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Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Jeepneys of The Philippines: The prime people mover!

As I exited Manila’s Ninoy airport, took a bus to ESDA station, I was treated to an eye full of Jeepneys, Philippines’ favorite mode of public transport. Jeepneys are essentially jeeps modified to seat lots of people- up to 24 or more who will be ferried from one part of city to another for an extremely cheap fare.  Over next 5 days, I had several rides in Jeepneys, took a bunch of photos and got a high level sense of how to select right Jeepney for my destination. This post is a compilation of notes I have made on Jeepneys, along with photos I have clicked.
Jeepneys have their origin in World War 2 US Army Jeeps. At the end of war, US Army decided that cost of transporting these jeeps back to US is not really worth it and decided to sell them off for cheap  price to local people. Many Philippine residents purchased these military jeeps and start using them for commercial purposes. Most were converted into passenger vehicles, by extending their rear portion. Two horizontal benches were added so that about 10-12 people can sit in each bench facing people sitting on the opposite bench. Hard top, windows and loads and loads of decorations are done all over Jeepneys, depending on owner’s taste and budget.


Of course World War 2 jeeps were not made for fuel efficiency- they were made for rugged war time use. Over time most of these jeeps were overhauled, usually replaced with a more modern but second hand engines from other vehicles. Because of this, different Jeepneys have different engine rhythm. They drink lots of fuel and need frequent engine oil replacement, not very pollution friendly, but are extremely cheap to run- fuel is the primary expense- no expensive EMI, insurance or other maintenance costs of a modern vehicle. The Jeepneys operate on a pre-defined route, which is usually written on their side. A small display showing destination is also hung on the wind shield. I read that there were some attempts to phase them out due to pollution concerns, but any such move has been fiercely opposed by the public, unions and some political parties. Over time Jeepneys have become a cultural representative of the Philippines so people are very fond of them.

The cost: A ride in a Jeepney costs minimum PHP 7 (INR 10). Some longer rides may cost 11 to 14 PHP (INR 20). The interesting part is there is no conductor to check if everyone who boards it pays. People voluntarily pass money to the driver, who counts and keeps it or returns change where required.  This kind of voluntary process is a great example of mutual trust and honesty.

Some Jeepneys are so old, they have absolutely nothing in front of the driver, except a steering wheel and a gear lever. No displays, no indicators, no safety features. 

Today there are newer Jeepneys, made out of modern vehicles such as Canter Minitruck or various other models of mini trucks, modified to have seating in the rear instead of cargo holder. They miss out on the jeep like front facia but otherwise serve the same purpose with more modern vehicle base

How to know where they are going?
Usually their route is painted on their side, which you can read and figure out. Once you see their destination, check on map if it is anywhere close to where you are planning to go. Once you figure out which of the Jeepney routes are likely to take you closer to your destination, board the next one with same destination. But if that is not practical, another way will be to simply board a Jeepney going in the direction you are heading- ask someone inside if it goes to where you wanted to go or what is the closest place you can get down. Philippino people are very friendly and they would guide you where to get down and what to do next to get to your destination. Given that taxis start at minimum 40 PHP for half a km, if you can take a Jeepney for PHP 7 for even 2-3 kms closer to your destination,that is lots of savings on taxi expense. I used taxi in Philippines only when I couldn’t get a cheaper transport.

Multi-Tasking Jeepney driver:
The driver of a Jeepney usually multi tasks- besides the obvious task of driving, he needs to do the following:
  •          Keep an eye on pedestrians for a possible customer
  •          Collect fare from passengers and return change
  •           Keep an eye on rear view mirror to see if those who are getting on/off have completed their move and it is safe to move forward
  •           Keep an ear for passengers who ask for a stop to get off the Jeepney.
  •           Occasionally ask passengers to sit closer so that few more people can board
  •           Sometimes shouting the destination to crowd
  •           Try to stay ahead of another Jeepney of same route behind him, so that he doesn’t lose passengers to that Jeepney
Sometimes passenger sitting next to driver plays role of conductor collecting money, counting etc. Almost every 3rd vehicle you see in Manila will be a Jeepney.

Point to be noted: When you mention a destination and driver says “Yes”, don’t expect to be dropped till the last meter. As long as the Jeepney is going towards/closer your destination the driver will ask you to board. You may have to get down a km or two from your destination or take another Jeepney/taxi to complete the journey. Be prepared.





There’re more ways of Public transport in Philippines- mainly the tricycles showcasing extreme form of Jugaad. Stay tuned for more details.
Indian Bloggers

5 comments :

Katchutravels said...

Wow! Nice compilation of these modern day adapted and modified vehicles. So cool are these vehicles and their colours!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Karthik

mithun malakar said...

Theese are mostly military vehicles converted for public transport. i Like to captures.

Chill Karo Yaar Pooja Bhatt said...

So creative and skilled Post ! My fav is that inspired by the Graffiti !

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Pooja- Thanks

@Mithun- Yes, THanks.