Went to SM Hypermarket in Iloilo City to do our big grocery shopping for the month this past Sunday. Since we were loaded down with about a dozen bags of groceries and our new television set (more on that in a later post), we used a taxi to go home. 300 pesos (about seven US Dollars) for the ride, off meter, we live quite a distance from the store, but a reasonable rate. We needed a larger cab, so we took GDR, which are bigger taxis with good air con usually . Our friendly driver (as most cabbies in Iloilo are) spoke very good English and was quite talkative. During the course of our conversation he informed my asawa and I that he had spent three years in Boracay hawking mineral water and was on his way to a new merchandiser job in Qatar to sell clothes at a large mall. He works seven days a week (quite common in the Philippines) and drives until 1 am and wakes up at 3 or 4 am to start his whole day over again. He has a wife and two children to support.
Our gregarious driver told us that Boracay was quite expensive to live in, but they do have some beautiful beach resorts. I told him that we had never had a chance to visit there, but know that a lot of foreigners do travel there which helps explains their higher costs of living. "Travelers' Choice 2011" by TripAdvisor voted Boracay as the second best beach (out of 25) in the world.
I told our driver that he might be able to get more sleep once he gets that merchandiser job. He just laughed. Said he has his passport and NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) clearance all ready, is just waiting for the final interview with the future employer. He then would join the ranks of over nine million Filipinos that are working as Overseas Filipino Workers, OFWs.
But since Qatar has a citizen population of less than 300,000 (source: Wikipedia), the workforce is comprised of mainly expatriates from other countries with 10% of those workers coming from the Philippines. From Iloilo City to Boracay to Qatar, our cab driver has been on quite a journey. But that's the way it is the Philippines. You have to do what you can to provide for your family and make some tremendous sacrifices.
We arrived home and my asawa and I split the cab fare and both kicked in 50 pesos (1.15 US Dollars) each to give him a P100 tip. Friendly guy, interesting, and he was pleased with the extra 100 pesos. After all, he also unloaded our groceries and television set for us. I shook hands with him and wished him well. Hope the poor guy does gets some sleep. You have to admire his work ethic, that's for sure, which is typical of many Filipinos. You do what you have to do.