Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and kitsch decorations, which have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture and art. A Sarao jeepney was exhibited at the Philippine pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair as a national image for the Filipinos.
Customized themed Jeepney
Jeepneys were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II. The word jeepney is a portmanteau word – some sources consider it a combination of “jeep” and “jitney”, while other sources say “jeep” and “knee”, because the passengers sit in very close proximity to each other. hile most jeepneys are used as public utility vehicles, those used as personal vehicles have their rear doors attached with “For family use” or “Private” sign painted on them to alert commuters. Exceptions to this are jeepneys traversing expressways, where rear doors are mandatory, and at times, mechanically rigged to be controlled from the driver side. Jeepneys are used less often for commercial or institutional use.
A 1943 Willys Jeep, the basis for the design of Jeepneys
When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of World War II, hundreds of surplus Jeeps were sold or given to the Filipinos. The Jeeps were stripped down and altered locally: metal roofs were added for shade; and the vehicles decorated in vibrant colours with chrome-plated ornaments on the sides and bonnet. The back saloon was reconfigured with two long parallel benches with passengers facing each other to accommodate more passengers. The size, length and passenger capacity has increased as it evolved through the years. These were classified as passenger-type Jeeps. The non-extended, original-seat configuration jeeps were labeled owners, short for owner-type jeeps, and are used non-commercially. The original Jeepneys were refurbished military Jeeps by Willys and Ford. Modern Jeepneys are now produced with surplus engines and parts coming from Japan.
The Jeepney rapidly emerged as a popular and creative way to re-establish inexpensive public transportation, which had been virtually destroyed during World War II. Recognizing the widespread use of these vehicles, the Philippine government began to regulate their use. Drivers now must have specialized licenses, regular routes, and reasonably fixed fares. However, there are a number of illegal (unfranchised) operators. These are officially referred to as “colorum” operations, from the colour of the vehicle plate, which denotes a private rather than public registration.
A jeepney in Manila.
The brand name that has actually come to mean jeepney is Sarao, the company that first started making them in 1953 and became famous worldwide for doing so. Before the growth of backyard builders, Sarao Motors and Francisco Motors—both in Las Piñas—were the largest manufacturers of jeepneys. At its peak, the ratio of Sarao jeepneys rolling the streets of Manila outnumbered other names by nearly 7 to 1.
Today, Sarao Motors is still in business but has downsized its operations, while Francisco Motors has since ceased producing jeepneys. Sarao Motors, Inc. was established by Leonardo S. Sarao of Imus, Cavite who borrowed P700 to start his own jeepney assembly shop. Because of his contributions to jeepney manufacturing assembly and designs—and for popularizing the jeepney as an established economic industry in the country—Leonardo Sarao received the Ten Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) award for entrepreneurship in 1991.
Other current independently owned small jeepney workshops and factories include Tandenrich Motors (Nagcarlan, Laguna), Armak Motors (San Pablo, Laguna), Celestial Motors (San Pablo, Laguna), Hebron Motors, LGS Motors, Malagueña (Imus City), Mega (Lipa City), and Morales Motors (San Mateo, Rizal). Another manufacturer, PBJ Motors, manufactured jeepneys in Pampanga using techniques derived from Sarao Motors. Armak now sells remanufactured trucks and vehicles as an adjunct, alongside its jeepneys. The largest manufacturer of vintage-style army jeepneys is MD Juan.
There are two classes of jeepney builders in the Philippines. The backyard builders produce 1–5 vehicles a month, source their die-stamped pieces from one of the larger manufacturers, and work with used engines and chassis from salvage yards (usually the Isuzu 4BA1, 4BC2, 4BE1 series diesel engines or the Mitsubishi Fuso 4D30 diesel engines). The second type is the large volume manufacturer. They have two subgroups: the PUJ, or “public utility jeep”, and the large volume metal-stamping companies that supply parts as well as complete vehicles.
Add to these are: Legaspi’s M, Tabing’s M, Allison M, JD Motors, BIGA Motors.
Regional manufacturers and variation in design
A pásad jeepney of Iloilo City.
In the central island of Cebu, the bulk of jeepneys are built from second-hand Japanese trucks, originally intended for cargo. These are euphemistically known as “surplus” trucks. Popular jeepney manufacturers in Cebu are Chariot and RDAK, known for its “flat-nosed” jeepneys made from surplus Suzuki minivans and Isuzu Elf trucks, which are no longer in use in Japan. These are equipped with high-powered sound systems, racing themes, and are allegedly bigger and taller than those in Manila.
In Iloilo City, jeepneys called pásad are known for being replicas of sedans or pickup trucks. The vehicles’ body has a much lower profile which resembles more of a sedanchassis with an elongated body.
Jeepney under the Loon Bohol Tree
Nelson-type jeepneys are manufactured in Davao City and are known there as “uso-uso”. The designs of these jeepneys are very different from the traditional style. These jeepneys feature modern front grille and body designs, lowered ride height, and industrial quality paint jobs. Newer models of Nelson-type jeepneys feature chrome wheels, equipped with radial tubeless tires.
Many local manufacturers are moving to build modern-looking jeepneys such as Hummer lookalikes and oversized Toyota van-style passenger jeepneys with Toyota headlights, hoods and bumpers. Manufacturers in Nueva Ecija also started making jeepneys with fronts resembling AUVs like the Honda CR-V or the Toyota Tamaraw.
In the Cordillera Administrative Region, especially in Baguio City and Benguet province, they have jeeps fitted with truck wheels. Same goes in other parts in Philippines where the road is not cemented or asphalted.
The past of jeepneys
Recently, the jeepney industry has faced threats to its survival in its current form. Most of the larger builders have gone bankrupt or have switched to manufacturing other products because of the economic situation, with the smaller builders forced to go out of business. Jeepneys are now facing stiff competition against other transportation modes such as taxis, buses, rapid transits and other. Passenger jeepneys are also facing increasing restrictions and regulations for pollution control, as they increase traffic volume and consume lots of fuel. A recent study published in a Metro Manila newspaper compared the fuel use of a 16-passenger jeepney to a 54-passenger air-conditioned bus and found that the fuel consumption for both was the same. With major roads clogged by empty jeepneys seeking fares, there is pressure to remove them from the streets of Manila and other cities.
The arrival of Bus rapid transit (BRT) systems in large conurbations such as Manila and Cebu means that plans are in hand for the removal from the streets of several thousand jeepneys.
Recent evolution of jeepneys
Although several types of jeepneys have been produced, they have only begun evolving recently, in response to environmental and economic concerns.
A jeepney ready for decoration
Fully assembled with refurbished engines, some also have air-conditioning units, most popularly in Makati City. Most of these jeepneys have radically expanded passenger capacities, and are flamboyant and noisy. Many jeeps from this generation are notorious for belching smoke and almost all run on diesel fuel.
The interior of a 2nd-generation jeepney
These are jeepneys manufactured using new engine components. Many of these come with improved air-conditioning and closely resemble a minibus.
Jeepney Carbon Market
The jeepney industry has evolved more quickly in the past 2 years than it has in the past 50 years. Newer jeepneys have the size almost of a small bus and are equipped with state-of-the-art vehicle technology (brand-new engine and drivetrain) and air-conditioning.
Local automobile parts manufacturers are now planning the production of electric jeepneys. Electric jeepneys are being test-run in Makati. In response to calls for reducedgreenhouse gas emissions and the rise in oil prices, a limited number of these have been deployed. A final plan to implement electric jeepneys is yet to be announced. Future jeepneys to be locally built will belong in this category.
The E-jeepney, short for electrical jeepney, was the brainchild of Green Renewable Independent Power Producers, Inc. or GRIPP in partnership with Robert Puckett, President of Solar Electric Company in the Philippines. These E-jeepneys or minibuses, under the support of Greenpeace started plying Manila / Makati City streets on July 1, 2008. Four E-jeeps were launched by Makati City mayor Jejomar Binay on 2007, with 2 prototypes from Guangzhou, China at P 371,280 each. There are also 10 units of E-jeepney plying various routes in Iloilo City operated by the city government servicing students and city’s senior citizens during weekdays for free. “The first public transport system of its kind inSouth-East Asia”, the vehicles can be charged by plugging into an electric socket, using power from biodegradable waste.E-jeepneys would also soon begin commercial operations in Puerto Princesa, Bacolodand Baguio. The two new E-jeeps were made by the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (MVPMAP), while the first four units were made in China. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board classified and registered them as low-speed vehicles (LSVs) or four-wheeled motor vehicles that use alternative fuel such as electricity and running at a maximum speed of 40 km per hour. The E-jeepney carries 17 passengers and can run 120 km on an 8-hour charge from an electric outlet.
On top of jeepney Luzon
The E-jeepneys are locally fabricated and assembled in the Philippines by PhUV Inc., the business arm of the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines (MVPMAP). It is equipped with either a 5 kW, 72-volt electric motor or a 7 kW, 84-volt one, either with or without transmission, with front end (hood and fender) or none, side or rear entry and front-facing or center-facing rear seats. It is the first electric vehicle granted an orange license plate by the Land Transportation Office (LTO) to operate on Philippine roads.
Since its launch in July 2008, E-jeepneys are used by schools, resorts, theme parks, industrial zones, local government units and other entities such as the Makati LGU, De La Salle Dasmariñas in Cavite, De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde, Plantation Bay in Cebu, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Embarcadero in Bicol, Hacienda San Benito in Lipa City, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Quezon City, the House of Representatives (Congress), the Ilocos Sur provincial government, and soon, the Pasig City LGU.
The biggest mass application of the E-jeepney in the whole of Asia is the Makati Green Route (MGR), where ten E-jeepneys now ply the Legazpi and Salcedo routes for free under the Climate Friendly Cities (CFC) program of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC). A third route, the Rockwell loop, will soon be implemented. Under the CFC program, the E-jeepneys are one of three major components of the program. The other two are a renewable energy plant (a biodigester using biodegradable household wastes) and a terminal/charging station for E-jeepneys. Both of these, the Makati and Puerto Princesa LGUs have invested in to complete the “green” loop.
Jeepney with children
Practices, etiquette, and parlance
Jeepneys can be found at designated jeepney stands with dispatcher/barker present usually calling out the destination to usher in passengers. The routes are painted on the sides and below the windshield of the vehicles.They are often manned by two people, the driver and the conductor (also informally called the “backride”).If available, the conductor manages passengers and takes care of fare collection. In most vehicles, however, only the driver is present, and passengers have to ask the adjacent passengers to pass on the fare to the driver. The driver in this case, relies on the honesty of the passengers in paying their fare.
Jeepneys can be flagged down much like taxis by holding out or waving an arm at the approaching vehicle. Because of the proximity of the passengers in jeepneys, a certain etiquette is followed.Jostling and shoving passengers is considered rude; talking loudly and boisterous behavior is discouraged.Children are sometimes allowed to ride for free if they agree to sit on the lap of the accompanying adult and not take up seating space. The elderly and women are offered seats first if the jeepney is full as male passengers could sometimes cling outside or sit on the roof instead (referred to colloquially as sabit in Tagalog and kabitor kapyot in Cebuano; both meaning “to hang on with your fingertips”). This practice is dangerous and illegal.
Jeepney in Quezon City
To ask the driver to stop the vehicle, passengers can rap their knuckles on the ceiling of the jeepney, rap a coin on a metal handrail, or simply tell the driver to stop. The usual parlance for asking a driver to stop ispara, from Spanish word for ‘stop’, a word rarely used outside of this context. Another alternative is to say Sa tabi lang po, meaning “(Please pull over) to the side (of the curb)”. It is also preferred that the passengers call out the words rather than knock, as evidenced in the common admonition painted on some jeepneys: Ang katok, sa pinto; ang sutsot, sa aso; ang “para”, sa tao (Knocking is for doors; whistling is for dogs; para for humans).Modern jeepney owners often install buzzers operated by buttons or by pulling down a cable or string that run the length of jeepney’s ceiling to alert the driver to stop, making it easier for the passengers.
Pros and cons of jeepneys
A jeepney driver holds a lit cigarette despite the Philippines’ ban on smoking in public utility vehicles
The jeepney is the cheapest way to commute in the Philippines. Because of its open rear door design, picking up and dropping off is easy for both passengers and drivers, they can stop anywhere unlike buses. But also because of this convenience, some jeepney drivers are the source of traffic congestion by indiscriminately loading and unloading passengers in the middle of the street, blocking traffic and risking the safety of some passengers. They are notorious for engaging in unfair practices such as jostling over passengers, blocking other jeepneys to get passengers in the middle of the lane and trip-cutting (not completing the route, dropping off passengers if there are less than three to return to the jeepney stand and wait for a new set of passengers as it is not profitable for them to continue the route). Hence, some people are requesting that this mode of transportation be phased out, which is also blamed as a major source of air pollution in cities.
Outside of metropolitan areas (Metro Manila and Metro Cebu), jeepneys are quite ancient and patched. Today’s passengers are discerning, and given the choice would prefer to ride longer distances in the comfort that jeepneys do not provide. Jeepneys for the most part are unfit for human transportation; they are often mechanically unsound, and not at all roadworthy, with their balding tyres, crabbing and yawing from distorted subframes, emissions which couldn’t pass tests. Their longitudinal seating and lack of any seat-belts is less than safe. The low height of the saloon, and the extended roof above the driver, make visibility very poor. The high step at the back and the restricted height make entry and exit difficult. In addition, they have little space for shopping bags. to high congestion of passages on narrow seats the prevalence of theft is very high. Pickpockets find easy to get into your pockets, bags, or even slash them with use of a sharp object. Sometimes they disguise their hand with black backpack put “accidentally” on you and your belongings. Some of them work in a small gang, operating at one time.
When American TV show The Amazing Race 5 came to the Philippines in 2004, a segment of jeepney manufacturing was one of the task involved in Leg 11 of the reality show. The episode, which was broadcast the same year, was shot at the Malagueña Motors factory in Cavite.
A BBC television program in 2011 called Toughest Place to Be a Bus Driver, a London bus driver goes to Manila and had to experience driving a jeepney around the busy streets of city.
A jeepney was also featured in the car chase scene in the 2012 film The Bourne Legacy.
The movie Limang Dipang Tao of Eseng Cruz for Film Development Council of the Philippines featured the classic jeepney design of Sarao Motors.
Andrew Younghusband, who currently hosts the reality show: Don’t Drive Here, on The Discovery Channel drove a jeepney as his ultimate driving test during his visit to Manila.
Jeepneys were extensively featured in scenes outside Subic Bay Naval Base in the 1991 Vietnam War film Flight of the Intruder.
A jeepney was also featured in the 1979 American horror film Salem’s Lot.