Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Filipinos cannot think of any day without Jeepney as it has become an integral part of the daily life of those middle class and lower middle class in the society. While visiting the Philippines you may not find a bus on the roads of Manila or any other city, but for sure, hundreds of Jeepneys are playing the role of the major public transport. To tourists, Jeepney is one of the attractions as they want to feel the very authentic Filipino culture. Moreover, riding on Jeepney would give the opportunity of seeing and understanding the society’s middle- and lower-income groups.
Manila’s public transport system literally comes in different shapes and sizes. What really stands out in this landscape is the multi-seater jeepney.
Introduced back in the 1940s, after World War II, as a public-utility vehicle or PUV.
Jeepney is the most credible and affordable mode of transport for people. The minimum fare of a jeepney ride is PHP 9 (around BDT 12) for up to four km. It can carry up 20-25 people comfortably.
According to an unofficial estimate, there are about 2,00,000-odd jeepneys operating in the Philippines. However, not everything is hunky-dory for this PUV. The government has gone in for safer and cleaner public transport, which will see the fuel-guzzling jeepney soon yanked off the roads.
The good news for commuters is that the Department of Transportation has allowed 15-year-old jeepneys to operate till 2020 if they are found road-worthy. On the face of it, this is just a temporary reprieve and this popular mode of transport could eventually bow out. Yes, if someone is not going to visit the Philippines by 2020, possibly they are going to miss a ride on this historic public transport. Hence the good news is, the authorities are going to replace the fuel-run Jeepneys into something modern. As Philippines too are seeking cleaner fuel options and this is where electric transport systems will play a key role. Last year, the largest jeepney maker, Sarao Motors, inked an agreement with electric vehicle maker, Le’ Guider International. This will see manufacturing of jeepneys powered by cleaner electric-motors. The first e-jeepney, GP Sarao EJ-12, was unveiled in April 2018 with a seating capacity of 20.
Going forward, the Philippines will see a massive rollout of e-jeepneys as Sarao draws up plans to manufacture them at its seven-hectare facility in Las Pinas. This has an annual capacity of about 6,00,000 units. Big global brands like Hyundai have jumped into the fray to replace the traditional jeepneys with more modern mass transport vehicles. The Department of Transport had showcased one such offering last year, which can seat 23 passengers.
Filipino motor company Sarao have been responsible for making the jeepney a much-loved symbol of the country, both for Filipinos and tourists. What started as a small automotive shop refurbishing army jeeps, quickly became the Philippines’ pioneer jeepney manufacturer. Sarao Motors heir Edgardo Sarao now describes the jeepney as ‘the blood of the city… It circulates. It goes everywhere’.
Back in 1964 at the New York World Fair the national symbol for The Philippines was a jeepney. The unique colorful folk art, kitsch designs and hand-painted style captured traveler’s imaginations. The combination of industrious hard work, vibrant artistry and religious and cultural murals made the jeepney an iconic symbol of Filipino culture and art. Jeepneys tell a story that goes beyond a single journey from A to B.
Well, there would be new Jeepneys on the road though, but unless someone visits the Philippines by 2020, s/he would miss the great opportunity of enjoying the taste of riding on an authentic Jeepney – something that is on the road since 1940’s.
The Philippine Jeepney is a Filipino innovation of the American G.I surplus jeep during the 1940’s. The unique vehicle was the answer to the country’s scarcity of transportation after the war. It has the same strong engine of a U.S Army jeep but was resized and converted into a public utility vehicle. A typical Jeepney would usually accommodate 20-30 commuting passengers.
The result was a time enduring vehicle with a remarkable combination of Filipino ingenuity and creativity in the midst of the post-war crisis. In terms appearance, no Jeepney is exactly the same. Each Jeepney was designed with well-detailed artworks elaborately displayed on its bright chrome bodies and even in the vehicle’s interior. Every single one has its own unique design and is usually given touches often reflective of a common-man’s sentiment of the time.
Today, the Philippine Jeepney is the most popular means of transportation in the Philippines. it is proof of the Filipino’s world-renowned ability to produce efficient technology from scrap machinery and limited financial resources. Truly, Jeepneys have become the country’s symbol of adaptation to global influence and change.
Possibly Filipinos cannot think of life without Jeepney as it is one of the integral parts of the daily life – especially being the cheapest transportation system in the country. Though a ride on Jeepney may not be that pleasant especially during the hot-summer days or rainy days and nights, but indeed, anyone can inhale the very authentic Filipino tradition once s/he is on Jeepney.
I am happy that I have visited the Philippines at least much ahead of it being phased out and had the opportunity of enjoying a ride on this very authentic and iconic Filipino transport.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is the editor of Blitz. Follow him on Twitter at Salah_Shoaib