THERE is really something to cab drivers and the stories they tell. At the very least, they make for very good entertainment when stuck in traffic for at least an hour.
Remember last week, when I told of this taxi driver who claims to be a former beverage executive and have an uncle that manages a big business and another relative who worked on Sen. Grace Poe’s senatorial campaign?
Well, late last week, I was riding a UV Express, which essentially is a taxi filled with at least 10 individuals who pay a fixed amount, from Pasay City to Manila. I had a meeting with officials from the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office and decided afterward to visit Chinatown in Manila that same afternoon.
Anyway, with most of the passengers gone, I started a conversation with the driver. It was very interesting, especially from a monetary and investment perspective.
The driver, whose route is Sucat to Lawton, said he had been a UV Express driver for three years.
For an entire day, he told me that he could go through his route three times. With his van having a capacity of 18 persons and low diesel cost, the driver said he earns at least P5,000 daily.
That made me think. In a week, he makes P25,000, because the driver told me, he never works on weekends. For a full month period, he earns P100,000. Now, can someone tell me again how much an office worker, who works an eight-hour shift, earns in a month?
From his earnings, the driver said he has bought three small parcels of land in Cavite, that he turned into two apartment units and a sari-sari store. He also purchased another property adjacent to his Parañaque City house and, again, turned it into an apartment.
He said the large number of UV Express vans plying the route has not in anyway diminished his daily earnings. The two factors affecting it, he said, are vehicle maintenance and the traffic.
Although I failed to ask him the cost of the van, he said the LTFRB franchise cost him P250,000 and the membership cost for him to work the route was P10,000. Again, do the math in terms of the return on investment.
And if you are also wondering what he was doing before becoming a UV Express driver, well, he was a dump-truck driver for the local government of Parañaque City.
Now, if you are also wondering what I was doing in Manila, well, I was going on my magical mystery tour. That is how I term it whenever I go to Chinatown.
It is magical in a sense that there are so much unique items and food that can only be found there. It is a mystery because there are still a lot of streets and buildings there that I have yet to walk through and visit. I just never know what I would find in them.
I just hope it is not anything near the P15 million worth of shabu that was found in a supposed flower shop there.
I started my walk at the Santa Cruz Bridge, weather was perfect, it was late in the afternoon and the wind on my face felt good, until I looked below and saw the polluted Pasig River and the jeepneys passing by. Man, I might have been putting heavily polluted air into my lungs.
I turned left into Escolta and suddenly remembered my childhood. We used to attend mass in Santa Cruz Church and spend the day in the area.
What I saw that afternoon was dilapidated buildings left and right, that had their best years behind them. There was also what remained of the old Philippine National Bank building.
But you know what? There are signs of new life in that street. There are a couple of stand-alone stores that were selling clothes and shoes. There was also an ice-cream house, which was so cool. Every kid must experience an ice-cream house at least once before they grow up and lose their innocence.
At the end of the street was the open area were the first Savory Restaurant first stood. I smiled when I saw their billboard inside the property. Maybe, they will rebuild it.
Oh, and there was also the Manila International Peace Center building, which looked gorgeous, but after some Internet search, I still do not know what they are about. I should have gone inside.
Then I saw the largest Chinatown Friendship arch in the world that was inaugurated middle of last year during the 40th year celebration of diplomatic ties between China and the Philippines. The arch was constructed at a cost of P22.50 million. It looked pretty.
I also passed by Juan Luna Street. I cannot remember my history classes anymore, so can someone please explain to me his importance to the Chinese community in the country. Nearby, there was this building named Juan Luna Residencia, which looked really old on the outside.
The last street I passed by that afternoon was Ongpin. It is an all-too-familiar street for me as it is one of my favorite places during the weekend, whenever I feel like leaving my bed. I was there during the eve of the Chinese New Year and the place was packed.
Throughout the stretch of the street, passersby will find lots restaurants, not just those that offer Chinese dishes. There were also lots of bakeshops, including the popular Salazar Bakery and the newly opened Amor. There is also this hole-in-the-wall food store named Shanghai Fried Siopao, which, I swear, has the best kikiam, fresh lumpia and machang.
Jewelry shops and those offering budgetfriendly wedding rings, along with stores that sell all sorts of Chinese merchandise, including medicines, also abound.
And if you think business was not thriving in the area, well, the presence of most of the banks that operate in the country will tell you otherwise.
There is a lot going on in Chinatown. It is also an eye candy for people that want to explore new places. But make no mistake, there is also big business there. It might even be as big as those in the country’s central business districts.
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