Archive for September 2011

Jeepney Ride

5 September 2011

I begin my morning in Cebu City by clambering into the back of a jeepney, the Philippines’ ubiquitous vehicle for public transit. First, as ever, I smash my head on the low roof as I crouch-walk between the benches on either side of the bed. Then I take a seat, and hug my backpack to my chest. When the back of his truck is full to the driver’s satisfaction, he releases the parking break and accelerates into a high-speed slalom down the narrow road winding out of Peace Valley. Chickens, children and dogs dodge the jeepney, and the jeepney itself dodges potholes, low-slung branches and chickens. The passengers are like popcorn kernels.

The original jeepneys were built from the Jeeps left behind by the US military after World War II. The back of the Jeep was sliced off and replaced with an extended bed, and, voila, public transit. There are many jeepneys still on the road today in the same style and construction: they look like junkyard frankensteins, all bulging curves and polished chrome embellishments, soldered together out of obviously mismatched parts, and slathered in whatever colors of paint happened to be available at the time.

The newer jeeps have a boxier, more clean-cut look, but with equally outrageous paint jobs: I’ve seen firebreathing dragons, abstract cubism, and a life-sized Yoda wielding a light saber. Also painted on is the jeepney’s route (e.g. “APAS LAHUG CARBON JONES & vice versa”), and often the name of the driver, or perhaps his boss, or maybe his wife (e.g. “Jose Vincent” or “Ramos Brothers” or “Severina”), and occasionally a total non-sequitur (e.g. “Duran Duran” or “Stairway to Heaven” or “Powered by Linux 2.8!”). (more…)