Hailed as the undisputed “King of the Road”, the jeepney is both affordable mode transportation and a cultural icon. It is omnipresent on streets of Metro Manila and numerous provinces.
Present-day jeepneys originated from the hundreds of surplus military jeeps left by the Americans after World War II. These jeeps were sold or given away to Filipinos when the troops began to leave the country to return to the U.S. The ever-ingenious Pinoys stripped down the vehicles and modified it so it can accommodate more passengers. Metal roofs were added and bright paint was added to the sides and interiors. Through the years, the jeepney became the cheapest form of transportation for the masses.
Jeepneys are considered a work of art on wheels, because of the explosion of design and colors that adorn each vehicle. No two jeepneys are alike; owners express their individuality by creating their own designs for their respective vehicles. Jeepneys are practically a canvas of religious symbols, fantasy art, cartoon characters and images of curvaceous women, among many others. The interior of the jeep is almost as colorful as the outside. Drivers “decorate” their dashboard with bric-a-bracs like miniature Sto. Ninos, stuffed toys, posters and stickers. The garish, flamboyant appearances of the vehicles are completed by sound systems and speakers that can pound the eardrums of passengers.
Because of concerns regarding pollution, oil consumption, traffic and public safety, the jeepney has undergone several transformations. The present generation of jeepneys boasts of air-conditioning, modified sitting arrangements and driver-operated doors, just like those in buses. Efforts to lessen the pollution in the city have led to the creation of electric jeepneys, which are being test-runned in Makati. These jeepneys use energy from biodegradable wastes, and charged by plugging into an electrical socket.
There are some who would like to remove the jeepney from the streets in order to solve the city’s ever-worsening traffic and pollution problems. But this is unlikely to happen, given the number of people who depend on the jeepneys for their daily means of transportation.