Much has been said about the lowly kamote. The sweet potato grown in the Philippines is said to have originated from South America and was brought here during the Spanish colonial times through Latin American trade routes.
As a root crop rich in fiber and carbohydrates, it is the staple food for many. The root of the kamote is often boiled and then eaten with sugar. Others deep fry it in brown sugar resulting in another favorite snack, the kamote-cue. In recent years however, this tasty local delicacy has gotten some bad rap.
Motorcyclists who violate road rules or figure into avoidable accidents have been labeled as “kamote riders” not only by four-wheeled motorists but also by their riding peers. The term has become a popular meme for almost all incidents involving motorcycles which begs the question, do errant motorcycle riders deserve this unsavory association?
The need for mobility has seen the demand for motorcycles rise exponentially in the country. According to MotorCycles Data, the last seven years has seen a 300% increase in motorcycle sales in the country. And despite losing 30% of sales in 2020 due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the industry still saw a total of 1.68 million units sold last year.
The low to medium class has seen a surge in demand for the two-wheeled machines. With vehicular traffic causing so much delay during commutes, more and more people are resorting to personal mobility as their means to get from Point A to B.
Moreover, the growing demand for motorcycles in the last few years was fueled by the back-riding and delivery businesses. Both offer additional sources of income for those struggling to get by. And with the Big Four Japanese motorcycle brands – Honda Philippines, Yamaha Motor Philippines, Kawasaki Philippines, and Suzuki Philippines revealing their top-selling models for 2020 are of the 125cc to 150cc variety, one can easily deduce that most of the new motorcycle owners are of the low-income class.
In addition, the ease by which these riders can avail motorcycles via dealers that craft low deposit or low monthly payment loans, as well as dubious driver’s licensing acquisition, has led to the proliferation of many undeserving motorcycle riders on our streets. But why the connection to the kamote?
Apparently, in local lore, teachers telling a slow-learning student to “Just go home and plant kamote” is their way of saying that the child is a dunce, an idiot or a moron. That because of their stupidity, they would amount to nothing in society and would better be off just growing a root crop in their backyards. In our vernacular, “bobo.” Thus the correlation of dumb motorcycle riders with the humble kamote was established.
Admittedly, as a law-abiding motorist, watching “Kamote Rider” compilations on YouTube (and there are many), as well as coming into contact with such motorcyclists on the road, gets my blood boiling. And I am sure it gets yours too. For one, the wanton disregard for road rules that you do your best to adhere to is infuriating. And second, the sheer audacity of the rider to do so, in complete disregard of other motorists and even pedestrians around him, is stupidity at its very height.
But why do they do what they do? What makes them disregard the laws that were made to ensure order and safety on the road? Like the kamote, we can find different kinds of variants of these reprobates:
Those who see it as a need. They are the ones who merely need the call of nature or an emergency. They know what they will do is wrong but are left without a more expedient choice. Nonetheless, they are willing to admit to their wrongdoing and take the penalty that goes with it.
Those who think they are above the law. These are the abusive cops or the pompous enforcer. They are most likely holding authority or at least have friends higher up there to get them a get-out-of-jail pass. They are quite arrogant and feel self-important even in the face of authority.
Those who think they won’t get caught. With lax law enforcement, many riders fall into this category now. They believe that if no one catches them in the act, then no wrong is done. Those Driving (or riding) Under the Influence fall under this classification as they think they have full control over their faculties even if their wobbly riding says otherwise.
The criminal in the making. They know what they are doing is wrong and will try every tactic and trick to get away with it. They will avoid apprehension. The thick skins of those in this lot are their armor against the judgmental eyes of other motorists and the law.
Those who don’t care. They think laws are mere suggestions for the weak or a form of control. They think man should be free to choose what is right for them and that means ignoring road rules. Like not wearing a helmet or donning slippers while riding, this is more of a political statement for them.
The careless. This kind is different from those who flout rules in that they just do what they want without thinking of the consequences. They would counterflow at full speed not thinking that a pedestrian might be crossing the street. They would squeeze into a disappearing gap without thinking about the ramifications of a collision.
Those who crave convenience. These are the ones who see a shortcut in every scenario. In the quest to shave off time from their commute, they would seek the path of less resistance. They would ride a sidewalk, turn side-by-side on the inside of another vehicle, overtake on a blind corner or a crest and of course, counterflow.
Finally, the latest addition to the inglorious bunch, the social media fame whore. Those who revel in the moment, capturing the scene for posting on social media. They are the dumbest of the dumb. They post about their transgressions and celebrate getting away with it in full view of the world, and the authorities. These are the drag racers, or those who use the MARILAQUE road as their personal race track. Then when the police come knocking, they whimper and coil up like an innocent child. Except that they are not.
But you know what is really sad about this kamote-tagging? It is actually not exclusive to motorcycle riders. A growing number of private motorists, car owners, bus and jeepney drivers, and now, with bicycles gaining popularity as means of transportation, cyclists, are violating road rules with impunity. Even pedestrians are not immune to this virus of maleficence.
Whatever kind of kamote they are, one thing is sure, there is a failure in education and information dissemination that has led to the proliferation of these undesirables. In a nation of laws, one should adhere to the rules that ensure fairness for everyone. Seeing people get away with an obvious violation is tantamount to turning a blind eye to a crime. And we have had too much of that in the upper echelons of our society for the rest of us to be corrupted into damnation as well.
And for those who continue to eschew the rules, spare the kamote. Just go back to driving school and learn how to do things right.
Motoring and motorsports are two of Mikko’s greatest passions. Combining more than twenty years of professional automotive photography and videography experience with years of touring car racing competition, and a deep understanding of the car industry, from both the manufacturers’ and consumers’ points of view, have given him a unique and insightful perspective in the motoring beat.