Known for its unique design, the Motorela (or “Rela”) has become an icon of Cagayan de Oro (CDO). It has been one of the city’s most reliable means of transportation; an indispensable part of the Kagay-anon culture.
It is like Bangkok, Thailand’s “Tuk-Tuk” except that it can carry an extra passenger or two. One would find it easy getting to different places within the city by riding on a Rela as it can go to streets that other public utility vehicles could not reach. Over the years, the Motorelas help Kagay-anons deal with the hurly-burly of the city life and have grown into a booming industry, generating hundreds of jobs and local businesses.
But this year, as CDO grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, Motorela drivers have had to face the dire consequences and risks brought about by the pandemic, and the government’s stringent measures like social distancing that have taken place to protect Kagay-anon commuters from contracting SARS-Cov-2. These have had an adverse impact on the Motorela drivers income' yet they still need to go to the streets and continue driving just to make ends meet. Most of them applied for renewal of their licenses, and installing barriers to ensure proper physical distancing among passengers is required. Non-compliance could lead to hefty fines.
For a Rela driver, buying an acetate barrier means incurring extra costs, another burden he has to bear apart from his already meager income from driving on the streets all day long. Thus, the Rotaract Club of Carmen Valley started the “Shield sa Rela Project” that aims to install social distancing barriers among Relas who cannot afford to install one.
On September 20, 2020, the Carmen Valley Rotaractors successfully installed social distancing barriers made of acetate to 24 Motorelas. Rotaract Club President Jasmin Hallazgo shared that they were able to come up with the project after learning from one Rela driver the struggle they have to go through during this pandemic.
“The driver could not afford to buy acetate barriers because of his meager income. Their operators would not shoulder the cost for the shields. Those who do not have acetate barriers in their Relas were being apprehended,” recounted President Jasmin.
The club also gave face masks, face shields, disinfectants and leaflets containing information about safety precautions against COVID19. After its success, the club is now gearing towards conducting more of the project in the next months in an aim to reach more Rela drivers in-need of acetate covering.
With all those acetate coverings installed, drivers who only rely to their Relas for livelihood will not worry about being apprehended or disallowed from plying their livelihood. Moreover, physical distancing would be ensured on Relas -- protecting the lives of both the passengers and the drivers.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Rotaractors will continue to serve communities, spreading courage and hope for a better tomorrow.
The author is Justin Nagac, member of the Rotaract Club of Carmen Valley.
This article was also featured in the November 2020 issue of the Philippine Rotary Magazine as seen below.