Flat Tire

During my stay in Japan a few months ago, I decided to book a weekend trip to Manila, Philippines to visit members of my mom’s side of the family. That was really cool to be able to visit cousins and extended family that I haven’t seen in a very long while. 10 years ago, I think, was the last time I was in the Philippines.

Part of my Philippine weekend adventures was going to the National Shrine of St. Padre Pio in Batangas. My first cousin, once removed, was driving. Unfortunately, we somehow suffered a flat tire on the way perhaps while driving through the crowded dirt roads to the shrine.

My cousin worked on that while my other cousins and I went to Mass.

After Mass, we toured around the shrine before re-airing the flat tire and heading out to find a repair shop. Or I guess in the Philippines, it’s more common to see a vulcanizing shop than a typical auto repair shop. Vulcanization is the process of converting rubber and polymers into something stronger using additives and heating it all together.

But! It was a struggle to find a vulcanizing shop despite our Google Maps powers. We had to ask the locals, but they kindly directed us towards a main road via some very muddy roads, and I feared for about 10 minutes whether we’d get stuck in the mud or something. Fortunately, that was not the case.

We finally found a vulcanizing shop on a main road, but we had to wait about 30 minutes or so for the shop owner to finish his current repair for another customer. It wasn’t too impressive looking of a place as it almost literally was a little shack or hut with a small workshop on the side of the road.

When it was our turn, I observed him repairing the tire.

And. I. Was. Impressed.

First of all, and I wish I had taken pictures, the shop owner had basically created and fashioned all the tools he needed to be able to remove the tire from the wheel. I’m talking like…welded pieces of metal and metal/wood apparatuses! He had also cut in a half a larger tire filled with water. Here, he dipped our flat tire to discover where the hole was based on bubbles. When he sealed it up, he used his own iron and clamp to heat up the sealant to vulcanize to the tire.

The whole process took about 30-35 minutes. I was hot and bugs were landing on me as I stood around.

The crazy thing is… he did all this work in tsinelas! (flip flops) even as he was stomping on the tire and dealing with heavy and hot objects.

With my middle-class American mindset, I half expect all auto repairs to be done in clean, well-lit places, and done by uniformed and safely dressed mechanics. But! Nope! Not the case. And that’s totally cool.

I was also surprised that for the amount of work that he did, it only costed something less than $5 USD. LOL WUT. A kind of repair job like that back home in the United States is easily at least $20!

Anyway…I learned and realized an two important things in this entire process of watching this man repair our flat tire. And I think he is a good example of what I realized.

Filipinos don’t have a whole lot. Most of the country lies somewhere in the third world. Granted, some parts of Manila look very western and well-developed, but you needn’t stray too far to observe how first world luxuries are sorely lacking. Our tire repair man didn’t have the best space or the tools to be most efficient at his craft.

Filipinos are very resourceful. Yet, despite not having a whole lot, Filipinos get by with what they have. And they are cleverly resourceful with what little they have. I just mentioned how the tire repair man fashioned his own tools. His particular example is inspiring for me because it shows me that one can still be successful without having much.

I think these things will be important to keep in mind the next time I face challenges in my own life. I can make the best of any challenging situation.

Thinking about all this, it’s humbling for me because I take all that I have for granted. I’m grateful to have had this unfortunate happenstance of suffering a flat tire during my weekend trip to the Philippines because the time it took to repair it gave me ample time to reflect on these things.

Pinoy and proud.