Expect nothing, live frugally on surprise.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Woman in the Driving Seat

Every time she gets into the driver's seat, Gladys Edoc's first-time passengers, get the chill having a woman for a driver. But this young woman from Buguias, a municipality in the province of Benguet, proves that whatever men can do, women can do too - perhaps even better.Curious and doubting glances, especially those from men, have not really bothered her. After all, she is the one behind the wheel - usually a man's place in the public transport system. Edoc, 29, is good-looking; but people stare at her because of something else."At first, they just stare at me, watching my every move. Clearly, people are just used to men drivers," Edoc says. "But after a while, they begin to relax as they eventually see that they are safe in my hands," she quips.The arena of public transportation is certainly a man's world in the Philippines. Edoc is making a breakthrough for all women, breaking the stereotype that women should not be driving on the road to earn a living. Yet, mothers drive their children to school all the time, career women drive themselves to work, and ladies drive themselves to their socials.Edoc says she has always been adventurous. That is why, when she had to decide on a job, she opted for driving, the one skill she had in order to survive. "It's also a way of proving that whatever a man can do, I can also do," Edoc says.She graduated with a degree in commerce in 2002, but could not find employment in her field of qualification. She had then enrolled in a caregiver course but eventually took up nursing in a school in Urdaneta in the hope she would easily find a nursing job abroad. She is now on her third year of the Nursing course. And she works as driver of the van owned by her family when she is not attending classes.Her parents are vegetable traders and own a number of vehicles, including trucks and vans. It is no wonder, then, that Edoc's father taught her how to drive when she was only 13. Her driving skill came in handy for the family who sent her on easy errands. She got her driver's license when she turned 18.The opportunity to profit from her driving skill first came when her van was hired by classmates, who took regular trips to the city of Urdaneta in the neighboring province of Pangasinan to attend nursing classes. She later became their official driver to school. She earned at least Peso 800 per trip, which she used to support her schooling. She also started accepting touring jobs that brought her to the other cities of Manila, Cavite, Pampanga and as far as Quezon.She later became a member of the La Trinidad-Abatan Van Operators and Drivers Association, a group regularly ferrying passengers bound for Abatan. La Trinidad is the capital city of the province of Benguet, and Abatan is a small town in the same province. Two to three times a week, her van stays on the waiting line for a trip at the La Trinidad-Abatan van terminal at the Shell station along Kilometer 5, La Trinidad.She says that this is her way of supporting herself through nursing school and not intended as a permanent job."It's really a matter of not having a choice if I wanted to finish my nursing course. I had no job. But I have to earn, so why not make use of the van and earn from it until I finish my studies. I'm glad my family finally allowed me to drive," Edoc said.Her parents initially rejected the idea of her working as a driver, aware of the risks involved in the job to women like her. "I know it is very risky because no matter how careful you are, accidents are accidents. But as far as I'm concerned, I see to it I'm always focused on the job. I realize I carry with me the lives of the people riding with me, so their safety is foremost in my mind," says Edoc. She is also adept at fixing the mechanical problems of the vehicle on her own."But I enjoy this job. It's not as complicated as it seems. In the end, I prevailed (over my parents) after proving to them that I can manage," she explained."Driving is a decent job, there's nothing to be ashamed about it," she says.


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