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Unique Jeepney Experience by Philip Nicosia

[Jul 31, 2007] Public transportation on land around the world comes in various types. Thereís the bus, the taxicab and the lightrail transit. But nothing beats the jeepney, considered the most convenient public transportation in the world. And perhaps nothing is more unique than the Philippine jeepney which plies the major cities in the Philippines. This transportation is proof of the Filipinosí creativity and ability to improvise technology into more useful forms.

The first PUJs (public utility jeepneys) were actually made from US military jeeps. Their origin dates back to the post-war era after the Americans left the country leaving behind some of their jeeps. Some of those jeeps were sold while the others were given to Filipinos. Being the innovative and creative people that they are, the Filipinos then remodeled the jeeps to accommodate several people. Metal roofs were added and the jeepneys were adorned with colorful ornaments and painted with bright colors. Since then, the jeepney has become a popular and cheaper means of public transportation and a symbol of Philippine culture.

Sarao Motors and Francisco Motors are the most famous manufacturers of these PUJs. Both companies made the jeepneys individually and buyers ordered the vehicles on contractual basis with their own design specifications. Each jeepney is uniquely built based on the artistic concept of the designer assigned to such vehicle. In fact, the time spent on designing and decorating the PUJ takes more time compared to the building process itself. The entire body, made from galvanized iron sheets and stainless steel, is built by hand using the welding process. Later on, Ford Fieras were also used to make the PUJs.

What makes these Philippine jeepneys attractive are the decorations that adorn its exterior and interior. The various ornaments used include moving horse figurines, flags, colorful and blinking lights, mirrors, paintings and stickers with various sayings ranging from the funny to the serious ones. Stereos that play loud music are another attraction in the PUJs which many young passengers go for. Other improvisations have also been made such as buttons on the interiorís walls which passengers have to push to make the driver stop the jeepney. Sometimes, the pushing of the button will coincide with the blinking of a light or a sound that will alert the driver. If not a push button, a string to be pulled is another way of making the PUJ stop once reaching your destination.

The jeepneys nowadays have one fixed route passing from the suburbs to the central business district. These routes are painted along the sides of the jeepney. These PUJs are normally full in the early morning when professionals and students are off to their offices and schools as well as in the late afternoons when most people are home-bound. A single jeepney accommodates 16 passengers and fares are based on the distance from where a passenger gets in and where he or she gets off. Payment of the fares is done on an honesty basis as the driver canít keep track of all the passengers that he has. Although sometimes, he may bring along a companion to take charge of collecting the fares.

Since its invention, countless jeepneys have been made and the government has regulated the number of these PUJs for the various routes available. Drivers are required to have specialized licenses, must stick to their routes and charge fixed fares. Areas have also been designated for loading and unloading of passengers to ensure a smooth flow of traffic unlike before when jeepney drivers will just pick up a passenger anywhere along their way.

About Philip Nicosia
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