Manila is a tough place. It’s tough in many ways. Manila is a city of 20 Million, and is considered to be the most densely populated city in the world. Living in Manila is not easy, especially if you don’t have much in the way of finances. This is true whether you are a Filipino or an Expat. Regardless of what many people believe, being an expat does not necessarily mean that you are rich.
This story starts about 2 years ago for me. Back in 2011, somebody e-mailed me and told me about a show that was on TV in the UK, on BBC. The show was called “The toughest place to be…”. The title changed a little bit every week, depending on what profession they were featuring. The show was very good, but the main one that interested me was called “The toughest place to be a bus driver.” The show featured a British man named Josh. Josh was a bus driver in London, he drove a double decker bus… a very fancy one at that.
As part of this documentary series, BBC sent Josh to Manila to become a bus driver there, and experience the difference between being a bus driver in London compared to Manila. In truth, Josh did not drive a bus in Manila, he drove a Jeepney! To me that made the story even more interesting.
Josh was in the Philippines for a week or two, I suppose, although I am not certain they ever said exactly how long he was in the country. He lived with a local couple, Rogelio and Edith, a Filipino couple living in Manila. Rogelio is a Jeepney driver in Manila, and lives quite a tough life. It was Rogelio’s job to train Josh about how to drive a Jeepney, and also train him about life in Manila. As you can imagine, Josh was in for many surprises. He had never been to the Philippines before, and knew little about the place. It is my recollection that Josh had never really traveled outside of the UK before at all, although I could be wrong on that.
During Josh’s stay in Manila, he got training on Jeepney driving from Rogelio, and he also got some driving instruction from a Filipino driving instructor. Josh got his Philippine driver’s license, and was even licensed as a Professional driver, as Jeepney drivers must be.
Toward the end of Josh’s stay in the Philippines, Rogelio took him to the Province where he was from. They did not say what Province it was, but it was on the ocean, and many of Rogelio’s family members there were fishermen, barely eking out a living, if even doing that. Rogelio longed for the opportunity to move his family back to the Province, but the fact was that there were no opportunities for employment. This trip to the Province seemed to bring Josh and Rogelio closer together, and by the time they parted company, they considered each other as brothers. I can assure you that Josh shed many a tear trying to come to grips with the tough life that Rogelio was living, and the seeming impossibility for Rogelio to be able to lift his family from poverty.
On Josh’s last day in the Philippines, his big day was at hand. Josh would be the driver of Rogelio’s jeepney! Josh was ready, but was quite nervous about the whole thing. He got a rocky start in the morning, got lost a time or two, but by mid day or so, he was right at home behind the wheel of the Jeepney. Rogelio was not allowed to accompany Josh on the job, he had to wait at home. As the evening neared, Rogelio was waiting on the road, watching for Josh’s return. It seemed that Josh was running later than expected, Rogelio was quite worried, you could see it on his face. But, when Josh rolled up in the Jeepney, both men got huge smiles on their faces. It was a very triumphant moment.
As Josh talked, though, he had come to realize the cycle of poverty in the Philippines, and the inability for the Filipino to overcome that poverty. At the end of the show, Josh was struggling, trying to come up with a way that he could give Rogelio a hand in bringing his family to a better place in life.
A couple of days ago, I got an e-mail from another friend, Gerry. Gerry was letting me know that there was a follow up show that recently showed in Britain, telling the future story of Josh and Rogelio. I was able to see that show today, it was extremely touching.
It seems that after 2 years, Josh decided to return to Manila to see his Filipino brother, Rogelio. During the past 2 years, Josh had participated in a number of things like running competitions and such where he was sponsored and raised money to assist Rogelio. One of Rogelio’s biggest wishes was that he wanted to send his grandchildren to a good school so that they could break out of the cycle of poverty. Josh wanted to help two of the grandchildren. When Josh got to Manila, though, he found out that there was now an additional grandchild, a young man that was named after him… Josh! This touched Josh so deeply that he decided to also assist this third grandchild with his future education. He has committed to do everything in his power to send all of these three grandchildren through elementary, High School and College! As you can imagine, Rogelio and his family were deeply touched.
(Unfortunately this content has been removed from YouTube so we cannot show the videos any longer)
I have to admit that watching this story touched me deeply. I do things to help the poor here in the Davao region, but seeing something like this makes you wonder if you are doing enough. Surely there are so many people that are so poor that you could never even put a dent in the poverty situation. It’s a question that I ask myself, but cannot answer. I do the best I can, that’s all I know, but I always wish I could do more.
Anyway, over the past couple of years, I think about Josh from time to time, and wonder how he is doing. I think about Rogelio too. I was quite happy to see this newly updated documentary, and want to thank Gerry for letting me know about it!
If you are interested to know more about Josh and Rogelio, you can visit their Facebook page.Watch the original documentary below: