Hands down, I’d choose the jeepney over a bus (the smell inside an airconditioned bus can give me a dizzy spell), a taxi (oh so costly), and the MRT train (you’d rarely find a seat inside as it’s always crowded). The jeepney can go far distances and deliver you to your destination without hurting your pocket. Minimum fare of P8.00 is reasonable for a maximum of four-kilometre ride. The farther the destination, the more you have to pay, of course, but it’ll simply be a matter of a few more pesos.
In my earliest 20s, I’d take the bus to go to work, position myself by the window and gaze down at plush cars cruising along the highway. The dream of belonging to the class of private motorists had kept throbbing all those times – until I experienced having my own car in my mid-20s and found out it wasn’t that big a deal for me. Even though driving (high-speed driving at that) remains an activity I delight in, not having a car doesn’t plough a deep hole into my existence. Continuous residence in locations where everything is accessible factors in my decision to forego car ownership, I guess.
The jeepney driver is indubitably the king of the road here. He isn’t, however, a sweetheart to the foreigners staying in our country. Who could forget the former Miss Australia who – after marrying a Filipino and subsequently migrating to the Philippines – had sworn via the media, “Jeepney drivers just drive me crazy.”
That reminds me of an unforgettable incident, or rather spat on the road between a jeepney driver and an expatriate which occurred several years ago while I was on my way to an appointment. When the jeepney I was riding on started swerving erratically, little did I know some kind of road tussle was already taking place. Our driver must not have been aware who he was going head to head with behind the dark-shaded windows of a private red car. A few minutes of outdoing each other on a busy street went on before the red vehicle did manage to cut ahead and stop in front of us, blocking our way. A fuming expat (an American, I conjecture) got out and, with a gesticulation – both his hands clasping his head – equivalent to “You so stressed me out by what you’ve done,” began arguing with our driver in the most restrained manner he could summon. The jeepney driver listened; at the same time rebutted with a few brief statements of his own in an effort not to lose face during the argument. But both his broken English and confidence couldn’t save him. So before he completely ran out of our second language, he decided to sincerely extend an apology – in full “carabao English” (without letting go of his tiny bit of “attitude” however). The scene was beginning to turn quite comical. The foreigner just stared at his opponent, shook his head, went back to his car and drove away.
“Whew! I just spent all the English I’ve been saving my whole life,” our jeepney driver blurted out.
The wisest thing to remember when you are inside a moving jeepney is to grasp on to dear life as the driver may hit the brakes all of a sudden. It’s like this: It’s lunchtime and he’s feeling famished, or his urge to pee has been getting stronger and stronger. But he still has to reach his boundary where he could empty his vehicle of all passengers. As a result, he imagines himself a greyhound chasing an ultimate prey. Heaven help whoever or whatever’s on his way. Well, I am practically used to it. The jeepney rider that I am a big chunk of my life, I’m perfectly wary that when the man behind the wheel steps on the “screeeech” pedal,” we passengers would, in a matter of seconds, find ourselves all in the front of the jeepney – sitting side by side with the driver himself.
Alright, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you sure get what I’m trying to illustrate.
There are jeepney drivers who are kind, helpful, cheerful, and humorous – in spite of the fact most of them barely finished secondary education. Similar to other Asians, we Filipinos, admittedly, can be mulish when it comes to ingesting and heeding discipline on the road.
Yes, I used to own and drive a car. But years of, ahem, soul-searching and spending a fortune on repairs and maintenance led to my dawning of a lifestyle that doesn’t really necessitate going places in my own private vehicle; Especially considering the inconvenience of heavy traffic, difficult parking, incessant increase in fuel cost, and having to pay annual registration fees.
One more thing I love about riding jeepneys: you never get lonely. Solitary car driving could make you feel practically that – isolated. Inside my favourite public vehicle, you are not alone as you’re face to face with your co-passengers. Most of them don’t mind that the happenings or drama in their lives being spilled out, during a conversation with their companions, are for everyone to hear. You also won’t be reprimanded for gawking at what they’re wearing or lugging: their bags, their sassy cellphones, and sundry other accessories; I confess to having a penchant looking at commuters’ shoes and females’ prettily pedicured toenails while en route. My most favourite, though, is watching cute pets being hand-carried by their owners – tiny dogs and cats and, yes, even roosters.
All types of people here ride the jeepney; except for the mega-rich who, every now and then, come up with the absurd notion of scrapping the nation’s principal public transporter. They decry it for its primitive exterior; for being smoke-emitters and, therefore, air polluters; for being road bullies; and because jeepneys, they contend, are merely road clutters.
“Keep on dreaming,” rebukes 80% of the population who rely on the number one means of transportation in the Philippines, “Jeepneys are here to stay.”
I believe so; which makes it a sure thing my fondness for riding jeepneys will continue forevermore.