Manila’s Kings of the Road (or How I Survived A Jeepney Ride)

By BobbyRica | December 6, 2010

jeepney

It’s Day Four in Manila and I found myself waiting in the main thoroughfare on a gloomy afternoon. It’s been raining these past few days due to a typhoon. To most people, it’s a depressing time to be gallivanting about. Maybe because the rains cause horrible traffic congestion. But to someone who’s a bit of a Romantic (or one who just enjoys mud and wetness), my spirits are high and I was jacked to do more exploring.

With no ride to fetch us today, I and my friend Akasha decided to go around the metropolis using one of its more infamous (and equally notorious) mode of public transportation: the jeepney. They say that the jeepney is the best way to tour the city. In the Philippine capital, there are many ways to move around. There are the usual buses (airconditioned or not), taxis, and FX vans. But the souped up jeepney has that folksy charm that appealed to me. I was ready to park my butt in the long hard leatherette seat.

I was amazed with the graffiti-laden jeepneys clad in a crazy assortment of car decals. Jeepneys are colorful and spacious. You can choose from the many jeepneys that pass or wait for passengers. According to one passerby, he told us that we can determine where it’s going by the signs the driver stuck on its windshield.

pinoy_jeepney

I had no idea how to get to our destination, save for a few scrawled instructions in a piece of paper the hotel concierge jotted down hastily last night. Akasha and I decided then to take a jeepney to go to one of the most popular places in Manila, the Luneta Park. I took one particular jeepney that said something about ‘sexy’ on the ramp but that’s not the most amazing thing about it.

As it plied the narrow street, I noticed how our jeepney driver hogged both sides of the road. We also noticed how it accelerated to a speed that would put my Hybrid to shame. There is one other jeep with its speakers screaming as it doppler-ed by. It avoided our jeep as it curved dangerously close, overtaking us. Another racing jeep behind us screeched to a halt as it unloaded and loaded passengers. Akasha jumped from his seat.

As we turned into a freeway, our jeepney driver seemed to have revealed his death wish. Despite our protests, the driver was racing with another speeding jeep in front of us. Our driver weaved into a mess of cars as it negotiated its way in the highway. The drivers seem hellbent to play this game of upsmanship as I see other jeeps after us doing the same thing. All this time, I felt I was in the Grand Prix! Akasha couldn’t contain his horror and motioned me to stop the jeepney. I can only reply with an evil grin.

As we reached the turn, the driver decelerated as it eased into a bunch of girls waiting in the sidewalk. The jeepney can probably take you to your destination in a jiffy but in most cases, it would take its time getting passengers. In our case, the driver would stop and call more passengers in every street we pass by.

Speeding jeepney

Jeepneys can cut the lane without hitting other cars. If you are not used to motion on the road you just might feel sick. The jeepney driver kept swerving and hitting the brake.

Jeepney drivers are considered the kings of the road in Manila. I have no doubts about it since they can pretty much do whatever they want without hitting other people or cars. They have exceptional driving skills that can probably make racers a run for their money.

As we finally go down our ride, I felt proud. I realized Manila is nothing without these colorful jeepneys. But after my first ride, I would rather take a taxi from now on. But that’s another story altogether.

And oh yeah, the driver dropped us in the wrong place.

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