As the country is moving towards modernity fast and furious, some of its partisans are cruising on the verge of existence. Those who have been visiting the Philippines within the previous 70 years must have noticed the roaring beasts who dominate the nation’s traffic-joked streets. But the beloved Jeepney is about to drive forever from the map, causing either massive displacement or unemployment of experienced drivers plus higher fares for the sheer number of commuters.
Tropical heat is flooding threw Metro Manila, and as usual, the first rush hour had already gone neatly over to the next rush hour. In the midst of all the metallic action, a jeepney driver pulls over picking up a new set of passengers which stoopingly crawl through the open rear entry and jump right away into the available spots as the decades-old mode of transport is already on the move again. Chauffeur Markun is in a rush, he woke late and missed the first batch of Philippine Pesos. “We all go to heaven”, jokes a passenger as Markun is stirring his ride hectically into the little gaps within the bustling traffic with all the commuters holding on to something (or someone). Sitting knee-to-knee the passengers pass along the fare of 10-20 PHP by saying “bayad” or more politely “bayad po” through a line of other passengers until it eventually reaches the driver. Whereas calling out “para” or “para po” will usually get the driver’s attention to stop the vehicle at an undesignated destination, which can be wherever and whenever enroute. Today, a fair lot of daily city travelers prefer wearing a surgical mask becaus of the jeepneys exhausting blackish smoke emissions. The old diesel machines suppose to be the major source of air pollution in the Philippines’ megalopolises. Moreover, the chaotic handling process of dropping and picking up passenger as well as stressed out drivers might be significant for the crippling congestion across the country. In response to all the obvious cons of antique jeepneys numbering hundreds of thousands, the Department of Transportation declared an age limit of 15 years for the Filippino street icon back in 2016 (About 90% of jeepneys on the road), with older jeepneys starting to be phased out by 2020 latest. The goal is to make the country’s public transportation system efficient and environmentally friendly as soon as possible. Newly-manufactured rides must comply with new standards like minimum seating capacity and Euro-4 compliant engines. Various motor manufacturers such as Mitsubishi, Isuzu and the Chinese competitors from Foton Motors have already presented their prototypes of modernized jeepneys at the LTO Motor Show held in early 2018. Markun is operating the jeepney for 15 years, but he doesn’t own it. Many private jeep owners have sold their ride over the years to transport cooperatives because they needed liquid funds (for a birthday, a wedding or school fees), and got most likely hired as drivers again. Usually, Markun makes about 2’400 PHP per day, which will be roughly split up into thirds – After 800 PHP for diesel, half the profit will be for the owner and the other half for the driver.
Although the public utility vehicles have an implanted Isuzu engine „made in Japan“, they’re actually American born machines. In fact, the Filippino’s icon of ingenuity had originally been carved from abandoned US army jeeps which after the damage caused by World War II, helped to develop a new system of urban transportation all over the island nation. But yet, the Jeepneys are considered road-unworthy dinosaurs because of their out-fashioned looks and ancient engines. Some creatives have taken on that repute by pimping their ride to the nines. 33-years-old chauffeur John Paul is driving one of the “Patok Jeepney”. His jeepney is equipped with a high powered sound system plus an extraordinary airbrush design, and its chassis had even been “lowered”. John Paul shares the daily journeys with a buddy who helps him collecting the fares. „Much more fun!“ he explains joyfully. The work makes them shine noticeably, even if they’re not really looking into a bright future with their ride going extinct. Some of the newly presented Public Utility Vehicle bear a price tag of 1.6 million PHP, so even with the government’s proposed seven-year payment plan plus a subsidy of 80000 PHP, drivers like John Paul are concerned about paying 19000 PHP a month for the next seven years. His daily pay is now slightly above 800 PHP. But with a new jeep, he would have to shell out approx. 600 PHP a day extra which he obviously can’t afford.
With the unsolved traffic issues in the big cities like Metro Manila, the officers at the Department of Transportation have probably got more headaches than Santa Claus’ logistics manager. Apparently, phasing out the ole jeepney will ease the jam situation fairly, not to speak of the pollution issue, but only a few are talking about the livelihoods of the roughly 180000 drivers which. Taking second-time father Richard who facing an apparent dead end in Manila’s North Cemetery. He took over the private jeepney from his dad-in-law and supports now a family of 6 with his job as a chauffeur, earning only sufficient money for their day-to-day survival. A day with a flat tire automatically leads to a very lean dinner as there are literally no savings to compensate. For Richard, the jeep has „evolved into a cultural symbol of the Pinoy“ and he can’t think of anything else than driving it around the block.