One of the unique features of Manila is its public transportation that consists of jeepney, train, bus, habal-habal, pedicab, tricycle and also wooden banca.
Jeepneys are essential public transportation in Metro Manila. They are left-over US Army jeep left behind during the World War II turned pop art transportation. They can transport you everywhere you want to go as there are no fixed rules as to where they can stop. Most jeepneys are painted with vibrant colors and exhibit a wealth of embellishment together with religious slogans and graffiti decorations. Throughout my little days in Manila, I have not seen a naked jeepney plying through the street of Manila.
How a jeepney is decorated is according to its owner’s interests. Some drivers extend the decoration to the interior part of the jeepney by using seats of vibrant colours like yellow, green or striking red. As Filipinos are religious lot, a statue of Virgin Mary, Sto. Nino, Madonna and Baby Jesus always secure an important place in the jeepney aligned with the exterior sign that reads, “God Bless this Trip” or “God be with Us” or “God is bread”.
At the back of the jeepney is an open air passage where the passengers ascend and descend from the jeepney. The back of the jeepney extends longer than the normal jeep. The interior comprises of two rows of padded seats facing one another. The passengers usually have to run in an attempt to ascend the jeepneys, solely for two reasons; 1) there are too many people to compete with for the jeepney to the intended destination, and 2) the jeepneys will stop at the side of the roads in a hurry as they will refrain themselves to hold traffic to Manila streets which are already narrow.
Once you are on board the jeepney, you will squeeze into the tight space with your knees brushing that of the person sitting in front of you. Hold your breath tight for the unwanted sweat smelling aroma especially during the peak hour. The locals sit quietly while getting ready to hop off at their destinations while the first-timers worry that they might be on the wrong jeepney and if not, they do not know which place is the place they want to descend. Trust me the routes the jeepneys plying are not equipped with proper signboards. The jeepneys might just drop you next to a wet market which is 1km from the train station and what nots!
The rules of the game for the first timers are whenever possible, sit next to the jeepney driver so that you can ask him to stop where you want to go and you can opt to ask any person you deem truthful. I use the words “deem truthful” because Manila is a place where the needy employs 1001 illegal ways to get money out of desperation. You might end up asking a scammer who will lead you to the road to hell. So be extra careful on who you ask for directions.
How much will a jeepney ride costs? Php8. During the peak hour, you may be asked to pay Php10 or Php12 depending on the middleman who will help you stop the jeepney and secure you a ride. It is interesting to note how the fare is being paid in the jeepney. If you are sitting next to the driver, then it is as easy as handing over your fare to the driver. But what happens if you sit at the back of the jeepney i.e. 2 seats away from the open air entrance. It troubled me so much during my first jeepney ride that I won’t be able to get the balance as it will be passed to atleast 9 persons ahead of me.
The culture adopted by jeepneys’ passengers is that you will pass the money to the person sitting next to you and she will pass it on until it reaches the driver. The balance will be passed back to you the same way. Amazing I always get back the exact balance! The tips given by my newly found Filipino friend, Sharon, is that whenever you sit near to the driver, you say, “Bayad Po” and hand over the fare. It portrays courtesy and politeness!
I met two Malaysians who have been residing in Manila for 2 months and they told me they had only ridden a jeepney for once and only. While I survived jeepney for 2 days!
If you are in Manila, experience a ride in a jeepney. Truly a bitter sweet yet amazing experience.