Why I don’t take cabs in PH anymore | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Three years ago I was taken and held up by three men in a taxi. I was going to meet friends after work, and the driver made a sudden turn. His two cohorts jumped in as he declared: “Holdup ’to, makisama ka lang. Babarilin kita kapag pumalag ka.”
I panicked, tried to get out and, within seconds, regained composure and told myself: I have to survive this.

The guy beside me had his arm around my shoulders; his other hand holding a stun gun to my side. The guy in the front passenger seat took my valuables and alighted on Edsa to withdraw money from my accounts after threatening me into giving him my pin codes.

The driver kept on bullying me and forcing me not to look them in the eye. He even thanked me for helping them out: “Ma’am, maraming salamat sa tulong ninyo. Pera lang naman ’yan, kikitain mo rin ’yan.”

They just stole the cab, he added, and the “real driver” is dying in the trunk.

It was the longest, most gruelling taxi ride of my life, which ended with me taking a bus back to Makati City from Fairview at 3 a.m. (they gave me fare money).

One of the men trailed behind me, ready to shoot
me if I went straight to the police station. I survived, but I
was shaken.

The next day I reported the incident to the police, eventually sought counseling, and diligently recovered.

But stress caught up with me and I started losing my hair in clumps.

Losing my hair and looking like a chemo patient turned out to be the bigger tragedy. I tried all possible treatments—from steroids to hilot—but my condition called alopecia areata won and I got bald in patches.

After taking time off work, I picked up my spirit and accepted that I will be bald forever, and on my birthday had the rest of my wispy Gollum hair shaven off.

It was the most liberating thing: letting go of my trauma, my hair and the drama that went with it. But I never rode a taxi again. I just don’t trust them anymore.

LTFRB vs Uber/Grab

I still don’t drive, but with the exception of riding cabs abroad, it has always been Uber for me.

The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board’s (LTFRB) recently cracked down on Grab and Uber drivers who are operating without the necessary permits (aka “colorum”), and this news has been unsettling.

A July 26 compliance deadline has been set for the app-based transport network companies (TNCs) which sparked outrage on social media.

The threatening situation created an angry online army fighting for Grab and Uber though their mobile phones.

According to an Inquirer report, LTFRB chair Martin Delgra III said that “The board and the government fully support the ride-sharing technology. What we don’t want is the transport network companies violating the law rampantly and openly to the prejudice of the drivers … Don’t turn the commuters against us because it is a mess that you [TNCs] created.” (“Uber, Grab failed to inform drivers of LTFRB requirements,” by Jovic Yee; July 19)

Then it escalated to the Senate.

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Services, challenges LTFRB to find balance between regulating TNCs and ensuring commuters of access to safe, comfortable and reliable transportation, “until we are able to improve mass transportation.” (“Poe: Uber, Grab drivers should not suffer amid LTFRB crackdown,” by Julliane Love de Jesus; July 19, Inquirer.net)

As of press time, LTFRB is in legal discussions with TNCs which have committed to stop activations of new drivers. Grab and Uber reportedly accredited 56,000 drivers but only 3,700 have valid franchises.
Reality check

We’re hoping this T (transport) drama gets resolved in favor of frustrated Filipinos who have been longing for an efficient railway system.

Commuting in the Philippines has become a competitive sport and booking rides via apps has been a big reality check. It’s a middle class issue, admittedly, and a lucrative business for both Grab and Uber.

It costs, but between paying for comfort and playing with my life, I choose Uber over cabs for three reasons.

1. Safety

I cannot stress this enough until I’m stressed. My taxi holdup incident was not an isolated case.

While recovering, I received a call from a woman who experienced the same modus a few days before, but she was brutally, repeatedly stabbed and was dropped for dead in Payatas. We were strangers crying and comforting each other over the phone.

Teng Santaromana Gamboa, widow of Tropical Depression’s “Papadom,” was fatally shot and dumped by a pile of garbage in Makati last year. She was “apparently a victim of a holdup inside the taxicab she hailed to go home,” Lifestyle desk editor Pocholo Concepcion wrote (“Widow of Tropical Depression’s ‘Papadom’ slain in Makati CBD,” Feb. 12).

2. Accountability

We’ve heard it all from rude taxi drivers being choosy, impolite and douchey—those who ask for extra on top of what’s on the meter (which we weren’t even sure has not been tampered with) just because it’s “traffic,” or because “wala akong pasahero pabalik.”

Kuya, do you really think we can ask for a salary increase just because we feel like it?

Taxi drivers do not hold themselves accountable for their astonishing behavior since there is no valid feedback and rating system.

3. Improved social skills, for driver and rider

Uber partners are a mixed bag. Some are moonlighting professionals, some are former taxi or tricycle drivers. Mmost of them are social savvy—or at least they try.

For Uberpool, there’s mutual respect shared among coriders. I was once pooling with two college students who were discussing theater, and the guy declared that “Lea Salonga is overrated.”

I kept quiet out of respect but I was also laughing so hard internally.

Bonus: The smell

Uber cars are shiny and fresh. Car owners take them on coding days or when parking is a bitch. It’s also the best way to go to and from the airport, and is a lifesaver on walwalan nights.

Uber isn’t perfect, especially when the surge skyrockets. Customer service isn’t as flawless as before, and the US company has become controversial. Uber is the relationship you’re keeping for convenience.

It’s been three years since I’ve figured in the taxi holdup incident and I still get jumpy on long rides but I have managed. I have also gotten my hair back.

My traumatic experience proved that cabs can be used for crimes and I hold of high value the priceless assurance of getting to my destination unharmed—even if I start driving a car.
There’s bound to be a method to this madness.

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