move, Mr. Kutsero cajoles the horse in hopes that he can move him to proceed to your destination. If the driver can’t control the horse, passengers leave and he is not paid. That is bad business for Mr. Kutsero.

Anyways, cruel it may seem, the driver has to use the whip to discipline the horse. So, when the horse goes crazy, Mr. Kutsero reminds you to keep calm and trust him to bring the horse back to its senses.
Iligan Tartanilla

I’ll be honest with you; I was scared of walking on the street beside one. I was scared the horse would suddenly turn in my direction and smack me! Or be kissed by a horse with a mouth full of frothy saliva.

So either you are kissed or are kicked; not pretty choices I must say. The only good thing that could come out of this if the horse turns into a prince. But, the last time I remember, only frogs turn into princes!

Time to Say Goodbye to Mr. Kutsero

But STOP! Not So Fast.

Saying goodbye to Mr. Kutsero may come soon enough but for now enjoy the Iligan tartanilla as they show off during the city’s Independence Day Parade, Alimyon Flower Festival, and Adlaw sa Iligan celebrations.

Alimyon Festival

Gradually you have seen these kalesas being restricted to roads less traveled. And eventually younger generation would only learn of the tartanilla from history books and stories told by their lola and lolo (grandmother and grandfather).

Imagine having the chance to return to Iligan — not a tartanilla in sight. I don’t know about you, but I could still hear that sound…clikity clak…clikity clak…clikity clak…