The taxi driver

I left Quezon City quite early last Monday. And on the way to the airport, I had the opportunity of being in a taxi driven by a fellow Mindanaoan. Unlike me though, he has been in Metro Manila since the 1960s. And he has been driving taxis since then up to now.

He told me that the last time he was able to go home to Davao City was in 2006. He said that he always wanted to go home over the recent years, but he had a daughter who was on her way to finish her university studies. And that was more of the priority than the trip to his relatives in the land of his birth.

I told him that I was from Cagayan de Oro. And I even said it in Cebuano, but he carried on the conversation with me in Tagalog. I guess he’s more comfortable using his Tagalog now than the Cebuano of his birth, considering his years of stay in the capital. Or maybe, he didn’t hear me. Either way, I had a pretty interesting conversation with the taxi driver.

He was already old. He was probably in his 60s, with a balding head and a few remaining grey hair nestled on the areas just above the ears. His voice was hoarse, a result maybe of frequent conversations with passengers; coughs as a result of work; or maybe just frequent drinking of liquor. But his disposition shines through these obvious signs of aging. He was an idealist. And his words later gave proof of my perspective of him.

Back in the 1970s, he said he was actively involved in the transport sector, being by then already a senior member of a taxi association. He participated frequently in the protest actions against President Ferdinand Marcos. Particularly those on increasing oil prices and problems in the transport sector. And he was so caught up in his passions that it caused him to lose some of his teeth after riot policemen struck his face in one of the rallies he attended. But he didn’t mind he said. What is a few teeth after all compared to those who lost their limbs and even their lives fighting the Marcos dictatorship.

As we were nearing Makati City, he starting talking to me about then Makati Mayor now Vice President Jejomar Binay. He said that back in the day, Binay was merely then human rights lawyer now Senator Joker Arroyo’s assistant. In their conferences with other anti-Marcos groups, he would frequently see Binay holding on Arroyo’s bag and documents. Binay then he said, was a young lawyer fresh out of UP Law, and he was trying to carve out the path with which he can use his knowledge acquired from the national university.

Binay, the taxi driver said, was only able to position himself at the helm of Makati after President Cory Aquino came into power. Then Local Government Minister now former Senator, Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. appointed him as officer-in-charge of Makati right after the 1986 People Power Revolution. And instead of simply ending his temporary hold on the city when the first free elections were held, Binay held on to power by running and staying in Makati for at least two decades (almost the same length of time Marcos stayed in power).

The taxi driver found it funny that the Binay, one among many who rallied in the streets then shouting slogans against political dynasties, would be the same person who would trade places once in a while with the other members of his family, just so they could stay in political control of Makati. What happened then to all those years of being in the sun and demanding an end to political dynasties, the driver asked.

It was funny he said that the very persons who were with them then, who claimed to have spoken on their behalf against the dictator and led the sectors in mobilizations against the repressive regime, would be the ones who would perpetrate the very kind of system they had fought against. He said that one must know what one’s intentions are when joining organizations, movements and campaigns for social and political issues. And one must never forget that the work is in the service of the people.

It was interesting to see how the taxi driver viewed his involvements in the transport sector, his experiences with the dreaded Metrocom (the Philippine Constabulary Metropolitan Command) and his life after President Marcos was removed from power. I have met and worked with some people who get themselves involved in campaigns, associations, and rights groups and then embark on a political career, highlighting their involvement as proof of their commitment to serve the people. Yeah, complete assholes, I know. Unlike those people, the taxi driver did not cash in on what he did. And it felt nice, knowing that there were selfless individuals like that.

After a long talk about Binay, the Marcos years and the post-People Power political arrangements, we arrived at the airport. I paid the fare and stepped off the taxi as soon as I could, seeing the long lines of passengers going in the terminal. And as I was standing in that cue, I suddenly remembered, I forgot to get the taxi driver’s name.

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