MANILA, Philippines – Many live music fans are accustomed to seeing folk singer-songwriter Johnoy Danao in gigs in and out of the metro – he's a very well-known figure in the performing circuit. His songs are a balm for hearts beating, taken, and broken – visceral, stirring, and soothing all at once.
These days, Danao is busy preparing for an upcoming concert, #DAMA3D, featuring fellow singer-songwriters Ebe Dancel and Bullet Dumas on Friday, February 19, at the Music Museum. He is also recording his 3rd solo album later in the year.
But sometime in 2015, Danao would take off the performer's hat at daytime to drive his car as part of ride-sharing service Uber's roster of partner drivers to help augment his income.
"For 3 months, last year from March until June siguro," Danao says. He would drive his car from morning until 6 pm around the metro.
Danao's stint with Uber was short-lived because the demands of driving and performing took their toll on him. However, his experience allowed him to examine – and understand – the odd, yet varying dynamics between driver and passenger. It is entertaining and awkward at the same time, he says, because there are days when he gets recognized, and there are others when he is virtually invisible.
"When you're a driver, parang you don't exist sa passengers," he says. "Kahit anong pinag-uusapan nila, hindi nila sine-censor, over the phone. Minsan, madidinig mo na nag-aaway sila ng boyfriend nila, they talk about personal lives, 'yung parang wala ka. May mga bagay akong naririnig na di ko dapat marinig."
(Whatever they talk about, they don't censor over the phone. Sometimes, you hear fighting with a boyfriend, they talk about their personal lives, as if you weren't there. There were some things I heard that maybe I shouldn't have heard.)
He's seen and heard fighting couples, spurned lovers in tears, but as a driver, he had to make a conscious effort to stay detached from the situations unfolding in the backseat, making it a point to just ferry them from point A to B until his shift is over. And then he takes off the Uber driver hat, picks up his guitar, and serenades lovers in the moonlight.