It is affectionately called “The King of the Road” and by god I do understand why! They would stop anytime, anywhere as they wish when loading and unloading passengers. Other motorists would do all they can to avoid a speeding jeepney, and they would cut you off when they see a gap as little as 5 feet between you and the car in front of you! Filipinos have learned to more or less tolerate it. This unconscious tolerance made the jeepney the most loved symbol of the Philippines.
They come in different sizes. There’s a four wheeler that can accommodate 14 passengers comfortably; a six-wheeler usually used to travel to remote far flung villages; and I’ve seen some really, really huge ones with 8 wheels that can carry more than 40 passengers! (just like the photo here on the left!) The sight is incredible like they are attempting to break a world record or something. LOL
They also come in different classes. Some jeepneys have air-conditioning, a sound system that could break an eardrum in one boom, and a sedan-like with all the amenities of a little van. They also have the ordinary ones being used as it is intended for -- transportation.
A mobile artwork. What strikes me most is how they adorn their most beloved jeepneys. No jeepney is alike! They are lovingly decorated with colourful stickers, air brush paintings, plastic ribbons that flutter as it speeds though the streets. Some jeep owners would decorate it with hundreds (ok, ok! it's an exaggeration!) of mirrors faced towards the back; meters long radio antennas and to top it all, a colourful plastic panel just above the windshield proudly bearing the family’s name or other whacky slogans. The Jeepney has become a work of art – a channel for self expression.
The first time I ever laid eyes on a jeepney was when I was a little kid. And it wasn’t in the Philippines but in Kuwait in the Middle-East. I remember there was an Asian Expo or something and the Philippine participants brought in a really shocking jeepney!
I was playing with my Kuwaiti and Indian friends on a kiddie park and suddenly there’s this huge, glistening, never before seen vehicle with all it’s colourful splendour! It clearly says “Mabuhay” in front. People on the streets applaud in amazement as it passed by. And I, motionless in awe.
Efforts were made through the years to banish this icon from the streets.
But the Philippine Jeepney is here to stay.
A true pride of Southeast Asia.
--written by Pisanu