Uber and birthdays

By: Cris Evert Lato-Ruffolo August 18,2017 - 10:36 PM

We can’t seem to move forward in upgrading our transport situation with the political and technical squabbles which hound the BRT and the LRT.

This is frustrating, saddening and disappointing because a better transportation system would mean convenience, cost-saving and efficient management of time for working mothers like me.

At the time of this writing, my Facebook news feed is assuaged by posts of Uber’s one-month suspension. “We can’t have nice things,” wrote a very good friend as she shared Uber’s official statement after the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) handed out its decision to suspend the accreditation and operation of the ride-hailing company.

Senator Grace Poe has described LTFRB’s move as “cruel” and “absurd” as people turn to their social media platforms to express dismay over the decision. I should have written about this a month ago noting my random conversations with Uber and GrabCar drivers, but I waited because I did not want an emotionally charged and one-sided column. I wanted to talk to taxi drivers to hear their side of the story and hear LTFRB’s reasoning.

I rely on public transportation to bring me to places of work, worship and wellness. GrabCar and regular taxis have been helpful in bringing me to these places. In general, taxi companies and its drivers have lackluster performance in the fields of cleanliness, customer service, attitude and driving skills compared to GrabCar and its drivers. I write this as a commuter who take this form of transportation 25 out of 30/31 days in a month. Trust me when I say that I have done my due diligence in comparing the two.

I feel that everything boils down to legal semantics, and if LTFRB and Uber (and GrabCar to complete the equation) can go back to the drawing board, then everybody wins. Just please don’t take away the chance for the riding public to experience hassle-free, convenient and humane public transport while the reality of an LRT or a BRT is still facing its own version of a boxing match.

* * *

I took a taxi from Liloan to Cebu City Hall to attend the International Youth Day Celebration last Saturday. The unit was clean, but the driver was rude. At some point, he asked me in a very scathing manner why my son was white and I, dark. “Lagom” was the exact word he used. I did not answer the question although I was angry. I have learned to count one to 10 before I lash out on the unfriendly/rude party. But he repeated his question and so I told him my husband is Caucasian, hence the skin color of the son. I then said in Cebuano, “You cannot ask further questions because my skin color is none of your business. If you don’t stop, you will be part of the long list of taxi drivers I reported to LTFRB.”

He was silent until he dropped us off and uttered several “I’m sorry” which reminded me of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she apologized on national television in the wake of the “Hello Garci” issue for lapse in judgment in calling then Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to ensure her votes were protected during the election canvass in 2004.

The incident with the taxi driver is, of course, an isolated case. I have had wonderful experiences with taxi drivers. I write about them all the time in my Facebook posts. In one of my subjects in my master’s degree in Development Communication, I even wrote a proposed radio program called “Basta Honest Driver, May Forever,” which is specifically created to honor honest drivers and inspire other drivers to do the same. I interviewed LTFRB Central Visayas Director Ahmed Cuizon for this purpose. I also gave a sharing on my perspective as a commuter in one of the sessions of the Drivers’ Academy organized by LTFRB and had some 60 drivers in attendance.

There has to be a regular training on customer service and values formation for these drivers. They have to be constantly reminded of the importance of these two or else they will surely lose passengers to better alternatives. Honestly, if taxis are generally efficient and convenient, commuters will not look for other alternatives. Uber and GrabCar provide the better alternative. You can’t blame a working mother to choose the ride-hailing companies over a taxi company with rickety units and still uses LPG.

* * *

August is a month of birthdays for our family; so let me just greet Danielle Ruffolo, Rosemarie Berdin Carin and Demetrio Toring Jr. a belated one.

My brother-in-law, Joseph Ruffolo, in Kalispell, Montana, is this month’s birthday boy. My brother Kevin Ken is celebrating his day today while I’m blowing 31 candles tomorrow. My paternal grandmother Nenita Covero Lato and my mother Maria Elena Berdin are celebrating back-to-back birthdays on the 23rd and 24th. And finally, my beloved husband Jeffrey will add another year in his life of greatness and blessedness on the 29th of this month. Happy birthdays!

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TAGS: birthdays, company, love, LTFRB, Opinion, Uber

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