The demand for basic necessity continue to climb up the ladder as IBON foundation revealed that the daily cost of living in Metro Manila has risen to P637.24 as of January, a nine percent increase from the same period last year.
UP Ikot drivers are among those who are experiencing this uphill climb when it comes to their daily needs. It shows that their usual P300- P500 earnings a day is insufficient with the daily needs of their family.
Ernesto S. Chaneco, 56, an Ikot driver, has been driving in UP Diliman for more than 40 years now. He started driving when he was 15 years old.
“At first, I did car washing with my uncle when I was still a young boy. He taught me how to drive and eventually, he gave me a chance to drive a jeepney, up until now I’m still doing the job,” Mang Ernesto said in Filipino.
Mang Ernesto start plying his route at 5 a.m. and return to the garage at 9 p.m. –a total of 14 hours of work on the road. Another driver will drive his jeepney, working the same number of hours the next day.
In Metro Manila, ‘rilyebo’ system is usually practiced. At least two or three drivers regularly share a livelihood out of one jeepney.
“It’s hard when you have your operator, you will give almost everything that you earn to them at the end of the day. As of now my boundary is P900, I usually take home P400 out of my whole day driving. I personally can’t do anything about that, that’s how it is,” Mang Ernesto lamented.
When he was asked about the maintenance of the jeep, he mentioned that he usually shoulder small items needed to be replaced like rubbers and fluids but when it comes to bigger problems the operator are the one who shoulders it.
–But his perception of life was all positive hopes compared to some, who continue to whine without doing anything to have a productive life.–
According to UP Driver’s Association, as of now there are about 50-60 drivers who primarily taking the route of UP Ikot. These 50-60 drivers compete with few numbers of students who wanted to ride a jeep on their way to another building.
“Sometimes I feel embarrass when no one wants to ride a jeep. Most of the students now prefer to walk or use their bikes in going to another side of UP, unlike before, students patronage riding a jeep,” He said.
Having four children is a tough challenge to Mang Ernesto. He admitted that during his first years of driving, they usually fall short when it comes to their daily budget but as much as possible, they try to make use of the money he earned as an Ikot driver to have a filling meal everyday and for his children to go school.
Since driving in UP cannot fully support Mang Ernesto and his family’s needs, a vulcanizing shop that he raised six years ago helps him with the rest of his responsibilities.
“I established a vulcanizing shop in Cabanatuan, it helps me a lot financially. I was able to send my children to school and i’m happy to tell that three of my kids are now working after they graduated. I am quite fulfilled because I was able to do it with the help of my job,” said Mang Ernesto.
Mang Ernesto is one of those who continue to struggle on one of the oldest problem of this country—poverty. But his perception of life was all positive hopes compared to some, who continue to whine without doing anything to have a productive life. He continues to be persistent and do his best to have a better life as an Ikot driver.
“Maybe at my age now, I will not look for another job, I will stay as an Ikot driver as long as my body permits me anyway I have my kids now to support me”, he ended.
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