YOUR next Uber driver could be this 18-year-old boy.
While many his age are in school, Jeic Sarmiento is dead set on working. “Tumigil ako sa pag-aaral at imbes na magloko ako, gusto ko magtrabaho muna (I stopped studying and instead of making trouble, I wanted to work first),” says Jeic.
“Wala (Nothing),” he replies repeatedly when asked why he’s fired up to work. Then he changes “wala” into “naisip ko lang or gumawa muna ng gusto ko. Gusto ko maging malaya. (I just thought of doing something that I like. I want to be free).
“Ayaw ko muna ma-stress or gumawa ng bagay-bagay like homework, quizzes, assignments,” he explains further and defends what he just said. “Wala naman akong sinasabi na masama ’yun (I don’t want to get stressed and do stuff like schoolwork. I didn’t say that’s bad).”
“Wala,” Jeic says again. “Gusto ko break lang (Nothing. I just want a break).”
An Information Technology freshman at Adamson University, Jeic stopped schooling at the end of the first semester. Then turning 17, he couldn’t find work. That year out of school, Jeic exhausted himself playing badminton, with high hopes of becoming a varsity player.
A year later, he told his parents about his eagerness to find work. “Actually, alam na ng parents ko na gusto ko magtrabaho (My parents knew that I want to work).”
When he finally turned 18, a friend told him about someone looking for a driver for the app-based private car service, Uber. Jeic was introduced to the car owner. “Sir, OK lang ba na 18 lang ako?” he asked. “Baka naman namimili kayo ng driver. (Is it OK that I’m just 18? Maybe you’re choosy with your drivers).”
Jeic finally got the job when a car became available. “Ang first day ko sa Uber was March 7. ’Yun ’yung first-ever stable job ko!” he says proudly. “Nagsimula na pumasok ’yung income tapos ’yun, natuwa ako. (When the income started coming in, I was happy).”
On his first month, he worked 20 hours every other day. Recently, Jeic was given the privilege of taking the car home. He now has a driving schedule of 15-16 hours a day during weekdays and 12 hours on weekends with a day’s rest, which is when the car is number-coded.
Jeic admits his mother’s disappointment when he told her he didn’t want to continue his studies.
“Meron kaming financial problem kahit papaano kasi nag-loan kami sa SSS, ’yung study first pay later,” he says. “Medyo nag-away kami ni Mommy noong time na ’yun na bibigyan na niya dapat ako ng pera pang-enroll tapos sinabi ko na hindi muna ako mag-aaral (We have a financial problem. We took out a loan from SSS. Mommy and I kinda fought, she was supposed to give me money for enrollment when I told her I would stop going to school).”
His mother would ask occasionally, “Ano, mag-aaral ka na ba, Jeic (Are you going back to school)? ”
Jeic says, “Gusto lang talaga nila ako pag-aralin. Si Mommy gusto niya ako mag-aral. Si Daddy naman OK lang sa kanya na mag-work ako at tinutulungan pa nga niya ako (My Mommy wants me to study. My Daddy thinks it’s OK for me to work and he even helps me).”
Jeic was supposed to go back to school this year but didn’t make it because he wasn’t able to complete the documents
“Nakapasa ako as badminton player sa isang school in Las Piñas pero na-hold ako kasi nagsisimula na ang second semester. Hindi ko din naasikaso ’yung necessary requirements kaagad so hindi pa ako nakapag-aral (I made it as a badminton player in a Las Piñas school but I was put on hold
because it was already the second semester. I also didn’t prepare the necessary requirements).”
Admittedly, his excitement to work for Uber and the income he receives every week also led him to forget enrollment and badminton.
Jeic says that he’s overwhelmed by Uber’s driving promotion.
“Challenge ni Uber na makuha mo ’yung certain number of trips na i-re-require nila tapos magbibigay sila ng award, kunwari, P300 a trip (If you make a certain number of trips, they’ll give you an award),” Jeic says. If the required trip in Uber’s driver promotion is 75 a week and Jeic makes 100, he will get P30,000. On a daily basis, Jeic makes 18-20 trips.
“I’m getting a lot of trips so pasok talaga nang pasok ’yung income,” he says.
When driving, Jeic makes sure to strike a conversation between him and his passenger.
“Nasasabik akong may kausap ako pag nagda-drive (I look forward to having someone to talk to when I drive),” Jeic says.
His most unforgettable experience was receiving a P1,000 tip for driving a foreigner to Chino Roces Avenue in Makati.
“Sir, this is too much,” said Jeic as he tried to give back the money.
“It’s yours to keep,” said his passenger.
Jeic was so overjoyed, he called his codrivers to share the good news.
“Ang dami ko talagang masayang experience sa Uber and sobrang dami kong natututunan sa mga tao na nakakasalamuha ko dito,” he says. “Siyempre, hindi mawawala ’yung bad experiences pero ang masasabi ko lang ngayon is wise na ako sa Uber
(I have a lot of happy experiences in Uber and I learned a lot from the people I encounter. Of course, you can’t avoid bad experiences, but all I can say is I’m now wiser from Uber).”
“Actually,” he adds, “mas madami akong natutunan sa halos two years na hindi ako nag-aral (I learned more in the last two years that I was not in school).”
Still, Jeic won’t be driving for so long. Two years after being out of school, he plans to study again and become a student-athlete.
“Iniisip ko ’yung age ko. Kapag 19 na ako tapos hindi pa ako nag-aaral, ibang usapan na ’yun (I thought about my age. If I’m 19 and I’m not studying, that’s something else).”
“Sure na talaga,” he says with conviction, “mag-aaral na ako next year. (I’m going back to school next year).”
Photography Ronan Capili
Styling Daryl Baybado
Grooming and Hairstyle Jet Babas