Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The old man, the jeepney driver, and the 20% discount

I was riding a jeepney (from their makeshift terminal in Centris mall-Quezon City) on the way home from work last March 28. Commuting everyday is something that I’ve done since Grade 4, around mid-1999. I’ve witnessed many things there through the years (like millions of Filipinos, I suppose). My experience that Monday night is one of those curious moments.

The jeepney is already traversing the Commonwealth Avenue when this thin sexagenarian man, clad in a white give-away shirt, asked how much he’s going to pay. Based on what I heard, he went aboard in PANTRANCO (along in Quezon Avenue) and will be going down in COA (Commission on Audit), besides Sandiganbayan. Here’s the heated exchange between the blue-polo wearing driver and the old man, as I recall it:

Old man: Magkano po ang pasahe mula PANTRANCO hanggang COA?

Driver: Disisais (P16).

Old man: Magkano kung senior citizen?

Driver: Katorse (P14). Dalawang piso (P2) ang bawas.

Old man: Ilang percent ba ang discount? 20% ‘di ba? Alam kong mahirap ang buhay, mataas ang presyo ng gasoline, pero ilalagay nyo sa lugar. Kung P3 ang discount, ibigay nyo.

Apparently disgusted, the driver handed the old man another peso. Based on the 20% discount rule for senior citizens, students, and persons with disabilities, the old man should have been charged for only P12.75. The one-peso difference is negligible for many of us, and for asserting his rights. It takes guts to do that.

As a student of the UP Diliman (where I’m now taking my Master’s in History), I have encountered jeepney drivers who look at me with suspicion whenever I say “estudyante po.” They are still trapped in the notion that all students don uniforms. Asking for this discount sometimes results in heated arguments between the passenger and the driver. Many times, I just opt to not mention that fact at all so as to save myself from the hassle. I am sure that many others share this view. I know this is not right, since I am refusing to assert something to which I am truly entitled.

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