It is April, the peak of the dry season in the Philippines. Afternoons can be oppressively hot and at times like these, Apolinario Cantancio (48), takes refuge by taking a nap under the shade of a big tree in one of the quieter streets of Barangay Villamonte where he plies his trade.
Nicknamed Polén, Apolinario is a trisikad (pedal taxi) driver which means he ferries passengers or cargo such as market purchases or water containers in the sidecar of his bicycle. He starts work at 7AM daily and by noontime, he can have earnings of about 100 pesos ($2). He takes a break to have lunch in a local carinderia (a roadside eatery) where he spends half his morning’s earnings on a meal comprising rice, fish and boiled vegetables. After a short rest, he gets back on his trisikad to ferry more passengers, usually students and employees who are going back to school and work, respectively. When demand for rides slackens, this is when he takes a nap on his trisikad in the shade. In mid afternoon he resumes his work until the early evening at which time he heads home but not before stopping to buy rice and fish in a local market along the way. He takes these to his ‘family’ - his partner Jefferlyn and her sister Janice and her family.
We came to know Polén through his partner Jefferlyn (32) who happens to be a physically disadvantaged girl; she was born without hands and feet and only has fists and stumps. She also has a deformed tongue which slurs her speech. Many times in the past we, in the PSHF, have helped Jefferlyn and her mother Myrna with medical needs as well as a housing grant.
Polén would like to have a trisikad of his own. He however does not have the resources to buy one and so has approached the PSHF for a loan of 9,000 pesos. This amount will enable him to acquire a new one for 7,500 pesos. He would also like to buy a big umbrella to shelter him from the elements as well as a raincoat (500 pesos each). The remaining 500 pesos will be used to have his vehicle registered at the local government office.
Presently Polén is renting his trisikad for 40 pesos a day, five days a week and weekends are free. His unit is old and often breaks down. When this happens, the rent goes up to 70 pesos a day because the owner is the one paying for the repairs. Polen’s net average daily takings amount to about 150 pesos ($3) after the rent is deducted. This amount is just enough to meet basic living expenses.
Polén is excited about having his own trisikad. He will pay back his loan to the PSHF over a period of 18 months.