Mario, Manila Taxi Driver: The Importance of Enjoying Life
A lot of people talk about the taxi drivers of Manila. There are many stories of pushy drivers, rude drivers, drivers with a poor standard of English, dishonest drivers, drivers who commit robbery or attempted hold-ups, of drivers who demand extortionate rates to deliver their passengers a very short distance, and on occasion, drivers who insincerely take a wrong turn and cost their passenger a missed flight due to therefore being caught in unnecessary traffic.
These instances are quite possibly out-numbered by the huge amount of positive experiences; of drivers whose cars break down but still deliver their passenger, despite driving illegally just to please their guest; of drivers who offer excellent advice or are keen to learn what they can about life everybody; drivers who are worldly-wise, if the number of hours they spend in front of the Discovery and National Geographic cable TV channels are anything to go by. There are a lot of drivers who are apologetic about the Philippines and others who discuss politcs and provincal life at length.
Regarding the drivers asking an additional fifty pesos, my attitude is that there are times when it is clear that the driver will not mae any money on that given route, so I am happy to oblige, simply because I find it wrong to pressure people into losing money. Other times it is clearly greed.
I often have good experiences with drivers and learn a lot.
There was the man who was asking my views of various religions. He believes in a single god but does not follow any set religion and was well versed in the most common of the world's religions such as Islam, Hindi, Buddhism, Christianity and Pagan.
I have fond memories of Andrew, the young driver who was very intelligent but lacking an education and was working hard to support his family. A great sense of humour, perfect English and a good knowledge of himself and his life.
Romeo, the driver who was telling me that his friends stopped being his friends when he lost his fortune. "Kuya, those people are not your friends. It's easier to find friends when you have no money. It's easy, everybody who talks to you is your friend. When you have money, it's not so easy."
There was the driver whose appearance fitted the perfect stereotype of a drug addict murderer. I felt I could trust him though and thoroughly enjoyed his attempts at breaking the sound barrier in our rattling scrap of metal, hurting along C5 at the sonic superspeed of 80mph.
And how could I forget the Filipino version of Woody Allen? The man who managed to get from Makati to Dilian, QC in about twenty minutes flat, who must have sat in his driving seat for more than 50 years and cut up every jeepney on the route, sticking his fingers up and shouting tagalog profanities as he did so!
And today, traveling from Intramuros to Makati, I met Mario the taxi driver. Mario explained to me how life in the province is free: free food, free water; no need to work hard; free building materials; easy-life. But of course, this lifestyle does not suit everybody, but it is possible to survive simply without money.
Mario went on to tell me his attitude about life.
"I don't wake up thinking about how hard it will be to find a passenger today, or thinking about the high cost of living or about the traffic or the heat. I don't really see myself as a driver."
Mario turned the corner, zipped past a couple of cars and we sat in the steaming Manila heat, chatting together. The sun's rays glistened in a three-foot long crack in the front wind-screen. Mario told me that he was saving fifty pesos every day to pay for a new one.
"I am not just a driver. I see myself as a traveler and every day I am excited to find out which places I will be visiting. Will I be able to see Mall of Asia today? Or SM North? Or Laguna? Will my first passenger be a beautiful, sexy girl? What can I learn today from the people I will meet? That is how I think about my job. Yes, it's a job, I get paid to tour all over Manila and meet so many new people and see so many beautiful girls! And I get to eat some wonderful foods - you know, taxi drivers can eat all over Manila and have the best of the foods, whatever we want to eat!"
"It is very important to find a way to enjoy life and to enjoy your work."
How wonderful to know that twelve hours per day sitting in the same position in the same seat, stuck in the searing heat of Manila traffic, covered in sweat and peering through a cracked window pane, has not harmed Mario's view of the world.