Jeepneys get a lot of flak these days for the poor services they provide including many cases of reckless driving that could cause (if not already have caused) road crashes. Many of these crashes do not involve serious injuries or fatalities. Often, these are sideswipes or rear-end collisions, the latter being the result of aggressive drivers not being able to brake in time partly as they like to tail-gate (tutok) other vehicles. The social side of a jeepney ride is often the subject of many tales that illustrate typical human behaviour. There are the body language involved in passing fares between passengers and the driver or conductor. There are the scents and smell of different passengers. There’s music and there’s talk among people riding the jeepney (e.g., friends or colleagues commuting together). There are even cases of PDA or public displays of affection, including among students who go home together. I think it is still common for males to show their affection by taking their partners home (to make sure they get home safely).
One time during a ride home, I was fortunate to get a jeepney whose driver wasn’t reckless and whose conductor was a jolly fellow who engaged passengers in small talk while we were on our way to Antipolo from Katipunan. One passenger asked him how come it was more expensive to go to Antipolo Simbahan via Sumulong compared to the older route via Junction. He answered correctly that the former was a longer route (Google maps will tell you that the route via Sumulong Highway is 16.1 km while the one via Cainta Junction is 15.0 km.) but quickly added that the route via Junction usually took more time to travel along due to the congestion along Felix Avenue, Junction and Ortigas Extension. The other passengers agreed and joined the conversation, commenting on how many Antipolo-Sumulong jeepney drivers and conductors often try to choose passengers or attempt to cheat passengers on their fares (e.g., not giving back the right change or in some cases not even returning change). The good conductor offered his own observations in an accent that seemed to me as one for a native of Rizal. I wanted to join the candid discussion but decided to just listen in and be a spectator in this exchange.
This jeepney conductor was honest and engaged passengers in conversation. The driver was not reckless unlike many others of jeepneys I have rode on. (He was at least middle-aged but nearing senior status based on his looks.) I thought this was quite rare given the many “patok” jeepneys operating these days and the younger drivers and conductors who don’t care about safety or passengers’ rights like senior citizens’ and students’ discounts.
I think it wouldn’t have been like this where conductor and passengers were interacting the way they did if this were a “patok” jeepney. “Patok” or “popular” jeepneys often feature loud music (though many people will regard this as noise and no longer music) and passengers can hardly hear themselves talk. Often the loud music is an excuse for the driver or conductor not giving back the right change or any change at all to passengers despite the latter shouting at the driver/conductor. We were also lucky that our driver drove safer than your average driver. That meant a somewhat longer trip but I guess the interaction among passengers and conductor allowed for us not to notice the time. I guess these types of trips and interactions are what distinguished jeepneys from other transport. This is very much how commuting can be romanticised and is certainly something we will perhaps miss should the jeepney be phased out. Will it be phased out and is it necessary to remove jeepneys from our roads? I don’t think it will be phased out completely, and I believe that there is a need for the jeepney to be modernised but at the same time operate within a sustainable framework and hierarchy. And we need more of this conductor and his driver to be part of this system while purging out the reckless, abusive and disrespectful kind who make commuting unsafe and uncomfortable for many.