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Calesa in Manila

A kalesa (also caritela/karitela) is a horse drawn calash used in the Philippines. It was one mode of transportation introduced to the islands in the 18th century by Spanish colonisers, and was initially reserved for only nobles and high-ranking civic officials.[1] These are today rarely used in the streets except in the tourist areas of old cities and some rural areas.

Composer Ambrosio Del Rosario composed the original music and National Artist of the Philippines Levi Celério wrote the lyrics for a song entitled Kalesa, in honour of the vehicle.[2]


The word, also spelt calesa as in the original Spanish, is related to the terms calèche and was already in Spain prior to its colonisation of the islands. The term ultimately descends from an Old Church Slavonic word meaning "wheels."

Physical description[edit]

A kalesa in a modern-day sepia photograph.

A kalesa looks like an inclined cart, and is drawn by a single horse. It has two round wheels on each side and two rows of seats that can accommodate four persons. The driver sits on a block of wood located at the front of the cart near the horse.

Uses for transportation[edit]

Calesas parked in front of Vigan Cathedral.

When the kalesa was introduced in the 18th century, it grew into a significant mode of transportation in the islands. Rich, educated Filipinos known as the ilustrados used the kalesa for personal travel as well as for the transport of goods to nearby areas.[3] During the American Occupation, the City of Manila was teeming with kalesas, but these declined in popularity after the devastation of the Second World War.

The kalesa driver is commonly called as kutsero (Tagalised from cochero, "car driver"). When a kutsero wants the horse to turn right, he says "mano” while he says "silla” to make the horse turn left.[4]


Although the kalesa has become a rarity, century-old examples are still preserved in areas of the Philippines, such as in Vigan and Laoag.[3] Kalesas can also be found in Intramuros, where they cater to tourists and Binondo in the City of Manila, a well as in Iligan, where decorated calesas can be taken for a ride along a specific street. In Cagayan, kalesas are common, especially in Tuao and other municipalities of the province. In Tuguegarao, the carriages are a part of the traffic along with private cars, motorcycles, tricycles, jeepneys, trucks, and bicycles.

Kalesa, the Organization[edit]

Kalesa Kinulayan Philippines Peoples' Organization Inc. or Kalesa, is a Philippine organization involved in social entrepreneurship. The organization aims to curb poverty by providing opportunity for both the poor and the enterprising Filipinos.

Kalesa is known for the battery-operated, electric cart, that the organization believes to be THE new type of Kalesa. The Kalesa e-Carts reflect a symbol of hope and commerce for the developing country of the Philippines.

Kalesa triggers a new type of distribution and retail system in the Philippines, using the Kalesa e-Carts which act as roving stores. The Kalesa e-Cart s are driven by the organization's beneficiaries, each one of them is called, Kalesa Ambassador.

Enterprising Filipinos who have money, like Overseas Filipino Workers, private companies, and government employees, who want to invest or have a business are encouraged to become social entrepreneurs or partners of Kalesa by becoming distributors in an area (baranggay or district).

Kalesa offers to the enterprising Filipinos with monetary capital the right to operate and earn from a Kalesa Distribution Center, while the Kalesa organization selects from a shortlist of indigent individuals in a baranggay with distribution centers. The indigents are composed of people endorsed by the local church and the local government unit.

Kalesa (organization) believes that their technology, system and cause is their share to develop a new and better Philippines.


  1. ^ Kalesa, the 18th Centuries Rolls Royce. Philippines Travel Guide for the explorer in you.
  2. ^ Kalesa - Video Watch, watch Youtube video, download Youtube video.
  3. ^ a b Kalesa. Vigan City Philippines - Unesco World Heritage City.
  4. ^ Riding The Philippine 'Calesa' and Business
  1. Kalesa de Cebu
  2. Philippines Travel Guide for the explorer in you.
  3. Riding The Philippine 'Calesa' and Business
  4. Kalesa - Video Watch, watch Youtube video, download Youtube video.
  5. Vigan City Philippines - Unesco World Heritage City.
  6. Kalesa Kinulayan Philippines People's Organization, Inc. website
  7. Lifestylebucket Blogsite