What makes the Philippines – and in particular Manila – such a colourful place are the masses of multi-coloured vehicles on the road called Jeepneys. These Jeepneys are unique to the Philippines and are the most common method of transport in the country. In Manila, it is difficult to go longer than 30 seconds without seeing one honking its horn before you on the road!
Jeepneys can be found at designated jeepney stands all over Metro Manila and its routes are painted on the sides and below the windshield, so people know where they will be going. In most vehicles, passengers ask each other to pass their fare to the driver, who himself relies on the honesty of the passengers in paying their fare. Adult male passengers can sometimes be seen sitting on the roof of the jeepney if there is no space inside (referred to as “sabit” in Tagalog, meaning “to hang on with your fingertips”), though perhaps unsurprisingly, this practice is dangerous and illegal! To ask the driver to stop the vehicle, passengers can rap their knuckles on the ceiling of the jeepney, rap a coin on a metal handrail, or simply tell the driver to stop (if you can be heard over the sound of the ancient engine and your boisterous fellow passengers).
The jeepney is the cheapest and easiest way to commute in the Philippines, but many Filipinos (especially the younger generation) despise jeepneys now. Some controversies that create these negative feelings include drivers unloading passengers in the middle of the street, thus blocking traffic, not to mention a lack of seatbelts, which risks the safety of passengers. The jeepney drivers are also notorious for engaging in unfair practices such as overcharging, blocking other jeepneys to get passengers in the middle of the lane, and not completing the route if it is not profitable for them to continue. Hence, the majority of younger Filipinos are requesting that jeepney transportation be phased out, which is also blamed as a major source of the chronic air pollution in Manila.
Yet despite protests, jeepneys remain on the streets of Manila for all to see. Just like a moped in Bali, a tuktuk in Bangkok, or a taxi in Singapore, the jeepney is very much part of Filipino life. For the most part, these jeepneys are unfit for human transportation (they don’t even have seatbelts), but there is something somewhat romantic about them. Backpackers to Manila – and other parts of the Philippines – will ALWAYS want an experience on a jeepney, and as long as you don’t get ripped off by the driver, what’s the harm?!
The featured image in this article is courtesy of Caitlyn De Beer.