Meet the 'PAP' cabbie
For cab driver Mr Victor Woo - one of the Best Tourism Host winners in this year's Tourism Awards - providing great service is a natural extension of his warm and bubbly personality, and his 'PAP' approach. -SPU
Tourism Awards 2008
FOR Mr Victor Woo Wee Yeong, a London cab driver with SMRT Taxis, providing great service is a natural extension of his warm and bubbly personality and his enthusiasm for life.
The 58-year-old says: "When I was retrenched about 12 years ago, I was almost a senior citizen, so who would hire me? That's when I decided to drive a taxi, which is like running a business.
"Since it's my own business, I have to set it up for success. I went for training and took up a taxi tourist guide course.I am now a licensed tour guide driver and can conduct guided tours along Singapore's heritage routes," he says.
Mr Woo is a firm believer that anything is possible with the right attitude.
He says: "I want my passengers to enjoy themselves when they ride in my taxi. I want them to experience the difference with my 'PAP' - Passion And service with Pride.
"I want to serve them from the top of my head to the bottom of my heart!"
This service commitment has won him many loyal passengers, some of whom have been riding with him for a decade.
He shares: "My customers have become my friends - they'll tell me about their lives and even invite me to their homes for dinner with their families. I really enjoy meeting people and helping to brighten up their day."
One passenger whom he will remember for life is Mr John Lanton, a Briton who visited Singapore in 2003. Mr Lanton is a World War II veteran who used to work at the then-British Military Hospital, now Alexandra Hospital.
During his visit, he rode in Mr Woo's taxi from Changi Airport to a five-star hotel in town.
The next day, Mr Lanton contacted Mr Woo urgently for help because his travel agency had not forwarded money to the hotel and he had to check out.
Mr Woo recalls: "He had only $2,000 with him and wanted to stay here for a month. I took him around to look for another hotel.
"Eventually, he checked into the Grand Central near Orchard Road. He had just enough money to pay for his room and daily breakfast."
During the 26 days that Mr Lanton was here, Mr Woo took him out every day for lunch and dinner.
Mr Woo says: " I let him try our local food like chicken rice, roti prata, hor fun and curry rice. My wife also cooked for him, and my family sometimes joined us for dinner.
"In the evenings, when I was not working, we'd enjoy a couple of beers at the lobby lounge.
"When it was time for him to return home, I got him a lot of souvenirs, like Merlion stickers, mugs, ash trays and fridge magnets."
Two weeks after Mr Lanton left, Mr Woo received an unexpected bank transfer from London.
"His son also called to thank me for helping his father out during a difficult period," says Mr Woo.
The three of them - Mr Lanton, his son and Mr Woo - continued to contact one another regularly.
"But the phone calls stopped after a year. His phone line was disconnected, and we lost touch.
"He would be 64 years old this year," says Mr Woo wistfully of his friend.
Another passenger he remembers is a wheelchair-bound woman, whom he started ferrying in 1997 for about six to seven years.
When the woman died, Mr Woo went to help out at the wake.
He says: "Her family was so surprised to see me, and her daughter gave me a token of appreciation. I was quite embarrassed.
It was quite a big amount, and I felt that it was not right to take it, but she insisted. "Finally, I accepted it as a 'scholarship' in honour of her mother and used it to help fund my three children's education."
Mr Woo loves his job even though it can be tiring.
"I want to thank all my passengers for their nominations and for giving me the opportunity to serve them - with my PAP!"
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