I know I’ve talked about jeepneys in my blogs before, but I have a love/hate fascination with them, and I think they’re the perfect representation of Filipino culture.
Through jeepneys, you can understand so many things about the Philippines.
History: Jeepneys are a product of the American military occupation in the Philippines – it was the vehicle we used and developed here.
Filipino Ingenuity and Creativity: Adapting it to be a form of public transportation, and they’re so colorful! There’s really no uniformity to them – they’re so customizable according to the whims of the driver. The horns can have bizarre sounds, they have quirky names and artwork, religious icons and adornments, and many even have bright colorful lights that make them look like parties on wheels after dark. Some even have karaoke capabilities.
Cultural Values: To pay in a jeepney, you pass your fare to the driver through other passengers. This demonstrates both communal cooperation and trust (how does the driver know everyone’s paid? He doesn’t!).
Social Need: Cheap Transport. The cheapest option for getting around.
Social Problem: The constant starting and stopping to let passengers on and off is the cause of tons of traffic jams. And they’re the cause of tons of traffic accidents too. I’ve also read that they’re the cause of 85% of the exhaust pollution in Metro Manila, and Manila is the 4th most polluted city in the world. So, serious health concerns here, with asthma and accidents.
They’re eye catching but annoying, and I’m in awe of them (how does anyone know which one to get on or where it’s going?!?) and in fear of them (please don’t hit me crazy jeepney rounding the corner like a maniac.) But for all that I feel they categorize Filipino culture, I’ve read that they may not be around for much longer. There are some initiatives seeking to replace them with a more modern, electric model that would aim to keep prices low because they’d be comprised of fewer parts. (Jeepneys are big clanking metal messes of parts.) We’ll see – maybe I was here to see the last of the era of the jeepneys. Maybe next time I come here to visit they’ll be gone. I don’t know if I’d be sad or relieved….probably both.