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Cruisin' in the Philippines via Jeepneys!

Updated on July 3, 2014

In the Philippines, the most common transportation used is the jeepney. It is a very colorful public utility vehicle covered in colorful stickers and painted images of Anime characters, names of family members, and brand names. Some jeepneys are equipped with speakers. It is made of two long wooden planks clad in (usually) thick mattresses covered with either patterned, mono-colored, or decorated cloth. Driving jeepneys is one of the foremost sources of livelihood in the Philippines. 

Not many people realize that the idea for such vehicle came from the salvaging of the American G.I.'s jeeps during the Second World War. Such invention was needed to transport the many wounded and alive but terrified Filipino and American soldiers back and forth. 

the jeepney
the jeepney

Why You Should Ride a Jeepney:

Aside from the obvious fact that it's cheaper than riding in a taxi, riding in a jeepney provides memorable (good and bad memories) interaction with fellow passengers. In a jeepney, I have seen a woman getting on, eyes rimmed with tears. Her boyfriend had watched her get on the vehicle, unsure whether to follow her or not. His colleagues tell him to get on, too and the thoughtful Manong jeepney driver waits for the boyfriend to make his move. Sadly though, he did not go climb after the girl, saying she needed space.

In the jeepney, I have seen old friends shrieking at the unexpected ride together. Older women laugh out loud, asking how the other is faring in life. The passengers merely glance once their way (when they were squealing with joy), then go about staring into space. It is a normal occurrence.

People from different walks of life ride in the jeepney, young and old, rich or people, no matter what religion or color. The seat beside the jeepney driver is reserved for the invalid (but sometimes the invalids themselves are refused a seat, which is a very sad reality). When old people ride in the jeepney, looking lost, unfamiliar with the surroundings, the passengers, driver, and Konduktor will usually aid them, informing them where Carmen Market is, etc.

One other optional but usual body part of a jeepney is the konduktor. The konduktor is usually a young man who boisterously shouts to people, calling their attention. Usually, the konduktor would call on the attention of slim young women (because when you have many thin young girls, then you can have more than 10 passengers per bench). The konduktor handles the fare. His usual location is at the back of the jeepney, keeping the paper bills folded expertly in the spaces between his fingers, and the coins in his pockets. He announces to the driver that someone is getting off at Divisoria, Caltex (which is not a place per se, but a gasoline station), etc. Most people are suspicious of konduktors giving lacking change. Sometimes they can be quite annoying, asking, shouting, pushing and shoving, but in time they sort of grow on you.

Another usual feature of jeepney-riding is when there is no more seat left. The konduktors (who either genuinely did not know there was no more vacant seats or who pretended not to know) would call on people waiting for jeepneys. Said people would get on, find out there were no more seats, and leave - unless if they were in a tremendous hurry and if they were guys. In such circumstances, they would hold on to the metal bars and railings at the back of the jeepney and hang on for dear life. You can imagine them as curtains of the jeepney's doorway. They crowd the entrance, but when people get off or on, they part to make way like the Red Sea.

jeepney going back and forth in the provinces
jeepney going back and forth in the provinces

In the Provinces

Jeepneys in the provinces are a little bit different from the ones in the city. They are usually less gaudy in appearance and the most remarkable difference is the presence of people riding on the top of the jeepney. See, it is hard getting a jeepney ride back and forth in far places. To save time and money, people pile inside, outside, and on top of the jeepney. In jeepneys like this, there are usually attached metal railings on the top for the passengers to hold on to. There are also daredevil young men (and sometimes older men - to show off some muscles) grabbing on at the back of the jeepney. This is very normal, especially when these people strike small talk with their neighbors, while making sure that they don't lose their grips on the steel bars (which are the only things keeping them off the ground).

Of course, accidents happen (especially when the road is wet or when there are bends in the road and the driver's driving like mad), but during the ordinary day-to-day routines of people, riding in jeepneys is one of the interesting and, i think, anticipated doings of the day. (Just don't forget to pray for safety and always be careful of the suspicious characters in the jeepney :-) ).


Note: Pictures are courtesy of

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