Jeepney is one of the cultural symbols of the Philippines. Throughout the years it has faced different transformation but still maintains its ultimate purpose. It ferries the Filipino masses around the town at an inexpensive fare.
Jeepney’s name came from the blended words jeep and jitney. The word jeep originally came from G-P which is the acronym used for General Purpose vehicle. These G-P vehicles were used by military troops during the earlier decades. Jitney on the other hand refers to a minibus or public transportation vehicle used for ferrying passengers for a low fare.
History of Jeepney in the Philippines
Philippine jeepneys originated from the repurposed jeep vehicles left by the American troops in the country after World War II. Since infrastructures have been devastated and transportation systems like tranvias have also been affected by the war, the surplus of jeeps left were used by Filipinos.
Evolution of Jeepneys
The roofless jeeps were remodeled by adding top cover and extending the body. Handrails were attached to the ceiling, and a center aisle was allotted to allow riders to easily enter and leave the vehicle. Inside, two rows of seats that are parallel and facing each other were also added. The jeep was redesigned to carry many passengers in one trip. It could fit between 14 to 20 people at a time. When plying its route, it stops anywhere when a passenger will ride or alight, hence allowing convenience. The converted vehicle made mobility and transports faster and cheaper. Due to its convenience, and low fare, it has become ubiquitous and the dominant and preferred public transport of Filipinos. It became a mainstay in Philippine roads, and a part of daily life, and culture of Filipinos.
As the decades passed, jeepneys became more distinct. Vehicle manufacturers designed it more artistically with colorful paintings and locally made accessories. Some even exude a homey ambiance as jeepney owners add curtains, electric fan, lights with different colors, and other decorative details inside their vehicle. All of this resulted in a unique local vehicle that showcases Filipinos’ artistry and creativity and represents the Filipino culture. This uniqueness has been recognized even by other countries, and has made jeepney become a national image for the Filipinos.
Jeepney during the pandemic crisis
For decades the jeepney remained to be the king of the road in the country. It stayed iconic and regularly plied its routes until the pandemic crisis arose. During the onset of COVID19 pandemic, jeepney operations have ceased temporarily. On its return on the road, several adjustments were made.
Fare Passing – “Bayad Po”
Part of the experience of riding jeepney is uttering the expression “bayad po” and handing your fare to the person sitting next to you. Your money will then be passed until it reaches the driver. In the same way, your change will be handed to you. This system has been one of the reasons why the jeepney culture has been a distinct and interesting experience among foreigners. This system represents the Filipino culture of “pakikisama” by being sociable and working together. However, during the pandemic crisis, this system is not ideal as the virus easily spread with human contact. As social distancing is being observed, contactless payment solution is being suggested for jeepneys. If this will embraced, we may soon less hear the expression “bayad po” whenever riding the jeepney.
2. Crowded seating – “Tabi-tabi“
With the seating layout of jeepneys, passengers can easily talk to each other. This enable the riders to easily ask for direction or ask how much is the fare if they are not familiar with prices. Also, this setup, allows passengers to casually talk with each other and socialize while riding the vehicle. The interior of jeepneys in the time of pandemic crisis however has been required to be fitted with health safety barriers to ensure distance among passengers.
3. Open air – “Mahangin”
Throughout the years the Philippine jeepney design has changed. Some of the colorful classic jeepneys are gone, and the more recent ones have a resemblance to the cab van. Jeepneys have also become longer and wider. Electronic jeepneys are also created and operated in some parts of the country. Regardless of the changes, the original feature of the jeep has been maintained. The open design for easy air-flow has been retained. Its open back and open windows allow passengers to enjoy outside elements while riding the jeepney. They can hear the sound, look at the surroundings, smell the aromas, and feel the air from the outside. This feature is ideal especially for jeepneys plying around towns in provinces where the air is fresh and the views still has greeneries. During the pandemic crisis, the jeepneys’ open design is ideal, as it guarantees the free flow of air. This prevents the virus from staying in one place. With its open design, jeepneys provide workers safer transportation when going to work and returning back home.
Although the Philippine jeepney continues to evolve throughout time to improve its safety features and design, we hope that it will also continue to reflect Filipino culture.
Philippine jeepney is not just about riding. It’s about experience. Happy riding
Header image courtesy: Wikipedia
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