Pedaling for livelihood, life

Pedaling for livelihood, life ... is a mechanical evolution from a typical bicycle by attaching a ... pedicab driving then becomes the poor man’s inst...

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Pedicab driving continues to thrive on every street in the country despite the hazard of their trade Photo by Eduard Daling

Carigara, Leyte–Forty-year old Brandon Cersino, single, takes and drives his pedicab like an extension of himself everyday. The reason: it’s the easiest and the quickest way he can earn a living in the countryside judging by his lack of skills and school diploma. Pedicab, also known as tricycle or “pot-pot” (the latter name is derived from the sound of its horn), is a mechanical evolution from a typical bicycle by attaching a small “carriage” or a cab on its side and a wheel to keep its balance. It is called pedicab as it runs by simply pedaling it, and which can carry two to five passengers. Its purpose usually is for family use or leisure ride. Yet, as economic realities take its toll to the Filipinos, particularly the poor, uneducated and unskilled, pedicab driving then becomes the poor man’s instant “livelihood.” And out of Filipino ingenuity, pedicab driving came to exist in almost all street corners in the country, becoming ubiquitous as the rickshaw pulling in China of yore. Brando says his work may be back-breaking yet he seems to enjoy it, adding the “job” suits him well due to his strong and solid body.

“I feel better on this than having no job at all . Aside from earning , this also turns into my daily exercise, “ he grins with a shade of pride. He says he doesn’t matter what people say to him as long as he is earning honest money and helping his siblings on their school expenses. Like Brando , most of the drivers in Carigara are only renting their pedicabs. A new pedicab cost 12, 000 to P15, 000 depending on its design and features. Because he cannot afford for one, Brando opts for an installment basis. He is paying the cab’s owner P35.00 a day. The extra on this would be his earnings, which he used to buy rice, viand and other house needs. ” I have to drive by five o’ clock in the morning until late in the evening so I could at least have a net income of P150.00, ” he says, also understanding that despite his long and hard day’s work still his income is “insufficient” for their household of seven. (The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) in 2009 reveals a family of five earning below P7,017 is considered “poor”.) Regular fare for pedicab remains the same despite price increases in almost all goods and services in the country. A passenger pays a minimum of P5.00 per ride ( or double depending on the distance and other agreements). Also he affirms pedicab driving is not only hard but “hazardous” as well. Aside from being “employed” as informal workers by cab owners or operators , pedicab drivers also don’t have social security and health insurance benefits. “ I cannot even afford voluntary SSS (Social Security System) contributions. And it seems that no organization is helping us,” Brando laments. On a regular basis, pedicab drivers like Brando “receive” scorn from other motorists, as they ultimately bring traffic when they are taking passengers along busy streets or roads commonly used by big and fast-moving vehicles. “ We are speedy drivers’ enemies. They look at us as ‘distractions’ on the roads. I hope government would give us a separate lane of our own,” he shares, almost laughing. Carigara has more than ten pedicab builders, a sign that pedicab driving is indeed thriving, even in this part of the country. From time to time, Brando’s daily income is also threatened as drivers in the neighboring towns would ply their pedicabs in their area. “It is getting difficult to get more passengers now as we are already more than one thousand pedicab drivers here. I sometimes hope it rains everyday so people really have to take a ride.” But what “threatens” Brando most is the question whether he is willing to marry and raise a family soon considering that he is already growing old. “ I still don’t think about it. I’m afraid my future children would go hungry with this little income. Or maybe soon—when I will win in lotto (lottery),” he muses.

Then again, he asserts he cannot “afford” to lose P10-20 pesos a day for lottery tickets, as he is more afraid of losing his pedicab rent and losing his “sanity” for he would surely go hungry for a day. (RONALD O. REYES)