More than flowers: Story behind viral 'Garden Taxi'

Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 24 2015 11:45 AM | Updated as of May 08 2017 08:52 PM

Richard Bulaclac's "Garden Taxi" blooms along the horrendous traffic of Metro Manila. Photo by Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBNnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – It's quite a fancy cab — driven by 41-year-old Richard Bulaclac — one that blooms with a flowery interior, and which he calls the "Garden Taxi."

The cab has LED-lit plastic roses, all colorful and radiating with positivity, perfectly arranged to ease whatever stress the city life has cast down upon commuters and laborers.

Its floral design matches the driver, Bulaclac, not only because of his surname — a homonym of “bulaklak,” the Filipino word for flower —but also because of his warm and polite personality.

Floral designs inside the"Garden Taxi." Photo from Richard Bulaclac's Facebook.

The "Garden Taxi" became viral on social media courtesy of satisfied and inspired customers.

"Pagsakay ko pa lang, napa-whoa na ako sa loob ng taxi niya. Flowers, although plastic, pero sa isang umaga na galing ka sa LRT at apat na oras lang ang tulog, malaking bagay na ito ang sasalubong sa 'yo," said Clarisse Inao in a viral Facebook post.

But all things said about the taxi are just beauty-at-a-glance — just flowery words for a flowery machine — because the “Garden Taxi” and its driver has something more to tell about life.

Bulaclac ng Maynila

Bulaclac, a father of three, lives and works in Manila, over 1,000 kilometers away from his family in Davao del Sur.

Through thick and thin traffic or the risk of being robbed, he braves the roads of Metro Manila everyday, hoping to earn enough money to send to his family.

He used to earn up to P2,500 on a good day. But now because of the horrendous metro traffic, he only earns up to P1,000.

"Hindi nga nakakamatay pero unti-unti ka namang pinapatay dahil wala ka nang kikitahin," Bulaclac told ABS-CBNnews.com, referring to the daily metro traffic, just one of the many problems of the public utility vehicle drivers.

"May gas pa, boundary pa," he added.

Kuya Richard at work. Photo courtesy of passenger Clarisse Inao.

With these problems, it's easy to resort to shortcuts, such as overcharging, "kontrata" in Filipino slang, or criminal acts like the infamous "taxi spray modus."

But Bulaclac, having been in dark times himself, has always sought the side of light.

"Takot ako [na gumawa ng masama]," he said. "Ang design ko, God's love."

Recycling, instead of crime

Bulaclac educated himself, attending livelihood seminars during his free days.

He learned the art of turning plastic scrap into pouches, bags and wallets, and sold his handmade products to passengers instead of charging additional money on bad-traffic days.

A pouch Richard Bulaclac made out of recycled plastic materials. Photo from Bulaclac's Facebook.

"Gawa 'to sa mga basyo ng kape, mga sitsirya... Binaligtad 'yan, huhugasan muna, gugupitin nang uniform, tapos gagawing parang banig," he said.

Bulaclac said he initially made 50 samples. It was an instant hit among his passengers.

"Nang makita ng pasahero, sabi, 'bibili ako ng lima.' Ubos agad!" he recalled.

Finding scrap enough to make bags and pouches is not as hard as it sounds, especially in the metro. One just has to be resourceful.

Bulaclac said he buys plastic materials from eateries where he usually hangs out.

"'Yung eatery, 'di na nila kinalat 'yung basura, iniipon na nila kasi binibili ko rin, P100. Ngayon, sisipagin na sila kasi P100 din 'yun," he said.

Richard showing plastic scrap he collects from eateries. Photo from Richard Bulaclac's Facebook.

Aside from eateries, passengers inspired by his way of life also give him plastic materials so he can make and sell more pouches.

"Dito lang ako nakakabawi sa products na ginagawa ko galing sa recycled materials," he said. "Ngayon, kahit maliit ang kita, no need na akong mangontrata."

Paying it forward

Goodness never stops, it only flows on and on like a river. That's why as more help pours in for Bulaclac, he felt the urge to pay it forward.

One of the simple ways he thought of was to give the first his passengers on the first Monday and last Friday of the month, and even on his birthday, a free ride to anywhere.

He also grabs every opportunity to do good, the least he can do not only as a cabbie, but as a human being.

"May natulungan akong mag-ama makauwi ng Tarlac," he recalled. "Papunta ako sa SM Bicutan, nandoon na sila sa gutter. Buti 'yung problema nila, isinulat na nila sa karton."

"Hinatid ko muna 'yung pasahero ko sa SM Bicutan galing airport. Pagbalik ko nandoon pa rin sila, sinakay ko na," he added.

Bulaclac said the father and his kids were in Manila to look for his wife who was working somewhere in Merville, Parañaque as a housemaid.

The man tracked down the address, but never found his wife. There was no money left when the search was over.

He was saddened by the situation of the man and his kids, so he decided to pay for his tickets back to Tarlac.

Floral arrangement inside the Garden Taxi reads God, love. Photo from Richard Bulaclac's Facebook.

Bulaclac said he felt good that time because the man texted him a few days after, thanking him.

"Nag-text sa akin, ang daming mayaman, bakit ikaw pa ang gumawa."

Garden Taxi's environmental thrust

Aside from helping people when he can, Bulaclac said he is also happy helping Mother Nature with his recycling "business."

"Nakakaambag ako sa kalikasan, na-motivate ko ang tao na h'wag magkalat," he said.

Bulaclac calls his simple idea — the Garden Taxi and everything he does with it — a war against the destruction of nature.

He considers the Garden Taxi — a vehicle not even his — the eateries, his passengers, buyers, the people, and the community are his "business partners."

Bulaclac he said he got this idea nearly six years ago, the year when the wrath of typhoon "Ondoy" came upon Metro Manila.

The calamities, he said, are eye-opening. He was even inspired to compose a song, entitled "Kalikasan, Pag-ingatan Natin."

The song Richard Bulaclac composed back in 2009 handwritten on a piece of paper. Photo by Patrick Quintos, ABS-CBNnews.com

His realizations, he said, pushed him to think of ideas on how to make a living, while helping people and helping Mother Nature all at the same time in a self-sustaining fashion, like a garden.

"Para bang 'yung umiikot lang mag-isa," he said.

The vehicle Bulaclac is renting, is the lone Garden Taxi in the metro, or maybe even in the Philippines, but he is hoping he can inspire others to do the same.