Frontliner Story #16: Elmer Lopez

Behind the Helmet

By Michelle Guerrero

Edited by Serina Mara Alonzo

Frontliner sourcing by Coleen Danielle Natividad

“Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with that there is.” - Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Earlier this week, this quote popped up in the news feed amidst all of the news circulating related to the pandemic. Little did we know that it would be the quote that would best encompass the story of today’s feature — a frontliner who risks daily exposure to the COVID-19 virus in order to deliver goods, so the rest of us can remain safe in the comforts of our homes.

Over the past few months, receiving calls from courier services and having items picked up and delivered are some of the events that have facilitated our survival and have helped in breaking the monotony of our day. To minimize exposure, we most likely limit the interaction with our riders to less than a minute or so, as we insert some small talk about the traffic situation or the difficulty in finding our home address. Thankfully, The Frontliner Today got to speak to Elmer Lopez — a food delivery and courier services rider — and delved into the story behind our rider’s mask and helmet.

LIFE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC: RIDING FOR FUN AND CHARITY WORK

Elmer used to be employed as an IT personnel — he was used to being on the field, traveling all over the country and communicating with customers to serve as an IT support. Having both an adventurous and a generous heart, he is part of a motorcycle riding group who would travel and do charity work across the nation. He is also a loving father of two. Considering his family as an inspiration, he always puts his children’s needs at the forefront. Having them as his North Star gave him the drive to make the most out of the hurdles that life would throw at him.

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Poster by Steven Da-Anton

WHEN THE PANDEMIC BROKE OUT: RIDING FOR SURVIVAL

Things started to change for Elmer and his family at the end of 2019. Because of certain circumstances, he had to be the sole caretaker of his two children. When the year 2020 rolled in, he decided to resign from his IT work since the long hours and constant travel would hinder him from giving proper care and attention to his children. Fortunately, he was able to land a job in a BPO company as a seasonal agent under contract. However, his contract ended as the news of the pandemic broke out. Due to the lockdown period, the company was not able to push through with his contract renewal.

Elmer did not let the pandemic (and its effect of having limited job opportunities) stop him from being able to provide for his family. Describing himself as an adaptable sort, he decided to use what he had — his motorcycle and his fondness for traveling — to step into the world of food delivery and courier services.

Given his resources and the situation at hand, he saw entering into this path as the best opportunity for him at the moment. “In demand siya. Hindi kailangan ng ganun karaming requirements. Basta may motor, may lisensiya, may papers”. It was also the easiest way for him to earn money for the time being, though his earnings would vary — “Minsan sakto, minsan lugi, minsan sobra-sobra pa”.

Elmer’s day as a rider typically starts at around 7 or 8 AM. Once he heads out the door, he rides from one establishment to another to anticipate any food or items that have to be purchased for the day. He aims to get home before 5 PM — having just enough time and energy to spend with his children.

Having been involved in charity work, it is natural for Elmer to consider seeing the smiles of the customers as one of the best parts of his job. “Masaya kapag nakikita mo yung ngiti nila ‘pag dumating yung delivery nila. Nakakatulong ka”. Inherently fond of traveling, he also considers it a blessing that this job gives him the perk of being able to travel, acknowledging the limited transportation the nation has at present — “Hindi lahat kayang gawin ito ngayon. Risky din ang public transportation”.

On the other hand, he cites package handling and locating the customers’ given addresses as some of the challenges that this job entails. In terms of customers, each one that he has dealt with has been “so good so far. Everytime magdedeliver, laging nakangiti so far”. Despite the drastic career shift, he is grateful for having the opportunity to travel, earn, and take care of his family all at the same time — “Mas stressful ang ma-stuck sa loob at mag-isip kung paano i-support ang family kaysa mag-adjust sa trabaho. Flexible naman talaga akong tao”. After the pandemic, Elmer hopes to land a job that would allow him to save enough money for travel, but this time, with his children.

LESSONS FROM BEHIND THE MASK AND HELMET

Elmer pleads with the general public to maximize online platforms for purchasing and delivery services. “Mas matutulungan kami ‘pag di sila lumabas ng bahay. ‘Di na kumalat ang virus, natulungan pa ang frontliners ng courier services”.

He also recognizes that, similar to him, this year has not been kind to a lot of people. Despite the challenges, he wishes to partake this lesson — “Tiyaga lang, magbabago din yan. Ngayon lang ito, hindi naman forever.” He also advises us to grab every opportunity. “Kailangan hindi ka maarte sa buhay. Dapat may diskarte. May sasakyan ako, nag take advantage ako para makatulong na sa kapwa, makapagsupport pa sa family”. His love for his family, combined with his go-getter attitude, allowed him to survive the challenges that were thrown at him.

Elmer hopes that his story would inspire the greater majority, especially those whose lives have been greatly affected by the pandemic. Though opportunities are greatly limited at the moment, there must be something within you or in your surroundings, maybe something you normally take for granted, that might be the key for you to thrive amidst this current situation. Instead of taking inventory of our limitations and whatever it is we do not have, we can count our blessings, cliche as it may sound, and utilize these to be able to pay it forward.

With this, The Frontliner Today honors our food delivery and courier service frontliners. Let us not forget that behind their masks and helmets, are stories, much like ours, of survival, persistence, and love of family.

If you have been uplifted by this story, join our community, like our page, and send in your frontliner stories and quarantine reflections to tft.editorial@gmail.com.

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