Friday, October 01, 2004

The Philippine Jeepney

As I roamed the back streets of Pasig City, I came across the Philippine Jeepney. Quite a fascinating and innovative contraption. I took pictures of some interesting ones I came across and looked it up on the net. The result is the compilation below. Enjoy!

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Filipinos are known worldwide for their ability to improvise on and reproduce first-world technology into forms more attainable given limited financial resources. An example of this ability is the Philippine jeepney. The army jeeps left by the United States after the Second World War inspired the making of these vehicles. Artworks of painstaking detail are often seen on the shining chrome bodies of these vehicles, which, as earlier said, are copies of army jeeps, resized and remodeled to accommodate commuting passengers numbering from 20 to 30 all in all.

The first jeepneys were actually the army jeeps themselves, numbering into the hundreds all over the country, but mostly concentrated in the metropolis, which were repainted or scraped to the metal, upon which various decorations were attached. Moving horse figurines, flags, colorful lights, paintings, traditional designs, bonnets, mirrors and stickers were put on these vehicles, making each vehicle startlingly different in terms of appearance from the next one. Ford Fieras were also soon used for jeepney production. Later on, however, the companies that did these remodeling jobs started making much bigger bodies running on surplus diesel engines (which are cheaper in the long run for the jeepney driver), thereby increasing the overall capacity of jeepneys. This, of course, gave much advantage to the jeepney drivers who bought them, over the ones with original remodeled jeepneys. Soon, the army jeeps and Ford Fieras were all but totally displaced by the Philippine-made jeepneys with bodies entirely crafted locally, but with the high-tech parts obtained from surplus shops throughout the country. The Philippine jeepney industry was thus born, and later on, it spread to the different provinces from Metropolitan Manila where it all started, making the jeepney the most ubiquitous vehicle indeed in the Philippines.

The unique thing about jeepneys is that no jeepney is exactly the same as another. Each jeepney is a testament to the artistic ability of the designer assigned to it. Work on the vehicle itself sometimes takes much shorter than work on the design and decorations on the vehicle, as the former has become almost mechanical, but the latter requires repetitive planning, and sometimes, mistakes can put back the designing effort by 1 or 2 weeks behind. It is a matter of pride for a jeepney designer to come up with a jeepney pleasing to the eye, and with an interior design that is both beautiful and not an impediment to function. Several improvisations are also put in inside the jeepney, such as blinker lights that come on when passengers who have to alight press a button or pull a string. Sometimes, there is a basket attached to a string that collects fare from the passengers. Payment while on a jeepney is on an honesty basis, with the jeepney driver just hoping that everyone who goes on his vehicle will pay the required amount for the distance traveled. Apart from the occasional companion while driving, the jeepney driver has little way of knowing who among his passengers has not paid. Sometimes, designers therefore put on signs to stoke the conscience of passengers, or to admonish passengers who fail to pay, with lines like “God knows Judas not pay.”

Local companies like Sarao Motors and Francisco Motors are prominent names in jeepney production in the Philippines. These companies build jeepneys piece by piece and in painstaking individual production. Buyers may have jeepneys made on a contractual basis, with designs specified by them. Visitors often pass by the workshops to watch jeepney artisans at work, to which the latter have no objection.


manababies said...

How interesting! I've always known about jeepneys but never really knew the history of them. Thanks for the insight.

Allan said...

Interesting site! Hope you enjoy your trip in Manila!

. : A : . said...

Yes, I had a great trip to Manila. I always enjoy my visits there ... it so vibrant and full of life!!

Akshay said...

Very interesting .. post >>
Liked it especially bc this autophile (if there is such a word)
Nice blog.
I'll definately be back

The TRSQ said...

Great segment, have very fond memories of the Jeepney,
had many rides on them while partying in Subic Bay,
US Navy......Thanks for the memories.
Theron of the TRSQ

Chandira said...

Huh! Cool.. Interesting post, thanks.

Likewise I'm also shit scared of the Great Unknown. It doesn't seem to be shit scared of me though.. :-)

Keep travelling, exploring. I am also an implant, English, living in Seattle. Culture shock is a good thing sometimes. I wish more Americans had experienced it, we wouldn't be at war. Happy blogging!

. : A : . said...

superMANA, Allan, akshay, THE TRSQ, Chandira - thanks for your comments. Glad you enjoyed this post. It was quite an interesting experience for me.

Chandira - The Great Unknown will never be shit scared of you :-) ... But will always beckon you!

Anonymous said...

can you pls. reveal your name... i'm writing about the jeepney industry in a paper for a class and i saw your blog and plan to make it one of my online order for the source to be valid, i need to have the name of the writer...can u help me?

Anonymous said...

...Huh! I realized now rthat w should be proud as filipino's be artistically create jeepney not only by designs but for the friendly aprouch in our environment!......ShennaMarie16