A video going viral on social media this week, showing a man in Grab uniform preventing a woman from attempting suicide by jumping off a bridge in Ho Chi Minh City.
Grab Vietnam confirmed that the man in the video is Pham Thanh Phong, one of its GrabBike partners, on Wednesday.
‘The hero in green’
'The hero in green' is how netizens have been referring to Phong since the video of him saving the young woman circulated on Facebook.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper got in touch with Phong on Wednesday afternoon. He struck the impression of a clear-cut guy with a meek and affable accent.
Phong said he still had “the thrills” as he recalled what happened on Saigon 2 Bridge, where he had to tread a tightrope to save a life.
At around 5:30 pm on Tuesday, a young woman booked a ride from Do Xuan Hop Street in District 9 to Saigon 2 Bridge – a new bridge built parallel to the old Saigon Bridge, acting as its expansion – in Binh Thanh District.
Phong accepted the gig and picked up the customer as usual.
The moment she insisted on being dropped off in the middle of the bridge, Phong felt something was off.
He continued to drive past the bridge and tell the woman that her requested drop-off point was not allowed by Grab’s system.
As the ride came to an end on Nguyen Huu Canh Street in Binh Thanh District, the woman gave Phong a VND100,000 (US$4.25) bill – three times as much as the ride’s fare – and told him to keep the change as she walked toward Saigon Bridge.
Phong got nervous when the woman did not respond to him and ran even faster toward the bridge.
Fearing she could attempt to jump off the bridge, he took a U-turn to catch up with her while simultaneously calling her to buy time.
“I had to say ‘Miss, you left some stuff behind. Please go back to take it or else I will be penalized by the company,’” Phong recounted.
While holding the conversation, Phong approached the woman right when she was about to jump off the bridge. He managed to grab hold of the young woman in the nick of time.
“Passers-by and competent authorities nearby were promptly involved to help me talk her down," Phong recalled.
‘The thrills are still there’
“When I held her back, she was crying and writhing, asking why I did not let her go. I faltered and shouted, ‘are you crazy, ending the life your parents gave you?’” Phong talked about the goosebumps-inducing moment he had while trying to save a life.
“I don’t wish her to thank me. I’d rather see her come to her senses and learn to love herself more,” Phong said.
Phong was born in 1990 in the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang and is currently residing in District 7, Ho Chi Minh City.
He has gone through various trades to make ends meet in the southern metropolis of Vietnam: a musician, a small trader, and now a ride-hail service provider.
In over one year working gig after gig on the motorbike, Phong said he has encountered many bizarre cases of customers going through ups and downs in their lives.
In each of the encounters, he always tried to console and inspire people to stick up for themselves through adversities and think positively for their family and the people around them.
Phong said life does have its own hardships, but the one thing we must treasure is the life we have, stay resilient, and have faith in the future.
“Even the ants have a will to live. I myself am in a struggle, but I believe that hard work will help me overcome all,” Phong said.
Talking about his future, Phong envisioned himself enrolling in advanced keyboard classes to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a professional musician once he gains financial stability.
He used to play the keyboard at wedding ceremonies for a living, but unexpected circumstances forced him to sell off his beloved instrument and switch jobs.
For now, Phong said he will strive in his work for Grab to support his wife and little daughter.
“Grab customers are few and far between during this epidemic time. I only make some hundred thousand [Vietnamese] dong each day, but I’ve just got to grind on,” Phong said with a smile.