AMONG the honks of vehicles and chitchat of passersby are faint click-clacks of typewriter keys along P. del Rosario St., Cebu City.
The sounds are almost imperceptible. To many passing by, these sounds may not be familiar, but three individuals in the area know these sounds well.
Their activity appears peculiar, almost foreign, in an area filled with internet cafes and printing stations.
But did you know that some 60 years ago, the whole stretch across one of the oldest universities in the country was once occupied by hundreds of typists?
The area has seen several blue and white collar workers leave their employers to venture into the typing business, in what used to be the city’s university belt.
At that time, the combined clacks of the keys could easily drown out the much lighter traffic noises. Even the loudest conversations stood no chance.
The new millennium, though, did not only bring with it new beginnings but also a more advanced typing system.
The emergence of computers and printers brought with it the promise of a faster, easier mode of encoding data. About the same time, the country was starting to get connected online through the internet.
Slowly, the typists’ stronghold transformed into internet cafes, printing stations and scanning outlets.
The fleet of typists grew smaller by the year as their patrons discovered computers, until only three of them remained in the area.
Among those who remained was Rey Flores, a resident of Barangay Pagsabungan, Mandaue City.
The 50-year-old left his job as a furniture maker in the 1990s at the height of the typing services boom.
“I used to earn P300 a day from the furniture shop, and that was already quite big during that time. But when I learned about typing, I gave it a try. I found it enjoyable since I am my own boss,” he told SunStar Cebu in Cebuano.
Working as a typist for the past 20 years has helped Rey and his teacher-wife send their daughter to school, and eventually build their own home.
Although he has fewer customers today compared to when he first started his business, Rey said there are really no quiet days in the typing industry.
At P20 per page, a typist could easily earn P500 a day, but that depends on the bulk of work he has to complete.
Rey has loyal customers who always look for him whenever they have documents that needed to be encoded.
Among his patrons was Nelson Calvario, who visited Rey’s makeshift booth last Friday to have his marriage contract filled up.
Although he owns a desktop unit at home, Calvario said he always prefers to have entries for his legal documents encoded via typewriter, instead of computer.
“I trust typists to do the job better than those using computers. For pre-formatted forms, it would be difficult to fill it up using the computer as it will distort the format. Government offices also require certified true copies and will decline the printed scanned copies,” he said.
“Unless the government changes its requirements, I don’t think that the typewriting job will go obsolete,” Calvario said.
Rey, too, believes that his business will not vanish soon.
One, there is no more competition among typists in the area as he and his two other colleagues have settled on an agreement to keep their business fair and beneficial for all three of them.
Two, government offices frequent their booths to have bundles of legal documents typewritten before these are bound.
With his trusty 20-year-old typewriter, which he brought for P6,000 in the 90s, Rey said he doesn’t see himself quitting the business in the near future.
“This actually is more of a hobby for us instead of a source of income. I am not afraid of computers being our competition because we’re like legends who already have pillars in this area,” Rey said.
The same passion is what made Virgilia Ambos stay in the business despite her adult daughter being capable of supporting their family.
The 58-year-old could easily choose to stay at home and relax, with her child working as a high school instructor and a computer science specialist at the same time.
“My daughter was a scholar her whole life and graduated from the University of the Philippines. Although all my earnings went to our daily needs since I did not pay for her education, being a typist helped us live humbly,” she said.
Ambos is a commerce graduate and worked as a bookkeeper in Magallanes St. before she ventured into the typing services business.
She said that apart from the occasional unpleasant customers, she has not found any difficulties throughout her 25-year career as a typist.
“There are some who look down on us, but our passion will always be stronger than their hurtful words. We also know that someday, we will eventually fade as the world gets more advanced, but as long us we have customers who need us, we will remain typing in this area,” Virgilia said.