One of the greatest adventure of my life happened in year 1994 inside a brand new taxi unit that roams in almost every corner of Metro Manila.
I applied as a taxi driver because I can no longer stand my previous job being the driver of a rich family who lived in Ayala Alabang. My employer was a former Marcos crony who owns cement companies, shipping companies, a number of supermarkets and an apparel factory. They have a number of houses in Ayala Alabang and in Dasmarinas. They have more than a dozen of expensive cars. They have at least 4 drivers and I happened to be their most favorite driver. I was very honored of that title but the problem with being the “favorite driver” means longer working hours, lesser number of day off and most of all, you are expected to be on your best behavior most of the time because you are driving the “Boss of Boss”. I felt I was too young for the job that demand me to behave most of the time. At that age, I simply want action, risk and most of all, I want adventure!
So I decided to quit my very luxurious job (as far as drivers are concern) with a title “Executive Driver” and swap it with a common job called “Taxi Driver”. I told my lady boss that I am looking for a “more stable job.” My lady boss was disappointed with my reason and told me: “Jun, you are stable with us!” I knew what she meant. She meant that she can give me all of my needs for a salary deduction. I know she won't mind lending me even up to 100 thousand pesos any time as long as I keep working with them. Most of my fellow drivers are indebted to them at least P50,000. I did not argue with her, I just left and did not come back.
So I went and applied with my new employer, another rich guy whom I already knew. He was experimenting on a taxi business. Mike, my new boss named was the nephew of my other former boss. Mike assigned me a brand new taxi unit and was very excited to have me as one of his employee. He knew me as a hard working employee(walang kokontra!) and he had plenty of plans for me he said, like becoming one of his trusteed man if his new taxi business turns out to be good. I like what I heard from him but I was more concern on just having job.
I started driving my taxi unit with some fears inside me that I might not know all the streets in Manila and will disappoint many passengers. Luckily, my first day turned out fine because my passengers are mostly within the vicinity of Pasay, Makati and Manila with some occasional destination in Quezon City and Mandaluyong. I drove from 6 am until 6 am the next day earning an income of about P600 net with my boundary of P650 and 30 liters of gasoline which was only P11.00 at that time. Not bad for a first day, I thought.
So, what makes being a taxi driver as the most adventurous job of all? First, we have these foreigner passengers who speaks different language, with some money to spend, who loves to share their culture and have the appetite to learn from the taxi driver about Filipino culture and the places to go in Metro Manila.
I got this British male passenger in his mid 30s who claimed to be some kind of a secret military officer. He wore a Rolex watch and claims to be piloting some kind of battle helicopter. He loves to talk about the English Army as the greatest warriors telling me their war histories against all the best armies the world. He loves to talk and I was a good listener. I speak occasionally and he did not criticize my English like most of the pretending educated Filipino who loves to criticized fellow Filipino for simple errors in grammar and pronunciation. We became friends and he always hired my every time he visits Philippines and his favorite destination are Clark Airbase and Olongapo. I just love driving for him in long distance and it made me feel good I can converse with an English man in a casual basis with out problem. I bet he likes me too for listening to all his war stories that I actually did not care much. All I wanted was to learn to speak English in a practical way.
Being a taxi driver is a good experience in learning different foreign cultures without reading books or going abroad. I learned that most proud races in the world are the Americans, the British and the Japanese. But the Japanese is the best passenger because they give huge tip. Chinese and Koreans are problematic passengers due to language barrier. They are also rude and do not give tips. Germans, Australians and other European nationals are polite and fair but not very talkative about their culture. Other than business, most of the male foreigners' agenda in coming here to Philippines are the night life and prostitution.
Another adventure in the life of the taxi driver is knowing the illegal trades and vices of the city be it drugs, prostitution or gambling. I have these night passengers who bring me to dark places. They get out of the taxi and let me wait for a while then come back in a hurry asking me to go back where I first picked them. After a few similar incidents, I learned that those passengers are actually buying drugs. I immediately knew many places where drugs are sold and I am sure the Police knew them too. There were patrol cars who love to hide in the corners and apprehend buyers only to let them go the next day after they confiscate drugs and ask for “bail” money. What a business! No wonder many low ranking policemen can afford cars and mistresses. Luckily I was not involved in any apprehending incident.
Speaking of prostitution, almost every taxi driver knew a place of two where to find the cheapest or the the most expensive girls in town. KTV area, strip clubs, pick-up area or simply any massage parlor involved in prostitution are the expertise of taxi drivers. Foreigners, local guys or any person seeking information about prostitution only needs to ask a taxi driver. But in fairness, prostitutes are among those who are generous givers of tips to taxi driver especially after they get good pay from customers. On the other hand, expect some prostitutes to ask for a free fare during their non lucky days. I once picked up a girl from a rich village in San Juan. It was about 3:00 am when she ride my taxi asking to bring me here to a place in Makati. She was crying silently and I could see her in my mirror. When we arrived at her destination, she apologized and handed me ten pesos. She explained while crying that she was gang raped by a group of rich addicts and only handed her that ten pesos.
Prostitutes are among the major highlights in the life of a taxi driver. This is because a taxi is the most accessible means of transporting prostitutes and their customers from a pick up point to a motel or from a KTV bar or Casa to a hotel. Once in a while when customers are few and income is lean, prostitutes especially freelance one, turn their focus to taxi drivers as alternative customers. I once have this young and pretty passenger asking me if I liked to bring her to a motel for sex. There was also this GRO who looked high on drugs offering me for free sex all I need to do was to bring her to a motel. Another one tried to befriend me and casually ask me to live with her in her apartment but I have to pay my share of the rent and bring her to her club every night.
These are just few of my encounters in Driving a taxi. It puts me in a position to meet people all the time. Interacting with different personality all the time. Engaging in different topic conversation all the time. Dealing unexpected events anytime. I will share to you more of my adventures about passengers who are working professionals, elitist and politicians in my part 2 of this topic.