A Day in the Life of a GrabFood Rider

Meet Sarah Francesca Aguja.

(SPOT.ph) These are the people you see every day. Making their way from a resto to your doorstep through rain, shine, or traffic—sometimes all three in one go—they deliver you from your hunger. Sarah Francesca Aguja is one of these god-sends: a cyclist for the food-delivery service of Grab Philippines. In a line of work that usually brings to mind images of kuyas and manongs toughing it out in the city streets, Aguja is a bit of a proverbial rose among thorns—except that she doesn’t think of herself as any more special, and certainly not any less, than her co-bikers.

The 27-year-old Aguja coasting down a BGC sidewalk, one of her main areas.
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela
Her trusted bike and Grab basket has been with her through thick and thin—and also a whole lot of Metro Manila streets. 
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela
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Aguja has been at it since June 2019. She was one of the first people to apply for the job when Grab Philippines first came out with the bike delivery service.  “Subok-subok lang,” she tells SPOT.ph in a conversation. The idea that it wasn’t what was expected of someone like her, a 27-year-old tourism graduate, never even crossed her mind. She had a working mind and a bike, after all, plus a long history of hustling.

Side-Hustler Extraordinaire

The Bulacan native uses the earnings she makes from the food-delivery service to support her main business: an online shop that sells mainly perfumes she makes herself. It all started when a lady followed Aguja through three floors of a mall in Metro Manila—“Akala ko talaga may atraso ako, utang, ganoon,” she tells us, laughing—only to ask her what perfume she was wearing. The skill she learned from a high school science class eventually grew into Hail Sasa’s General Merchandise Shop, where she also sells homemade cleaning products.

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Aside from the shop, Aguja sells insurance and funeral plans, and even dabbles in the stock market. It’s always a full day for her. “Wala po talaga akong schedule. Kung ano pwede gawin, gagawin,” she says. So becoming a Grab Food biker was a natural choice —she could control the hours, and it kept her moving.

Behind the Bike

Nakakatakot no'ng una, lalo na pag delikado, pag gabi. Pero tiwala lang sa Diyos,” she tells us. It’s only been a couple of months but she has already found the best rhythm for the job. Aguja usually goes out during peak hours of the day and even at night; “mga midnight po hanggang 3 a.m.,” is surprisingly a pretty active time with lots of people craving a snack—with milk tea being a top order, of course.

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A couple people have been surprised when Aguja shows up at their doorstep to deliver food, but it's part of the fun of the job, she tells us.
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela
When asked what most of her co-bikers on Grab like to do while waiting for their orders, Aguja laughs and answers, "Mobile Legends po talaga."
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela
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Aguja has already mapped out her usual haunts in her head: around the Bonifacio Global City area, Poblacion in Makati, the Ortigas district and wherever else people need help getting their food. And the best part for her are all the people she’s met along the way.

One favorite instance was when she once bought a thousand pesos worth of milk tea only to realize the person who ordered was not at the pinned address—thankfully, a group of workers from a nearby air-conditioning company saw her while they were taking a break on the street. “Nag-ambag-ambag na lang sila para bilhin nila sa akin ‘yong milk tea,” says Aguja. [Ed’s note: Grab Philippines has since clarified that a policy is in place for delivery-partners to fully reimburse all unclaimed orders.]

It’s these little things that help her keep her chin up when the going gets tough. Aguja takes pictures of every person who has been nice to her on her phone—including the guys who helped buy the unclaimed order, plus the five customers who ordered something for her as well, and even a kid she once treated to a fast-food meal. “Nakakakilala ako ng iba’t ibang tao…masaya pakinggan bawat istorya nila.”

Part of what drives Aguja are the people—and the stories—she encounters on the road.
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela
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The GrabFood bikers are also a great support group. When the communities first started popping up online, “Usually ako lang talaga ‘yong babae sa mga Facebook group, pero habang tumatagal dumadami na rin,” says Aguja. Her co-bikers also know she’s not one to bully. “Parang na-threaten nga sila. Tawag nila sa akin ‘mamaw’ kasi ang lakas ko raw mag-deliver,” Aguja says, laughing, “’Kababae ko raw na tao.” Her personal record is 25 orders in the span of around eight hours.

Continuing to Coast

Aguja has met a lot of people through her food-delivery hustle, mostly fellow bikers from all walks of life, some who are single parents or students, in need of extra cash. “Kunwari may mga kasama ako na gusto nang mag-give up, pero i-encourage mo sila ‘konti na lang’ makukuha mo na incentives.”

Part of Aguja's goals are to travel at least once a month. In February, she went to Iloilo and took some time to check out the Guisi Point Lighthouse in Guimaras.
PHOTO Courtesy of Sarah Francesca Aguja
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There are around 2,000 bikers as of February 2020, and Aguja's might be one of the many faces you spot cycling on the road.
PHOTO BY Vincent Coscolluela

Extra cash is, of course, the practical reason for joining the app. Her parents, Jose and Patrocinia, live in Bulacan—her father was a seaman but stopped working after getting sick in 2019. Now, Aguja and her three siblings work to support each other. “Ang gusto ko talaga ay maging magulang para sa magulang ko,” she says.

Ang kailangan lang ay right mindset and attitude,” she declares. Aguja is a hustler in an urban landscape that seems set against progress for everyone. She works hard, enough to support her parents and her other businesses, enough to travel, and even enough to buy a new, small bike, in addition to the old one she uses to deliver (which was once stolen and recovered in pieces). It’s the daily grind all over again—but one she knows how to enjoy, as if she were simply coasting on her bike. When asked how much longer she’s thinking of continuing, she replies with a sure smile, “Hanggang kaya.”

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Photos by Vincent Coscolluela

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