During the COVID-19 Pandemic [March 2020 onwards], many jeepney drivers lost their jobs because of the lockdown. Most of them ended up begging on the streets, others turned to driving taxis which gave them lower income, and the rest just had to find other jobs to feed their families. Right now, in many places, new mini-buses are plying the road jeepneys used to pass, and unless modernization of the former jeeps happens, most jeepney operators will have become bankrupt beginning 2020 [editor].
Majority of Filipinos don’t own a vehicle. In general, Pinoys just walk or take public transportation on their way to work or school. One of the most common ways to travel in the Philippines, aside from riding the bus or the tricycles, is via the jeepney, or jeep for short [dyip - Tagalog spelling].
Jeepneys are found only in the Philippines. It is a vehicle that can accommodate a dozen or more passengers depending on the driver or the barker (Pinoy term for the person in charge of filling the jeep up to bursting point) [Literal translation- person who shouts out the jeepney's destination].
What’s odd about the long seats is that if they are said to be designed for ten people, only half of the tenth person’s butt would be able to sit down. [In fact, maximum jeepney accommodation is 18 - "siyaman po yan" -nine on each side]. Most of the time, those who are in a hurry to get to where they’re going often get to be the unfortunate tenth person.
When riding a jeep for the first time, remember these words: Say,"bayad po" when paying for your fare. If you’re seated near the entrance, just give the money to another passenger’s outreached hand and it will be passed on until it reaches the driver.
If you’re expecting change, remind the driver of your "sukli".
Sometimes, you’ll encounter passengers who love hogging space. Ask them nicely, “Paki-usod” (Please move) and not just “usod” (move) so they would sit straighter and give you more room.
At times, you’ll also get to unfortunately sit next to women with long tresses who will not care if the wind from the open window will cause their hair to get into your nose and mouth or violently whip your face this way or that. Don’t hesitate to tap them on the shoulder and request“Paki-hawakan," or "Paki-talian, naman ng buhok mo” (Please hold, or tie, your hair). If they don’t comply take out the scissors out of your bag and snip the pesky hair away. (I’m joking! Still, I’m sometimes tempted to do just that.)
You might also come across fellow passengers who are tired (pagod), drunk (lasing), or just plain sleepy (inaantok). If the trip is quite long, they will most likely nod off once the jeepney is in motion. Don’t be alarmed if you suddenly find someone’s head on your shoulder. You have the option to let the poor girl (if it’s a lovely lady) have a little rest, or pointedly shrug your shoulder to indicate that the guy with the big, heavy head is not allowed to sleep and, at the same time, drool on your shirt.
When you’ve reached your destination loudly say, “Para”! or rap your knuckles loudly on the roof because some drivers seem to go deaf when passengers want them to stop. Otherwise, you might end up one block away from your original stop especially if the radio is blaring out rock and roll tunes all throughout the trip.
Kidding aside, riding a jeep in the Philippines can be fun. Treat yours as an adventure to discover more of Filipino culture and meet some of the most awesome people to be with on this planet.
Ruth Matimtiman-Floresca is a freelance writer whose articles have been published in major Philippine Magazines. She has also written articles via HELIUM. For details about her and her portfolio, visit http://ruthfloresca.bravehost.com