The Philippines prides itself not only for being rich with beautiful beaches, top-notch food delicacies, and great athletes, but also for our very own and unique mode of transportation, which has always represented what and how it’s like to be a Filipino – strong and reliable.
For the longest time, our jeepneys have always been one of our main modes of transportation and our beloved jeepney drivers who have relentlessly brought us to our destinations. But since the pandemic has brought chaos to the country, our jeepney drivers, the ones we call “mga hari ng kalsada,” were nowhere to be found on the streets. These heroes who used to provide service for everyone could not provide for their loved ones, not even for themselves. In this episode of Iba ‘Yan with host Angel Locsin, they extended a little help for some of our jeepney drivers who cry out for nothing but their return to their job.
Angel met Jimmy Escalante, a member of a group of jeepney drivers from Balintawak, Quezon City. Jimmy and his co-drivers have been stuck in their terminal for almost four months because of lockdown. He told Angel how their lives have been in the terminal. They would make sure everyone gets equal supply of necessities like food, no matter how limited their resources are.
Jimmy shared they have always hoped they could go back to work already. Some drivers could not just accept their situation as they have their families to provide for. That’s why some of them decided to maximize everything that they can do just so they can somehow have their source of income, like Macmac Arceo who has been an on-call driver instead and Teody Delos Santos who decided to collect and sell garbage.
Iba ‘Yan made sure to leave something for the drivers, as they set various booths which gave services for them. There’s the medical booth where the drivers were given free health consultation and vitamins and medicines, as well. The Iba ‘Yan Team also tapped viral street barber from Manila, Joseph Dante, to give them free haircut and they even put up a “trabahanap” booth to help them find jobs suitable to the experiences and abilities of the drivers while it’s still uncertain for them when they can go back to driving.
While it has been a major matter to take care of our physical health in the midst of a pandemic, it’s just equally important to make sure our mental health is in stable condition. Mang Kulot Mondoñedo, a jeepney driver, suffered from a ‘psychotic break’ as he experienced being out of touch with reality. According to his friends, they often caught him talking to himself and there was also a time when he couldn’t converse properly anymore. But his friends and co-drivers were there to help and take care of him. Thus, the Iba ‘Yan team decided to bring him to a psychiatrist for a check-up.
Based from the doctor’s assessment, it was concluded that Mang Kulot had a brief psychotic episode because of the lack of support from people, lack of basic necessities like food and security, and his worries for his work – all of these combined. To help Mang Kulot continue his recovery, the team covered his expenses in going back to his home in Surigao to be with his family again. He was also given food and vitamins, and Angel assured him that he should not worry about his daily check-ups and his medicines because the show will make sure to provide all of his needs.
It’s very painful to witness how our jeepney drivers who are left with nothing are doing more than everything they can, just so they can go back to driving again. Mang Alberto Gloria, a jeepney operator and driver from Anonas, Quezon City, already had his jeepney fixed in hopes of possibly going back to work in the new normal landscape. Thus, in order to help Mang Alberto, Team Iba ‘Yan disinfected his jeepney. They also received disinfectant machines so they can be fully prepared once they can go back to work.
More surprises were given to the jeepney drivers to somehow alleviate their situation.
Team Iba ‘Yan invited Kin Manalo, a college student who started a donation drive for jeepney drivers, and gave all the relief bags she was able to gather. The local government of Quezon City also informed them of the “LalaJeep” program and the second wave of financial aid and gave them vegetables and vitamins.
Iba ‘Yan gave each one of them a driver kit, rice supply for one month, and a business package and coordinated with architect Jaecelle Gecolea to come up with a prototype jeep that is suitable for the safety and health protocols implemented. And her design, together with Mang Alberto’s design for his jeepney, was approved by the Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board (LTFRB). The drivers were all assured that they don’t need to worry anymore because the team will provide them the materials that they will use to convert their vehicle to COVID-proof jeepneys.
The last surprise was given to Mang Jimmy and his wife Emilia Escalante. Jimmy’s worries go beyond their current situation because even if the circumstances permit them to go back on the road, he only has a short time left to work since he’s turning 60 years old soon, which will force him to retire and stop working.
As their house got demolished two years ago, the couple has no choice but to spend every single day inside their jeepney – where they eat, sleep, and do everything for survival. They actually have a house in Rizal, however, that still needs to be furnished so they could transfer and finally live there.
With the pandemic disabling them to achieve that dream of having their abode fixed, Iba ‘Yan made sure that it would still come true as Angel and the whole team had it furnished for them, and even put a mini store which can be an additional source of income for them.