George Royeca on the ride of life

I sit on the shoulders of, really, a collective struggle. — George Royeca

Illustration by Glenzkie Tolo

George Royeca is bent on leading motorcycle riders and its passengers on the right track post-pandemic.

The Angkas CEO recently graced Daily Tribune’s online show Pairfect to talk about being an advocate of inclusive mobility, sustainable transport and how his ride-hailing company is revving up for more.

Daily Tribune (DT): Kudos to being an honoree at the Asian Leadership Conference. Can you tell us more about it?

George Royeca (GR): It’s actually quite an honor to be invited to the Asia Leadership Conference in Seoul, Korea. I didn’t know what to expect when I got there. The President of Korea was there.

Michelle Obama gave her talk. The Ukraine President was also there. I shared my views in terms of the Angkas story, being a pioneer in the industry. What were our responsibilities, especially in the post pandemic world.

One of the things that I talked to them about was co-creation, setting the right standards. When you’re a pioneer, meaning walang bago, there’s nothing there so you really have to set a good standard. You have to be very specific in what you’re creating. Same thing right now. I think for many industries the pandemic has brought in a lot of changes in terms of how we do things.

DT: You became the CEO of Angkas in November. Since then, have you executed some changes, or what are your plans for the company?

GR: It was really more of how do we get back post-pandemic. Rocky journeys aren’t new to Angkas. It is something we kind of have grown accustomed to, to a certain extent, but nowhere near the impact of the pandemic.

It was just getting everybody on track. Getting the team back in order. We’ve grown the team over 300 percent over the last six months. We were on a hiring streak. We have new uniforms. We have new outlets. Just really re-indoctrinated them in terms of the Angkas way. Pretty much out for the last few years, on and off. This marks a new chapter for a lot of people and I’m happy to say that Angkas is back on the streets. We’re revving up for more.

George Royeca and wife Angeline Tham. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FB.COM/GEORGE ROYECA

DT: Speaking of growth, can you tell us more about the reach of Angkas? Are you available in Mindanao? How has it grown?

GR: Right now, the pilot program covers Metro Manila and Cebu. The metropolitans. But I hope that we’re able to explore other areas because there are different types of scenarios where you need Angkas, right? What about mountainous regions? What about areas that are more rural? We’re hoping that we can work on the by-laws so that we can get the necessary data to put it into law. We have one chance to get the law to pass so we need to make sure that it is very comprehensive.

DT: One of your advocacies is really pushing for the legislation of safety for bike taxis. How was it moving right now?

GR: It’s very interesting. I mean, we’ve been trying to pass a law for the last two decades. We’ve put in a lot of effort and got a lot of results since the first time na sala namin.

From a simple amendment back then, tatanggalin mo ‘yung traffic code na not allowed for hire to now that it’s actually a comprehensive law. There are very specific revisions, different aspects of the law about riders, insurance, safety regulation, regulatory body, the split between LGU and national.

DT: We have a new president. Have you kept in touch to talk about more of your advocacy?

ASIA Leadership Conference honoree and Angkas CEO George Royeca. | PHOTOGRAPH BY ALVIN KASIBAN FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE

GR: I’ve kept in touch with all the leaders, especially during the campaign to shed light on the sector. Paulit-ulit kong sinasabi na kailangan ninyong pansinin itong sector na ito dahil maraming nangangailangan dito. Hindi lang ‘yung mismong biker pati narin ‘yung commuter. We need to put in proper regulations. Mukha naman this administration is really favorable to inclusive mobility.

We have to figure out, not take away, to make it more cohesive. In fact, PBBM had a vlog about Angkas and about the motorcycle taxi industry. I’m very hopeful that this is our chance na bumulusok ‘yung industriya at ma-protektahan ‘yung sector.

DT: Who’s sponsoring the bill in the Senate?

GR: The bill is being sponsored by Senator JV. But back in the 18th Congress, it was co-authored by 24 senators.

It really does cover a serious gap. It impacts a lot of people. You’re talking about 18 million motorcycle owners. That’s a very big sector. A lot of them use motorcycles for livelihood. We really need to make sure that that’s regulated properly for the protection of not just the bikers but also the commuters.

DT: To what would you attribute the success of your company?

GR: I think what we were was a flashlight — to shed light on the plight of the motorcycle riders and their successes, grit, tenacity, and resilience.

Imagine, we’re only five years plus. These guys have been doing it for more than 10 years. Every day going out, cat and mouse, buwis buhay. Cars trying to run them over. Misunderstood sector. All they want to do is take care of their families. All we did was shed light on the situation and the rest followed. I sit on the shoulders of really a collective struggle. This is something that I’m very thankful for, that I am carrying their voice. But that’s just what I am. It’s really them that speak to the people. These guys just want to earn a living. Gusto lang nila magtrabaho.

DT: Suddenly there’s a face behind those helmets. May kuwentong buhay din sila. Kuwento ng struggle as Filipinos that Angkas was able to tell. That’s the emotional connection of passengers with the riders.

GR: I’m a peddler of hope, giving hope to the bikers for a brighter future. Not only for them and their family but also giving to the community that there is a plan for traffic. There is a plan for inclusive mobility. There is a plan to get back your freedom. It’s an attack on the quality of life. A lot of our small and big decisions revolve around traffic. If you’re from Alabang and your boyfriend or girlfriend is from Valenzuela, that’s a long distance. That’s your future husband or wife. Parents don’t choose school because of the merit. ‘Kawawa naman ‘yung anak ko dahil sa traffic.’ These are life-changing decisions.

That’s what we want to do. Bring back the freedom, take back your time and then choose kung saan mo gagamitin. Sa pamilya mo, sa pangalawang negosyo, trabaho or kung ano man. Choice mo hindi dahil na-stuck ka sa kalye kasi hindi gumagalaw ‘yung sasakyan.

‘I’m a peddler of hope.’ — George Royeca | PHOTOGRAPH BY ALVIN KASIBAN FOR THE DAILY TRIBUNE

DT: Is your wife Angeline also into racing?

GR: I don’t race. But she loves the idea. She loves the cause. My wife is a stickler for advocacies. She loves the rules. Singaporean ‘yung asawa ko. Gusto niya discipline. That’s what it is. Motorsports is discipline. The discipline is much higher than any law or any regulation on the streets.

DT: What is it like working together?

GR: I think it’s very difficult, and you have to be intentional in working on it. It’s not going to come naturally. For us, we’re always cognizant on how to set boundaries, personal, work life and also between us in terms of roles and responsibilities. I think it made our relationship stronger, because we were more sensitive to each other. And, puwede pala. A success story ‘din. Hindi pa tapos but it seems to be looking good.

DT: Tell us more about the Angkas office culture.

GR: Problem solving. That’s what really, that’s what we focus on. A lot of people or a lot of companies, what they tried to do is solve a problem but alam namin na hindi ‘yun realistic kasi at every juncture there’s a problem that will face you.

You’re only as good as your last win. Sa Angkas alam na namin na marami kaming pagdadaanan. Hindi pa tapos ‘yung laban. That’s a fact. We’ve embraced the fact that we’re a problem-solving culture. That makes us more resilient.

DT: Would you say you’re the kind of leader who listens? Gets feedback and collaborates?

GR: You really have to collaborate. You have to get people that are smarter than you. That’s the key, right? You have to be brutally honest about your limitations. You’ll realize very quickly that you’re not Superman. Nobody is. You can’t be in two places at the same time.

DT: George Royeca in three words.

GR: Let’s get going. Always moving forward.

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