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Blog - Pedaling For Life: A Chat With an Intramuros Pedicab Driver 

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Meet Moises, a 29 year old father and a pedicab driver entrepreneur in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. This is the English translation of an interview we published on Italian online magazine/blog ciclo-news.com a couple of months ago.

Candice on the pedicab – Photo by Tropical Experience Travel Services

The pedicab (or cycle rickshaw), is more popularly known in the Philippines as “traysikad” or “padyak”, which literally means “stamp the feet”, referring to the act of  pushing the pedals of the bicycle with the necessary strength to transport passengers.

A pedicab is made by mounting a sidecar to a common bicycle which used to transport passengers on short distances and through narrow streets. The sidecar can usually contain 2 adult passengers, or 3-4 children….or it can be used to transport heavy or less simple things (a pet or furniture, for instance) that would be too heavy to hand-carry or to take to destinations not easily reachable with a typical motorized mean of transportation.

Moises and Candice in front of the Manila Cathedral – Photo by Tropical Experience Travel Services

Born in Manila, Moises attended University but quit after a couple of years and preferred to work. He started as gasoline-man, resigned after 2 years and decided to invest his savings to purchase a pedicab and become his own boss. This persued career has become the main source of income to sustain his wife and his 2 children. It has been 7 years that he is transporting passengers to the train station, schools, offices, malls, markets or homes.

Until 2 years ago,  he decided to explore a new path of taking tourists around Intramuros.

As part of our work as tour operators, we frequently visit places that we think would be worth taking our guests. Intramuros is an ideal place to visit for those who want to learn Philippine history and culture.

And there we met Moises. He nicely approached us as we were strolling along the streets of this historical-cultural district, offering to take as around with his pedicab. Pedaling, he took us around the most important historical spots of this fortified small city, where the colonial Spanish government located its headquarters (between XVI and XIX Centuries). He pedaled with ease and breeze as he took us around the Walled City which is the oldest district and the historic core of  Manila. Moises provided us transportation services and at the same time was also our tour guide, describing ancient churches, pointing government offices, prominent landmarks, enumerating important buildings and institutions that we pass by. He even offered to take pictures of us!

View from the Pedicab – Photo by Tropical Experience Travel Services

Along the way, he shared with us the joys and satisfactions of his job with his pedicab as he describes his typical work-day. During week-days, he wakes up before sunrise and with more than 100 other pedicabs, he lines up at the terminal, hoping to serve one of the first passengers going to office places between 6 and 7 am. Going early, of course, gives him the advantage of serving more passengers, thus gathers more earnings. Averagely, he has around a dozen of passengers per day, with rides of 10-15 minutes each. Around noon, if he has no customers, he would take a one hour break to have a quick lunch and rest a bit. His work ends at 6 pm, when he goes home to enjoy dinner with his wife, his 5-year old daughter and his 3-year old son.

On weekends, he goes around searching for tourists who might be interested to tour Intramuros. He looks forward to weekends with tourists, he says, and this is what he really enjoys most. He also told us about the many different countries his passengers are from: South Korea, Malaysia, United States, India, China, Australia, Spain, Thailand, etc. With them, he was able to learn to say “Hello” in their respective languages.  And now, it’s our turn to teach him the Italian greeting! He was in so happy to learn that he was saying “Ciao!” over and over!

Candice and Samuele at the entrance of the Rizal Shrine, in Intramuros (Manila) – Photo by Tropical Experience Travel Services

He also discussed with us the value of the bicycle and why it is better than the tricycle (like pedicab, but motorized) or the “kalesa” tours (kalesas are carts pulled by horses) that you will also see roaming around Intramuros.

A colourful fountain in the Rizal Shrine, in Intramuros, decorated by tropical flowers and plants – Photo by Tropical Experience Travel Services

With the pedicab, Moises can keep himself in good health with plenty of exercise, while with the kalesa, it is obviously the horse doing a lot of  workout, like the motor engine being exhausted with the tricycle. “I work and maintain good health at the same time”, Moises says as he makes a poisture as if showing that he is lean and strong . Furthermore, he stresses that he doesn’t need to buy and take care of a horse, that would require a big expenditures and require high maintainance. And with the tricycle, the gasoline brings more costs, and requires  additional expenditures for repair and mechanical parts. He points out  how much easier and cost-efficient it is to maintain his pedicab to function well.

We definetely agree with Moises. In addition to benefits mentioned, pedicabs don’t pollute the air, they dramatically reduce the noise, odors and vibrations that make the trip more pleasant. Cost-wise, it is quite reasonsable: around 3.5 € for 1 hour pedicab ride, against 7 € for half hour to hitch into a kalesa.

A complete tour of Intramuros takes roughly one hour. Moises can serve 5 of these tours in a day, but if there would be a 6the tour, he admits that he would be too tired to cater it, especially if we consider the hot tropical sun above his head. But, there’s no need to worry about it because he says that he has many relatives to recommend to do it on his behalf.

A special view on the Manila Cathedral – Photo by Tropical Experience Travel Services

We discovered yet another interesting aspect of this pedicab-driver’s life: our guide is actually a member of a clan of pedicab drivers! His father, his brothers, his uncles, his cousins and godfathers, even his neighbors are pedicab drivers! “It is in the family! Pedaling is my blood!” he proudly declares.

Towards the end of the tour, Moises’ eyes sparked as we passed by and pointed to us the school  where his daughter, for the 1sttime, will be going to very soon. This father was beaming with such pride and delight for he with his pedicab is now able to provide education for his daughter. He’s looking forward to taking his favourite passenger, his beloved daughter, to school everyday!

(written on July 2013)