August 9, 2021
At Caloocan South, driving a tricycle is a woman’s job too
By Joy Rojas
Men may continue to dominate the business of tricycle driving in the Philippines, but in the bustling industrial, commercial, and residential district of Caloocan South, women are holding their own in what is largely perceived as a man’s job.
At the first of three relief distributions organized by Tzu Chi Foundation and the Caloocan City local government in Grace Park Elementary School last August 4, women drivers—from mothers and wives to sisters and daughters—were among the 3,880 recipients of two 10-kg sacks of rice and grocery pack of brown sugar, salt, cooking oil, vinegar, soy sauce, Taiwan cereal mix, spaghetti sauce and noodles, bath soap, and detergent.
“From what I know, women make up a fourth of each TODA (Tricycle Operators and Drivers Association) here,” says Rhemivel Baello, 40, of Heroes del 96 TODA and one of 10 female drivers in her association. Baello, who belongs to a family of tricycle drivers, was taught how to drive by her father. “It’s the practical thing to do,” says this tricycle driver of 11 years. “It’s better than sitting at home. At least you get to help your family.”
Now 45, Vivian Calonia was in high school when she learned how to drive a tricycle through her father and older brother. “I would go with them on their routes, and sometimes I would sneak out the tricycle, drive it, and accidentally crash it,” she says with a laugh. Though she has held other jobs before, Calonia would eventually secure a franchise and membership with a TODA. The mother of three and wife to a part-time construction worker has been a tricycle driver for the last five years.
Leila Francisco credits the humble trade for financing the needs of her now grown four children when they were still young. “My husband taught me how to drive a tricycle,” says Francisco, 50. “I decided to work because our income wasn’t enough to support our family. So I worked towards a hulog-boundary (rent-to-own) tricycle.” Francisco, whose husband passed away six years ago, has been driving her tricycle for 21 years.
The pandemic and its ensuing lockdowns have been hard on Baello, Calonia, Francisco, and their fellow drivers. Limited to plying their routes every other day and forced to ferry single passengers at a time, they are lucky if they can earn half of what they used to make on a good day. Working on the side isn’t an option for many who fear catching COVID-19 from strangers.
“You just have to persevere even if it’s to make enough for your next meal,” says Francisco. “My mother now lives with me and she’s one of the people I support.”
Tzu Chi’s rice and relief goods came at the right time. Days after the distribution, government declared a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) on the national capital region and its surrounding areas. Though public utility vehicles are allowed to operate, only those considered APOR (Authorized Persons Outside of Residence) are permitted to go out of their homes, thus cutting down the number of commuters.
“Tzu Chi is such a big help to us, especially with the ECQ,” says Baello. “What you gave us, we will not be able to earn in a day. We will not get tired of thanking you for all the help you give.”
Tentative dates for the next relief distributions at Caloocan South are on September 12 and October 10, 2021.