I have been a frequent taxi rider for the good part of 14 years. I have run after taxi units while balancing precariously on high-heeled shoes (eight years), begged taxi drivers to take me to the cities of Taguig, San Juan, Quezon, and Manila, and braved the road to hell guised as EDSA. My twice-a-day taxi rides have exposed me to one of the most maligned professions in Metro Manila. I am fortunate to say that majority of my rides have been stress-free, with friendly drivers (sometimes, a tad too friendly, but I let the friendliness pass as long as I am safely ensconced in my seat and the driver keeps his limbs to himself) who just want to earn an honest living.
All of them have something on the dashboard be it a dog bobbing its head, a ceramic angel or a rubber plant that looks particularly green. Some of them have rosary beads hanging from the mirror. Maybe to protect them from crooked traffic enforcers, robbers who pose as passengers and passengers who have no money. Most of them listen to AM radio stations to keep abreast of current events, so conversations with them are always informative and colorful – with profanities here and there – when they discuss the wealth and abuses of some loathsome politicians. They know the best karinderia in each city and what dish to order at what karinderia. They are entertaining half-hour or an-hour companions because they know the dirtiest gossip about their former bosses (one very famous actress, a senator, several congressmen, a talk show host and other celebrities) and they are like leaking dams with details. They also talk about their former careers (certified public accountant, overseas contract workers, police, soldiers, among others) and their families. They swell with pride when they talk about their children who finished college, but they feel crushed when they talk about lost loves and nonexistent relationships with children they forsake in their wilder days.
In this entry, I am going to write about a taxi driver I met the night I hailed his cab in San Juan City. Rain just stopped and cars going to Greenhills/Shaw Boulevard were bumper to bumper in front of the building where I work. I just arrived at my usual spot where I wait for an unoccupied taxi, when I saw one and as if by reflex I waved my arms animatedly. The driver stopped and asked me to hop in right after I told him my destination in Quezon City. I told him that I was lucky that he stopped when he saw me waved at him. He said he was lucky because he was on his way to the taxi garage near my area. That was the start of our conversation about luck.
He told me about some lucky financial events in his life:
Appetizer: It was his day-off so he spent it sleeping in his house in a province up north. Another driver disturbed his peaceful sleep with a phone call. At first, he was pissed and wanted to hang the other driver upside down. When he learned that the other driver called him to tell him that he won in a radio contest, his frown disappeared. This contest requireD the winners to claim the prize within one hour to get 100% of the amount and as time ticks by the prize decreases. He said that the drive would have taken him a couple of hours at least, so he decided to claim the prize the following day. He said that the prize was enough to pay for his boundary (one day taxi fee), and more importantly, he met and had photos with radio DJs he admired.
Main Course: When we neared Quezon Avenue, he told me about a pregnant woman who rode his taxi in a street where we were. He said that pregnant woman was his lucky charm. They were inching their way through traffic along EDSA corner Bonny Serrano Avenue when a bag tied to the motorcycle immediately ahead of them popped open and out came P500 (US $11.06) bills. It was broad daylight and he had the best view of the bills diffusing out and fluttering to the horizon. Without thinking, he unlocked the doors and invited the pregnant woman to come out and pick as many bills as they can. The woman declined owing to her delicate situation, so he proceeded to get as many bills as he could before other drivers join the fray and cars behind them start honking. When he returned inside the car, he counted his spoils, which amounted to P18,000 (US $398.22). It was more than the minimum wage per month in Metro Manila. He saw the pregnant woman to her destination for free. He called his boss straightaway and told him he was sick. He paid for a full day’s boundary and went home. He used P10,000 (US $221.23) to settle his debts, bought a sack of rice and rested for a week.