Mandatory Verses Has City Driving for Jesus
TAGBILARAN, Philippines -- One city in the Philippines requires that a scripture be painted on the main public transportation method -- a three-wheeled motorcycle.
Any driver caught without a Bible verse is fined or has their license revoked. The city wants the world to know how much they love God's Word.
Smack in the middle of the Philippines, 395 miles south of Manila, lies a tropical paradise dripping with natural beauty.
It's easy to see why the island province of Bohol is one of the country's famous tourist destinations.
Mile after mile of pristine white sandy beaches and crystal clear water attracts scores of outdoor enthusiasts from around the world.
But the tranquil island getaway is also famous for something else: thousands of noisy, but fast three-wheeled motorized taxis known as tricycles that serve as the island's main mode of public transportation.
"It can get you to any part of the island. It's cheap and you can fit between four and seven people at one time," said Dennis Cantina, who has built these tricycles for 10 years.
But he and many others who live in Bohol will tell you these are no ordinary tricycles.
"Not only is this the most reliable form of transportation, but on the back of every tricycle is a message of hope and that makes me very proud to build them," he said.
The Rolling Gospel
Twenty-two years ago, officials in Bohol's provincial capital Tagbilaran passed a city ordinance requiring that a Scripture be painted on the back of all tricycles.
"With a Biblical message at the back of the units commuters get to see the message every day and it helps in way to preserve the peace in our city," Lucille Lagunay, a city councilor,said.
Lagunay said the Bible of wheels idea has resulted in lower crime rates, stronger families, and a relatively peaceful city compared to other big cities in the Philippines.
"Everyday commuters get to see the biblical messages on the tricycles and who would want to think of crime when they see biblical passages everywhere," Lagunay said.
At Tagbilaran's City Hall, Samuel Belderol has been handing out tricycle licenses, along with Bible verses, for the last 20 years to drivers who want to operate the three-wheeled taxi.
A City Driving for Jesus
"This is the only city in the Philippines that has such an ordinance. We want the world to know that we are a God-fearing city and that these Bible verses help us draw closer to God," Belderol said.
Belderol said any operator who refuses to put one on will be fined or his or her license revoked.
"We only issue 3,000 licenses every year and each one must have a unique verse on it, no duplicate verses allowed," he said.
When a tricycle driver gets his new vehicle, he goes to city hall. City hall officials will give him a permit and a Bible verse.
He then takes that Bible verse and he comes to Mr. Buala who has for the last 20 years been painting scriptures on the back of these vehicles.
"I love the scriptures," Buala Siongiex said as he was painting on of his favorite verses. "As I paint them on the tricycles I also get inspired by them. This is the Word of God and it gives us guidance."
The scripture verse for today is from John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
God's Word, Happier City
"Years ago people used to paint obscene messages and images on their tricycles but the city ordinance changed that. Now when you read the Word of God you can't help but feel alive, even a little bit of God's Word makes you happy."
It's a sentiment echoed by many drivers and tricycle passengers CBN News met on the streets.
"People thank me all the time for my scripture verse," Crisenel Escudero, a tricycle owner, said. "They say it touched them. It is always a good reminder that there is a God."
One resident of Tagbilaran told CBN News that she was "happy to read the Bible passages, especially when I have a problem. It gives me hope."
Locals admit the tricycles are noisy and at times can be an eyesore. But apart from their convenience, Cantina and others here say it is the message on the back that residents and visitors alike should focus on.
"It reminds us of the importance of the Bible and that we can focus on the goodness of God and all the things He has done for us," he said.