Even before Reynaldo Samonte worked as a tricycle driver, he had always wanted to serve his community. It was his childhood dream to become a soldier. After finishing his training at the Philippine Air Force in 1986, it would seem this dream of becoming a defender of his country would finally come true. Unfortunately, the military insurrections at that time led him to forego joining the armed services. But this did not stop him from pursuing his passion to serve. He worked at his godfather’s funeral parlor business, transporting funeral equipment and even cadavers occasionally. And to better support his wife and two children, he worked as a tricycle driver on the side.
Reynaldo’s perseverance did not go to waste, as his children fulfilled his dream and became members of the Philippine Air Force. He continued to serve his community as a tricycle driver. An active TODA member, he initiated a successful raffle contest for TODA and community members that would give a variety of prizes and a jackpot livelihood package of a tricycle with franchise. This earned a considerable income for TODA members.
One day when he fueled at Phoenix San Sebastian, Batangas, he was invited to nominate himself for the “Pinoy Tsuper Hero” program.
“I thought it was only a small matter,” he said. “I didn’t realize what a big contest this was.”
With other drivers and vehicle operators in Batangas, he attended a two-day seminar by Bayan Academy that reinforced the Pinoy Tsuper Hero responsibility of taking care of the environment and passengers. Samonte was afterwards chosen as the finalist to represent his province.
On May 28, 2015, the 10 finalists from around the country gathered at the Dolphy Theater in Manila for the awarding of the first Pinoy Tsuper Hero. The judges had reviewed each finalist and looked for all the qualities of a modern day driver hero – disciplined, drives safely, respectful to passengers, compassionate to the environment, and loving to one’s family. Possessing all these qualities, Reynaldo bested the other finalists and was declared the first Pinoy Tsuper Hero.
“I did not think much about the prize because what I was thinking about was the huge responsibility I would be carrying if I will be awarded the Pinoy Tsuper Hero title. I realized that I have to live by the values that the title embodies,” he said.
He promises to fulfill his mission of beautification – that is, to make all roads and vehicles cleaner and more accommodating to all commuters.
“Number one for me is cleanliness, cleaning of terminals and using the right urinals,” he said. “If we drivers look clean, we become more approachable to passengers. We also help the environment.”
“Basta Driver, Good Leader” is the catchphrase of Edwin Escamos, a jeepney driver from Iloilo City.
As the eldest son of six to a fisherman father and a housewife mother, Edwin took the role of the guiding big brother to his younger siblings. At age 26, Edwin took the role of head of the family when his father passed away.
After graduating with a degree in Accounting, Edwin worked for three private companies, even becoming the head of the collection department in one of them. He eventually decided to settle on becoming a jeepney driver due to the higher earnings that could better support his widowed mother, his siblings, and his own family of wife and three children.
In his 14 years of driving, he learned the values of humility and respect toward both his passengers and his fellow jeepney drivers. He earned their trust and eventually became secretary of his jeepney drivers’ association in Iloilo City.
Edwin involved himself further with his community. In 2011, he was elected president of the Commuters Relation Unity of Driver Operators (CRUDO) and a member of the City Loop Integrated Alliance of Jeepney Operators and Drivers (CLIAJOD). He became part of the District Advisory Council of Arevalo Police, where he collaborated with police authorities on defending his community against drug and crime. When he became barangay kagawad in 2013, he chaired committees and tackled on peace and order, education, and environment.
“It is my destiny to become a driver. If it were not for driving, I would not have had the chance to be in public service,” Edwin said.
As the new Pinoy Tsuper Hero, he plans to continue championing his project to protect his fellow drivers and build their awareness on government programs aimed to help them.
With his strong dedication to performing beyond his duty as a driver, he will guide the path to change for the betterment of his fellow drivers and his community.