Plan Your Route
Some taxi drivers pretend not to know where your destination is. They'll ask you a question like "Saan tayo dadaan?" ("What route should we take?"), and when they realize you don't know, they'll drive you in circles until the meter registers the amount they want you to pay.
Use Google Maps. Take note of landmarks near your destination and along your route. Take note of alternative routes as well, in case Manong Driver insists on taking those. If you can bring a map with you, that would be handy.
Ride a Cab Near Malls
These cabs are usually safer, because the malls' security guards note down the taxi's details on a slip of paper and hand it to you. If you have to ride a cab somewhere else, though, make sure you're in a lighted area, or have someone else to see you off.
Ride in Groups
As the old saying goes, there's safety in numbers. Unless the taxi driver has a "gang" to help him, it's not likely he can take on two or three people at once. This is especially useful if you need to bring a lot of baggage for trips and the like.
Be Alert Before Getting Into the Cab
Check whether the meter is running. If it is, it's probably safe to ride; if it isn't, politely turn down Manong Driver and wait for the next one. Remember that it's better to be late to your destination than sorry.
Scan the taxi's windows. They should have important information — plate number, phone number of the taxi company, emergency numbers — printed on them in clear, bold letters. Also, the taxi driver's ID should be prominently displayed on the windshield. If any of these are missing, wait for another taxi to come along.
Finally, be wary of taxi drivers who wear a cap. Chances are, they do this to hide their faces in case they're caught doing dastardly deeds. Take note of any distinguishing features on the taxi driver's face for easier identification.
Be Alert While Inside the Cab
Observe the drivers' actions carefully. Pay attention to signs that the driver's mind is somewhere else, like constant texting, slowing down the car even when the traffic is light, and taking too long at the gas station. The moment you start feeling that something isn't right, get off the cab ASAP — but make sure you get off in a lighted, crowded area!
Prepare for Emergencies
Keep your phone with you at all times. Put important people — like your family members, the police and the taxi company — on speed dial. Some passengers call, or pretend to call, these important people and talk to them about the taxi drivers' details, so you might want to take a leaf out of their books too.
Bring a can of pepper spray, or any other weapon you can use to injure the driver if he tries anything funny. Aim for the eyes or throat, which will incapacitate him enough to give you time to call for help.
Stay Updated via Social Media
People who manage to survive an attack by a taxi driver don't keep quiet about it. They'll post pictures and details on sites like Facebook, complete with stories about how exactly the crime happened. Pay close attention to these when they pop up on your newsfeed, and note them down for your next trip.
Use Taxi Apps
With Uber or GrabTaxi, you can enjoy a ton of perks that ordinary passengers can't. For example, GrabTaxi allows you to flag down the nearest cab, while giving you the cab's details at the same time. Also, taxis that use these apps have cleaner cars, more professional drivers, and lower likelihood of deviating from their designated route. Granted, you'll pay a higher total fee for these perks, but between that and staying safe, the better choice is obvious.
Use Public Transportation
As mentioned earlier, the best way to avoid unscrupulous drivers is to not ride a taxi at all. Sure, buses and jeeps are dirtier, more crowded and less comfortable, but at least they rarely deviate from their routes if at all. Familiarize yourself with public transportation in Metro Manila, and with specific routes within places like the Makati Central Business District.
Use Common Sense
Crooked people tend to prey on the naïve, so don't give them the impression that you are. Trust that they'll get you to your destination, but don't count on them to do it without hiccups along the way. Take taxi safety seriously, and you'll never have to worry about entrusting your life to a complete stranger again.