Tartanillas were important modes of transportation, not just in Cebu but also throughout the Philippines during the past decades. They were widely used before the motorized vehicles even came into existence. Tartanilla is a Cebuano term for a horse-drawn carriage that was brought about by the Spanish conquest in the Philippines. This is also known as calesa in Filipino. Before, these carriages were only used by rich families and high ranking officials since they were pricey. When motorized vehicles came to the Philippines, tartanillas slowly went down in numbers.
However, tartanillas or calesas are still available in certain parts of the country, especially in Cebu. These are just secluded in certain parts of the City along a few streets. Since there are still coachmen who are making a living with tartanillas, they are allowed to operate in some streets in the downtown and market area of Cebu City.
Before, the tartanillas used to crowd the streets of Leon Kilat, Sanciangko and Tres de Abril. In modern day Cebu, tartanillas can be found along the streets of Duljo. You can ride a tartanilla for P5 per person. This is cheaper than the minimum jeepney fare in the city. This can be a good experience especially when you are bringing your kids with you. A carriage with a single horse can carry around four to five passengers. So, you can definitely bring your whole family to enjoy the experience.
The tartanilla can take you around Pasil, Taboan, and Duljo streets. Pasil is famous for being a big fish market in Cebu. You can find a wide variety of fishes, sea cucumbers and other seafood for affordable prices. Taboan, on the other hand, is a market specifically for the famous buwad or dried fish in Cebu. These places are just interconnected streets at the heart of the downtown area. You can visit these markets to purchase goods and just use the tartanilla in getting from one place to another. These tartanillas are mostly used by vendors or those who are going to the market to purchase fishes and vegetables.
Although the tartanillas are part of the heritage and culture of Filipinos, there are still a number of concerns raised by some people. Some horses are abused and are not given the right care and attention by the coachmen. One can see that some horses used by coachmen look famished and tired.
If you are planning to ride the tartanilla, make sure that you dress down and dress comfortably. If possible, don’t wear any jewelry or bring gadgets. This will help in avoid any attention drawn to you and your flashy belongings. You wouldn’t want to attract any pickpocket or thief in the area. Make it a point to secure your money and other belongings since the area is full of thieves. Make sure that you bring someone, who knows the place, with you especially if you are a tourist and are not that familiar with the area.