The Iconic Jeepney – King Of The Road
You know that you’re in the Philippines when you see Jeepneys careening down the road. In well-paved urban boulevards and potholed country roads, the Jeepney is the most common form of public transportation patronized by Filipinos.
A Filipinized Hand-Me-Down
The Jeepney first rolled the Philippine streets over seventy years ago when the Americans brought a couple of units over as a type of military transport vehicle. The surplus Jeeps were sold or given to the locals after World War II which were later adopted as a form of cheap mass transportation in the cities.
The Jeepney acquired a roof and colourful exterior walls that were painted with decorative, flamboyant designs and adorned with decorations. Although not as big as a regular bus but it became a mainstay on Philippine roads because it was fast and convenient.
When the Willy Jeeps left by the Americans broke down and became permanently unfit for travel, Filipinos started building their new Jeepney’s from scratch. The Sarao brand is one of the pioneers in this industry, but many other manufacturers soon started making their own vehicles to cater to the growing riding public.
Throughout the years, the jeepney retained its basic look and essential features.
Two passengers sit in front to the driver’s right, while the others sit facing each other on two vertical benches along the side. Unlike the bus with a side entrance, you get on a jeep through an opening at the very back.
When all the seats are taken, male passengers jump up on this entrance and hold on to the handlebars bolted on the roof’s interior.
And it’s not just the seats inside the Jeepney that can be used to carry passengers, in most provinces the exterior of the roof is fitted with a metal railing that can accommodate extra riders as well as baggage. You just have to hold onto the sides to keep yourself from falling off.
Fare isn’t paid directly to the driver: it is passed along to him by the passengers nearest the person paying. Change, if you have any, also travels back to you the same way. The Jeep is still an open-air vehicle, but there have been recent attempts to manufacture fully-airconditioned units to save passengers from pollution.
Despite its seeming disregard for modern vehicle technology and road safety regulations, the Jeepney still remains as the undisputed king of Philippine roads. It has become the major means of transport for lower-class citizens who need to travel from place to place. Tourists rarely try this particular type of transportation because they don’t feel very comfortable with the idea of being squashed shoulder-to-shoulder with perfect strangers.
But the Jeepney is home to a big slice of Filipino culture. You can learn so much about the locals by simply hopping into the first one that comes your way.