Jeepney!

I visited the Philippines over 25 years ago, when Clark Air Force Base was still controlled by the American military. I took Jeepneys then, and found it easy. This time back, the only jeepney I’ve taken in the seven months we’ve lived here is one that was ‘bespoke’ for us by a Filipino friend- he hired it for a single trip and we paid the driver. So it was not really the same. I keep thinking I should try again, but then i watch the loading and unloading and think about trying it with the Cherub and decide I won’t. I am now convinced this is a wise decision, not a cowardly one.

Oh- I kind of lied. We sort of rode a jeepney once from Crocodile Park at closing time out to the main highway exit= it’s not very far, and it was a free ride (everybody else was employed at Crocodile Park)= but it was very difficult with the Cherub, very cramped, and even though we were seated by the door when it was time to get out everybody else pretty much just jumped otu in front of us. It’s funny, because we were going to wait for them to get out first anyway, since she’s so slow and difficult about getting in and out of public conveyances, but we didn’t have a chance to show our consideration.=)

The thing is, we were getting off at a time and place where public conveyance to the next stop was going to be hard to find, and they all knew that. Half an hour later, more than half of the people who had been on the jeepney with us were still competing for taxidrivers or alternate jeepneys, but they were all full. We only got a ride because one of my guys had chatted up a Trike driver earlier, he was there at the park waiting to pick up his girl. He said he couldn’t give us a ride then, but if we were still around when his girl got off, he’d give us a ride, but she worked late. We were very pleased with ourselves and our foresight when we’d been breathing traffic fumes for half an house, had been unable to sit anywhere, and had waved fruitlessly at 33 cabs, and the Trike pulled up and the driver shouted “Oy, Marfori?” (the name of our subdivision), and off we went for less than cab fare.

But really, other than those two not quite normal Jeepney experiences, that’s it for us, and that’s probably going to continue to be it.

This is pretty funny, but it’s not really wrong, either.

And if you really want to know more about the jeepneys, you can read here. It’s true, I seldom see the really fun designs anymore. It’s just public transportation- transportation that works pretty well here, and it’s not exactly like a bus service in the US, and it’s not extremely friendly for disabled passengers who have trouble getting in and out. I don’t think anybody would be grumpy with us- that has not been my experience at all. The cherub is obviously disabled, and Filipinos have been universally kind and thoughtful and considerate (and Americans pretty much universally either oblivious or uncomfortable). But I would know we are seriously inconveniencing people and making them late and holding up the driver from picking up other fares and I would feel badly about it, not to mention hauling the Cherub up and down the Jeepney steps and stepping over people’s feet on our way to our sets is just not what I want to be doing. Ever. AT All.

Other things I have noticed: Here, the barangay or districts along their routes are painted on the side of the jeepneys, and while some are easier to read than others, I’ve only had to squint once or twice. They will stop within their districts almost anywhere for anybody- we get a honk and a raised eyebrow when we are walking down the road (eyebrows and lips are major communication techniques here). But if your district isn’t one of hte names on the side of the Jeepney, you’re just going to have to ride this one as near is it goes and then get off and find another that will get you there, or at least, will get you closer.

For a very long time I had no idea what any of those names on the side of the jeepney meant, besides Marfori where we live and work, and Matina which is just past where we go to church. I know a few more now, but it’s pretty complicated. There are 182 Barangays of Davao City. I have friends who take two different jeepneys and a trike before they get to my neighborhood. I don’t think I could find my way to theirs by myself.

Jeepney drivers are always men. So are the taxi and trike and bike drivers.

The drivers of all the public conveyances wear an arm sleeve or drape a towel over their left arms to block the sun. Nobody wants to get darker here, and they think it very strange that most Americans do. But also, even if they didn’t care about getting darker, not even in America to people want to be uneven, and a jeepney driver with unprotected left side would have his left side be not only burnt black after just a few days, but also dried up and leathery because the tropical sun is really nothing to joke about. There’s a reason the Brits wore pith helpmets and in the mdi-day here people drape towels, scarves, and their own t-shirts over their heads, or carry umbrellas (my choice) for portable shade.

Jeepney drivers, and this is one of my favourite things, carry paper money for change between their fingers, folded up like fans and fanned out between each of their fingers. I’ve got to get a picture of this sometime- it’s practical and no nonsense and handy (ha ha I made a pun) and also takes some skill.

Ooh- I found one!

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One Comment

  1. Posted August 21, 2017 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    That last photo is fun. Here a lot of drivers count out and prepare ready made rolls of change and then stick them in crack or vents on their dashboard. So if you hand them a 10 or 20, they can quickly give back the right amount of change, rolled or folded.

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