New Rules, Same Challenge: Multicab Drivers Strike the Road Amidst Pandemic

“Kung walang trabaho, walang makakain”, says 53-year old Rally Bolito, a multicab driver who steers his life on the streets despite the government imposing strict lockdown that put off the King of the Road to take a rest.

The Philippines’ iconic jeepney and multicab were one of the casualties of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. When public transports were halted and people were ordered to stay home to minimize the increasing number of contagions, the Bolito worried that he might not get the chance to hit the road anymore.

“Nabahala ako, lalo na nung tumataas na ang mga kaso ng COVID. Naramdaman ko kaagad ang epekto nito sa kabuhayan namin kasi kumukonti na lang ang mga taong lumalabas at kanselado na rin ‘yong mga pasok. Halos 50% ang nawala sa pang araw-araw naming kita,” Bolito anxiously muttered.

Even with lockdown restrictions in Tacloban, Bolito and some of the drivers with special permits were still allowed to operate under strict guidelines. Despite the fear instilled and a high risk of being infected by the virus, Mano Rally nagged himself to work and provide the daily necessities of his family.

“’Yong takot, nariyan lang ‘yan, pero iniisip ko bilang haligi ng tahanan, kung magpapadala ako sa takot baka hindi kami mabuhay ng pamilya ko. Kung hindi kakayod, wala kaming makakain. Kahit may problema, pipilitin ko pa ring bumiyahe para matustusan ang pang araw-araw na mga pangangailangan”, he said.

Under the new normal set-up for public transportations, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) Region 8 mandated the Public Utility Vehicle (PUV) drivers to make their vehicles virus-safe by installing plastic seat dividers and reducing capacity to comply with social-distancing regulations. To emulate the protocols enacted by the LTFRB, the drivers have to spend a sum for the protection, at a time when they are financially challenged.

More so, the LTFRB Region 8 instructed PUV drivers to have a maximum of five (5) units per week operation.

“Sa katunayan mayroong protocol na ipinatupad ang LTFRB na magkakaroon lang kami ng tatlong (3) araw para bumiyahe. Para maka-cover sa ibang araw, pinagtiyatiyagaan lang ‘yan. Halimbawa, pag hindi ko skedyul ngayong araw, sa madaling araw bibiyahe at pag-abot ng office hours uuwi na ako para marecover ako bukas.”

“Kasi pag wala kang income sa isang araw, yung income mo kahapon ay hindi sapat para matustusan ang pangangailangan araw-araw”, he added.

New Route

Instead of sitting behind the wheels, Donald Docil has ventured out to a new direction, from carrying passengers day-to-day to lugging construction materials every day.

Two weeks of wandering around the city during the strict lockdown in Tacloban, Docil decided to accept the offer of transporting materials for building purposes and stopped driving for public use.

“Mahirap kasi ang kalagayan ng pamamasahero ngayon kasi iba’t ibang tao ang makakasama mo at hindi mo alam kung ano ang dala nila, kung may virus ba o wala. Kaya pinili ko na lang pag-seservice sa construction kasi mas kunti ang kaba”, he said.

With fixed income and fewer worries, the 39-year-old driver believed that his new job saved his family from these trying times despite struggling with no one to exchange dialogue.

“Mas malaki ang kinikita ko ngayon kumpara nung dati (during the lockdown) kasi naibibigay ko ang mga pangangailangan ng pamilya ko. Mahirap ngayon kasi puro mga kahoy at bakal ang kasama mo kaya wala kang maka-usap”, Docil stated.

Despite his stable condition, Donald did not miss out to take a look back on his fellow drivers who are having a hard time driving around the city.

“Sana bigyan pansin ng mga tao and mga drivers, kasi ga front liners din sila. Kung wala sila, walang hahatid sa mga tao sa mga lugar na gusto nilang puntahan”, he said.

The fight for survival amid the pandemic is not over. Our drivers will bravely face the challenge despite the risk of getting infected; braving the risks for us and for themselves.

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