Commuter safety: Self-defense tips from an Uber driver/ ex-bodyguard

uber taxi safety

Commuter safety is a real concern in the Philippines, and it’s important to arm yourself with the right information and training to stay out of harm’s way.

Luckily, there are people out there who are more than willing to share tips on how to stay safe while commuting. For example: Uber driver/ ex-bodyguard Kuya Avelino, who had some pretty sound safety advice for his passenger, Timi Cabana.

“It was a bit traffic and Kuya Avelino was enthusiastically telling stories during the trip,” Cabana tells “Then he started telling stories about his friend’s daughter’s bad experience in riding cabs. From there, he told me that he was also a driver/body guard to some celebs and politicians, and he started to share these [self-defense] tips.”

Cabana shared those tips in a public Facebook post that quickly went viral, gaining over 44,000 reactions and being shared over 7,000 times (you can see her original post here).

Here are Kuya Avelino’s tips, according to Cabana’s post:

  1. When riding a cab/Uber, always check if you can open the door from the inside. If it is on child lock, be ready to defend yourself or opt to leave the vehicle.
  2. Make sure that the vehicle is not on child lock. If the driver insists, attack him right away while he is still alone (he usually has company waiting in a few meters).
  3. You have the following options:
  • Start by strangling him using his seatbelt. (I think his advice is to do this while the vehicle is not yet moving fast.)
  • An easy-to-bring self-defense tool would be your eco-bag/any plastic bag stuffed with something solid and heavy (i.e., perfume bottle). (He said we won’t have a hard time entering establishments with this instead of the usual firearms/knives.) Use this to hit the attacker. This is more powerful than using your fist.
  • Don’t forget the power of your handbreadth (“dangkal”). Use this to poke these weak points: eyes, nape, crown of the head, neck, chest, balls. (I think the idea is there are a lot of weak points within a handbreadth.)
  • If the attacker grabs you, try to remove his hand not by pulling the entire hand. Locate just the pinky finger and pull it hard. He said doing this will weaken the attacker’s grasp.”

Kuya Avelino’s tips seem simple enough, and Cabana feels like many people can benefit from them.

“I definitely find these tips useful,” she tells “I think it wont hurt to know these tips. This knowledge can come in handy not just in Uber/cab rides but to defend one’s self in the streets or even at home (for those experiencing domestic violence). I even feel empowered just knowing these info.”

More taxi tips from a pro

Krav Maga Self defense
Certified Krav Maga Instructor Fred Nogales, who has over 10 years of self-defense training experience, agrees with many of Kuya Avelino’s tips. However, he stresses that you should go for simpler (yet equally effective) techniques if you lack self-defense training.

Here are other helpful tips from Nogales:

  1. “It’s best to ride at the rear-opposite side of driver. You need to see what he is doing without being beside him. If you are behind him, you wont see him as much.”
  2. When attacking vital organs, go for the eyes and balls. “Not everybody is trained to pinpoint other sensitive areas. And don’t just poke the eyes; gouge them!”
  3. “Don’t go for the pinky anymore. We have that technique, but only as a less-than-aggressive technique. Just go for the eyes and balls or do aggressive attacks. Fancy moves aren’t so easy to execute, especially under extreme stress. To stop violence, your reaction must be more violent.”
  4. Don’t use mace inside a cab. “It will affect you just the same since it is a closed space.” Unless you’re trained to use mace spray, it may not be the best go-to option.
  5. “Whatever your choice of common objects for self defense is, make sure you’re trained to use it.” This goes for blunt objects, tactical pens, tasers, and the like.

In short, knowing self-defense techniques is one thing; it’s another to actually practice them so that they become second nature in times of an attack.

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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