Sweating it out
I accompanied him one day last week for a few round trips along his route and got first-hand insight into what Mang Vito and other jeepney drivers have to go through everyday to eke out a living.
A trip from Project 3 to Quirino Avenue takes between 2 ½ to three hours on days when traffic is moderate. When traffic is heavy, Mang Vito said, it could take up to four hours.
It was very humid when we went on that trip, like it was going to rain anytime. But it did not rain. The weather was like that throughout the day.
On days like that it is an ordeal to be stuck in considerably heavy traffic, like what happened to us several times on E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City, as well as on Espana Street in Manila which seem to be perennial traffic hotspots. As Mang Vito himself describes it, “masakit y’ong init” (the heat hurts).
The prolonged exposure to the sun’s heat comes on top of having to endure the high temperatures from the jeepney’s engine.
On rainy days, Mang Vito says, at least you don’t have to endure the excruciating heat. But a different problem arises. “Pag bumaha, hindi ka na makabiyahe” (When it floods, you can go on with your trip anymore), he says. And there are many flood-prone areas along his route.
There are many other things that a jeepney driver has to endure. Often he has to endure the grumbling of his stomach because he has to postpone his meals and his snacks until he completes a round trip along his route (it was over two hours past normal lunchtime, for instance, when we were able to have our lunch). With that also comes the fact that he often has to postpone relieving himself, sometimes by one hour or more: for some drivers, the alternative would be to stop somewhere along the route and relieve themselves on their vehicles’ wheels. Apart from that, drivers who ply Metro Manila routes have to deal daily with the dust and smoke that famously loom over the streets of the metropolis.
It would be late evening by the time Mang Vito completes his fourth round trip. By that time, he would have enough only to pay his boundary fee and make a return on what he spent throughout the day for diesel (he spends some P300 on diesel for every round trip). He has to make another round trip so he could earn a little money to take home to his wife and child.
At the end of the arduous day – which, for Mang Vito, lasts up to 12 midnight or thereabouts – he gets to take home approximately P300 ($6.44 at the exchange rate of $1=P46.555). That is less than what minimum wage earners make in just eight hours of work. (Bulatlat.com)