The Stopover in a Beyond-decade Ride: How the pandemic put a pedicab driver’s 12-year trip on brakes

October 7, 2021

Jesika Biel Cimatu

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With sunburnt skin and shallow breaths, onboard a three-wheeled cycle rickshaw (commonly known in the Philippines as pedicab or padyak), drivers will ignore their fatigued legs and step on the pedal with great strength. For a 10-peso fare, they will patiently wait in line to usher passengers to their destinations--even if it means cycling kilometers for hours until they reach their target wage. Only when darkness has already dominated the streets will they call it a day. This is how pedicab drivers make a living day by day.

This livelihood enables Ryan R. Deuna, a solo parent, to provide for his four children. Ryan is one of the pedicab drivers who venture in the streets of Naga City, set to keep up with the bustle of zooming motors, cars, tricycles, and jeepneys, hoping that every para (stop) will escort his family closer to a life off poverty. 

It was the year 2006 when the 40-year-old Bicolano began to hit the urban roads of Bagumbayan Sur in his padyak. The sun had just lit the sky, but he was already on the way to pick up the red, blue, and yellow-colored sidecar that he continues to rent for PHP 40.00 (boundary fee). Until 7 PM, his pedicab accompanies him in every turn and bump, to meet both his passengers and daily quota. 

In between the years of being a rider, he has also taken other jobs offered to him. But even after working as a security guard for two years and as a stocker in a mall for a year, Ryan’s feet still find their way back to the familiar cycling pedals. 

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Every year, he counters not only the combined weight of his sidecar and his passengers but also his least favorite days, rainy days. “‘Pag ganitong may kalamidad--bagyo, sabat ka sa hangin. Mabigat sa pag-pedal,” he said. (In times like this when calamities--typhoons occur, winds blow across your direction. Stepping on the pedal feels heavier.) But the flood and slippery roads do not trouble him in his job. Rather, the pangs in his kneecaps and feet every time they drench in rainwater cost him discomfort.

Having driven countless trips on the streets, the perils in the roads did not dodge Ryan. It has been 11 years since Ryan’s last accident with a mobile tricycle that scraped his leg. Yet the fear of future road mishaps failed to reach his mind. “Hindi naman nag-babase ‘yan sa aksidente ko--ang pagbuhay sa pamilya. Syempre, ang iniisip ko ay pamilya.” (My accident should not hinder making a living. Of course, I was thinking of my family.) Back then, Ryan’s eldest daughter, Therese, was only 7 years old. 

Neither his accidents, his throbbing knees, nor the typhoons hampered his livelihood. In the end, it is an unforeseen, invisible adversary that halted Ryan’s rolling pedicab wheels. And he vividly remembers that day. 

 

On March 16, 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the entire island of Luzon will be under an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) due to the threat of COVID-19 in the country. From the declaration, it only took six words to break Ryan’s more than 10 years of driving in the streets: Mass public transportation shall be suspended.

Ryan Deuna is only one of our Filipino drivers who lost a job during the early months of the pandemic. “Medyo nalungkot ako noon. Ang sabi ko, ‘Wala na siguro--wala na tayong makakain nito ‘pag tumigil ako sa pagpasada,” he said. (I was a bit sad. I said, it is the end--we will have nothing more to eat if I discontinue driving.) He even witnessed how the news enraged his fellow drivers. “Galit din sila. Balak nga nilang pumunta kay Mayor noon para daw humingi ng tulong.” (They were upset too. They even planned to ask our Mayor for help.) But his co-drivers hesitated and gave up on the plan. To survive until June, Ryan’s family only depended on their local government’s goods distribution and financial assistance. For him, the aid was enough.

It took three, long months before the pedicab drivers received the go signal to run their padyaks again. Little did they know that the new system would breed new challenges in their livelihood.

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Due to the newly-implemented number coding system, Ryan’s previous seven working days were then reduced to only three. Even the number of passengers to accompany per ride came to a limit of one. “Isa-isa lang, isa-isang pasahero. Kapag nakita kang [nagsakay ng] dalawa, huhulihin ka

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Sa una, pagsasabihan ka muna na bawal ang dalawa.” (One at a time, one passenger at a time. If you were seen ushering two passengers, you will get caught. At first, they will only warn you that having two passengers on board is prohibited.) The fine, PHP 1500.00, was six times Ryan’s average daily pandemic income of PHP 250.00. To pay for this, he must work for three weeks. Even with four children to feed, he had to comply with the rules and settle for a weekly income of PHP 600.00 (compared to his average weekly income before, PHP 2000.00.) just to make a living. He can only reminisce about how before the pandemic, there were days when he could bring home a “jackpot” daily income of PHP 400.00.

Today, the rules do not apply anymore; the fewer number of passengers and the spreading virus have challenged Ryan as a pedicab driver. 

 

 

 

 

 

“Hindi ko naisip na tumigil sa pagpasada dahil kapag tumigil [ako], walang kakainin [ang pamilya ko].” (I never thought of quitting my job as a rider because if I give it up, my family will have nothing to eat.)

As he braves the city streets of Naga in his vibrant-colored padyak, Ryan Deuna ends the stopover that halted his 12-year journey as a rider. With his grip tight to the handlebars and feet resting on the pedals, he still puts aside the sultry summer days, his breathlessness, his sore knees, and now, the risk of COVID infection to bridge fellow Bicolanos to their stops, and his family closer to their dream life.

It is a tough time for daily wage earners like Ryan and his fellow padyak drivers from Naga City. If you wish to support them, you may subscribe to our newsletter! Your PHP 100.00 will directly help them and their families. 

In the midst of an existing unseen enemy, he is left with no choice but to persevere in the front lines.

 

The Stopover in a Beyond-decade Ride: How the pandemic put a pedicab driver’s 12-year trip on brakes

October 7, 2021

Jesika Biel Cimatu

Translated by Jes Biel Cimatu

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Bagamat sunog ang balat at kapos ang hininga, sakay ng may tatlong gulong na pedicab, isasantabi ang ngalay na mga binti at buong-lakas na papadyak. Para sa sampung piso, matiyagang pipila ang mga tsuper  upang maihatid lamang ang mga pasahero sa kanilang destinasyon--ilang oras at ilang kilometro ang takbuhin upang maabot ang nilalayong sweldo. Sa pagbalot ng dilim sa kalsada ay matatapos na ang araw nila. Ganito ang araw-araw na kabuhayan ng isang pedicab driver. 

Sa ganitong hanapbuhay ay pinupunan ni Ryan R. Deuna, isang solo parent, ang pangangailangan ng kanyang apat na anak. Isa si Ryan sa mga padyak drivers na nakikipagsapalaran sa mga lansangan ng Naga City. Handa siyang makipagsabayan sa humaharurot na mga motor, kotse, tricycle, at jeep, habang inaasam na sa bawat “para” ay maitatawid niya ang kanyang pamilya sa hirap. 

Taong 2006 nang magsimulang bumiyahe sa mga kalsada ng Bagumbayan Sur ang 40-anyos na Bicolanong si Ryan. Kasisikat pa lang ng araw, handa na siyang sunduin ang kulay pula, asul, at dilaw na sidecar na ang boundary ay nasa halagang PHP 40.00. Hanggang alas siyete ng gabi, kasangga niya ang pedicab sa bawat liko at lubak para tagpuin ang kanyang pasahero at ang quota para sa araw na iyon.

Sa pagitan ng mga taon ng pamamasada, iba’t ibang trabaho na rin ang tinanggap ni Ryan. Gayunpaman, sa dalawang taon niya bilang gwardya at isang taon bilang stocker sa isang mall ay sa pamilyar na mga pedal pa rin siya inaakay ng kanyang mga paa.

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Taon-taon, hindi lamang ang bigat sa pag-ahon ng pedicab ang nilalabanan ni Ryan ngunit pati na rin ang ayaw niyang panahon ng tag-ulan. “‘Pag ganitong may kalamidad--bagyo, sabat ka sa hangin. Mabigat sa pag-pedal,” aniya. Hindi ang mga baha at madudulas na kalsada ang nagpapahirap sa pagkayod niya kundi ang mga kirot ng kanyang tuhod at paa sa tuwing nabababad ito sa tubig ulan. 

Sa hindi mabilang na biyahe ni Ryan sa lansangan, hindi siya inilagan ng mga panganib ng kalsada. Labing isang taon na ang nakalipas mula nang mabangga si Ryan sa isang tumatakbong tricycle na gumasgas sa kanyang binti. Gayunpaman, hindi siya nagpadala sa takot na muling maaksidente. “Hindi naman nag-babase ‘yan sa aksidente ko-ang pagbuhay sa pamilya. Syempre, [ang] iniisip ko [ay] pamilya,” aniya. Pitong taong gulang pa lamang noon ang panganay niyang si Therese.

Wala sa mga aksidente, pagkirot ng tuhod at mga bagyo ang humadlang sa paghahanapbuhay ni Ryan. Sa katapusan, isang hindi nakinita at hindi makita-kitang pangyayari ang nagpatigil sa umiikot na mga gulong ng kanyang pedicab. Naaalala pa niya ang araw ng kaganapan.

Noong Marso 16, 2020, idineklara ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang pagsailalim ng buong isla ng Luzon sa Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) dahil sa banta ng COVID-19 sa bansa. Anim na salita lamang mula sa deklarasyon; ang nagpahinto sa higit sampung  taong pamamasada ni Ryan: Mass public transportation shall be suspended. (Nararapat suspindihin ang mga pampublikong transportasyon.)

Isa lamang si Ryan Deuna sa mga Pilipinong tsuper na nawalan ng trabaho noong nag-umpisa ang pandemya. Isinaad pa niya, “Medyo nalungkot ako noon. Ang sabi ko, ‘Wala na siguro--wala na tayong makakain nito ‘pag tumigil ako sa pagpasada.” 

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Nasaksihan din niya kung paano nagalit ang mga kapwa niyang drayber nang marinig ang balita. “Galit din sila. Balak nga nilang pumunta kay Mayor noon para daw humingi ng tulong.” ngunit nagdalawang-isip ang mga kasamahan niya at hindi na tinuloy ang balak. Upang may makain hanggang Hunyo, umasa ang pamilya ni Ryan sa mga pagkain at ayuda na ibinigay ng kanilang barangay. Para kay Ryan, naging sapat ang mga tulong na iyon.

Tatlong matagal na buwan ang lumipas bago sila pinayagang mag-padyak muli. Hindi nila inakalang kaakibat ng bagong sistema ng transportasyon ang mga bagong hamon nilang haharapin sa pagkayod.

Dulot ng bagong number coding system ay naging tatlong araw na lang ang dating pitong araw na pasada ni Ryan kada linggo. Maging ang bilang ng pasaherong dapat isakay ay nalimitahan sa isang pasahero. “Isa-isa lang, isa-isang pasahero. Kapag nakita kang [nagsakay ng] dalawa, huhulihin ka. Sa una, pagsasabihan ka muna.” Ang multang PHP 1500.00 ay anim na beses na higit sa  pang-araw-araw na sweldo noon ni Ryan na PHP 250.00. Para mabayaran ito, kinailangan niyang magtrabaho ng tatlong linggo. Kahit may apat siyang anak na bubuhayin, kinailangan niyang sumunod sa mga patakaran at magtiyaga sa PHP 600.00 na lingguhang kita (Noon, nasa PHP 2000.00 pa ang kinikita niya kada linggo) upang magpatuloy sa hanapbuhay. Naaalala pa niya ang tuwa tuwing nakaka-”jackpot” siya ng PHP 400.00 noong wala pang pandemya.

Ngayon, wala na ang mga patakarang ito; gayunpaman, ang kaunting bilang ng pasahero at ang kumakalat na virus ang bumabagabag kay Ryan bilang isang pedicab driver.

 

 

 

 

 

“Hindi ko naisip na tumigil sa pagpasada dahil kapag tumigil [ako], walang kakainin [ang pamilya ko].”

Habang binabaybay ang kalsada Naga City sakay ng kanyang makulay na padyak, tinapos ni Ryan Deuna ang stopover, ang pansamantalang pagtigil, ng labingdalawang taon niyang pamamasada. Mahigpit na nakakapit sa manibela habang ang paa’y lapat sa mga pedal, isinasantabi pa rin ni Ryan ang tindi ng init ng tag-araw, ang hapong paghinga, ang nananakit na tuhod, at ngayon, ang banta ng COVID upang magsilbing tulay sa mga kapwa Bicolano patungo sa kanilang destinasyon, at para mapalapit ang  kanyang pamilya sa inaasam nilang  buhay. 

Isang mahirap na panahon ito para sa mga daily wage earners na kagaya ni Ryan at ng mga pedicab drivers ng Naga City. Kung nais mo silang suportahan, maaari kang mag-subscribe sa aming newsletter! Direktang tulong ang iyong PHP 100.00 para sa kanila at sa kanilang mga pamilya. 

Kahit napapalibutan ng hindi makitang kalaban, walang ibang magawa si Ryan kundi kumayod bilang isang frontliner.