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Monday, 9 December 2013

From A to B

So, just to mix it up a bit, I thought I’d do a automotive-themed post today. Just to round out my blog selection and keep it interesting, you know? Birth junkies, there are no baby-stories in this one – move along. For the rest of you – may I introduce the wonderful world of Filipino public transport

As a peculiar inverse to national wealth, it would seem the thirder the world, the better the public transport (Auckland, I’m looking at you - sort yourself out). Around Taytay, the place we are living in, you don’t walk far before some kindly trike driver beep-beeps you with a friendly smile to see if you need a lift anywhere. Usually they sing out hopefully “SM?” – pale faces equal a need for airconditioning... local Super Mall anyone? The drivers are, of course, usually right, but sometimes we wave them on just because we don’t like to be stereotyped. <sigh> #small victories.

Typical trike zipping up the hill - smoke an optional extra.
Anyway, we do catch a trike often. They’re made up of a motorbike with a sidecar attached, and a (generally) rickety roof. You can pack a lot of people (and a lot of shopping) into one of those suckers. Usually, Naomi sits in the sidecar with our bags and I ride pillion with the driver, but we have on occasion had two pillion passengers and three bodies in the sidecar. Plus shopping. Although that time the driver conked out halfway up the hill and some of us had to walk, but that’s another story... 
At around 40 peso ($1.10) for the trip down the hill and into town (grrr, yes, I mean the mall) it’s a speedy and cheap way to get around.

But let me tell you about the alternative. Jeepneys are honestly the most incredible public transport system I have ever seen. Let me paint the picture - part WW2 jeep, part bus, part mobile street art, these vehicles seat about 20 passengers on two long benches in the back and a driver and sometimes an assistant up front. The driver is pretty serious and doesn’t talk much, but has wads of 10 and 20 peso notes folded neatly between each finger resembling a sort of money fan. The ‘hailer' hangs out the window yelling for business, calling out the destinations and encouraging people to jump on board. The jeepney tends to go nowhere until it is pretty much full, and the hailer keeps a count of how many bums-on-benchseast, calling on people to shuffle along to make room for one more. As a Jeepney passenger one requires upper body agility and strength, because the roof is so low you bend double to find your space on the seat. 

By day, Jeepneys are a sight to behold – every one is different. They are privately owned, so each one is decorated to the owners instructions, which appear to have common threads – bright colours, religious icons, gangser fonts. They have bull horns, chrome mesh, side bars. Surely only on a jeepney would you see Angelina Jolie, Orlando Bloom and the virgin Mary all airbrushed onto the same side panel...
By night, Jeepneys really come into their own. There are no awkward silences on a Jeepney, because now the hailer has an additional job - sound system control. Most of the jeepneys are kitted out with massive speakers and American pop music is top of the playlist. You want more? No problem – the jeepney will throw in some neon lights for good measure. One had a mirror ball hanging over the driver, as well as assorted glowing skulls grinning from the dashboard. Let me tell you, 20 teeny Filipino passengers, 2 larger kiwi bottoms and assorted packages crammed into a small space with booming rap music and strobe lighting makes for an interesting mobile nightclub.  We wondered what the extra ‘ping-ping-ping-ping’ noise was a various intervals one night – realising later that it was passengers smashing a coin onto the metal handrail to signal they wanted the driver to stop. Because calling out for a stop would be ridiculous – the music, remember? 

It’s crazy, hilarious and so very Philippines.  All this entertainment for a measly 8 peso (25cents)? Don’t mind if I do!

These peeps aren't usually seen together...

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