Art? The bright and offbeat designs of the jeepneys sure are eye-catching. The galvanized metal sometimes serves as the canvas of odd and unlikely combinations of images– holy icons squeezed in between pop culture characters. It isn’t surprising to see a solemn Jesus Christ airbrushed with stick-yer-tongue-out Gene Simmons, or the Blessed Mary beside some chap bearing some semblance to Frodo or Aragon.
Culture? Uh, yeah, if you mean the long-standing problems that we Filipinos have – like the utter lack of discipline and concern for one’s safety.
The drivers, those in the metro in particular, believing themselves as invincible as Jack Bauer (I’ve been binge-watching 24), shift sharply from lane to lane and weave their way between one vehicle to another. Hold on to dear life, people! Simple traffic rules and regulations are rendered ineffective by these moving pieces of s**t soot. Hmmm…sounds sort of like Jack Bauer’s extra-judicial operations. Here’s an extra reason to worry: those whose routes pass through seedy areas are often prone to stick-ups. Lovely.
The drivers are rude, the jeepneys are crowded, smelly, dirty, polluters, and most often, the cause of traffic congestion. Don’t get me started with those in Marcos Highway, Antipolo. Wazzup with the eardrum-shattering techno and rave music and gaudy disco lights?
Obviously, I don’t like them all that much. Unfortunately, for now, I need them.
In all fairness, they’re not all that bad. Non-Filipino readers might get the wrong idea about our country because of my whining so let’s talk about the good stuff and pretend there’s just a big blank on top of this paragraph.
One, they are the cheapest mode of transportation. Your 8 pesos can get you to your destination, yes, still in one piece. If you’re into cheap thrills, let the local Jack Bauers drive you around because they really do drive like Jack Bauer racing against time (if only they look like him, too);
Two, drivers can multi-task and I have to admit, I’m impressed. They can do math and compute the fares and changes in their minds while they snake their way through the traffic and dodge the traffic enforcers – sometimes even conversing with a passenger or an “assistant” beside him;
Three, payment is on a trust basis. If you are 10 hip bones away from the driver, there is always a hand or two nearer to the front that will pass along your fare to the driver. You get your change the same way. I have not encountered a passenger pocketing someone else’s money that was passed on to him or her. Integrity couldn’t be that cheap, could it?
Four, the passengers are almost always ready to assist. If you are not familiar with the place, you can ask someone to let you know if you need to get off;
Five, as is usually the case, the drivers and passengers in the countryside are friendlier and more courteous. If you don’t know the area, you can ask the driver or any of the passengers for sightseeing tips and they are always willing and proud to share something about their hometowns.
Six, when they’re this tiny, what’s not to like?
Now this is art.
Isn’t this the best redeeming factor by far?
One of the things I like about my job is that once in a while I come across a unique vendor, business partner and cool people. I thought I’d come up empty-handed when my supervisor asked me to search for an artist who does customized miniature jeepneys, but boy, did I hit the jackpot when I stumbled upon the artist’s FB page!
His name is Chok Sotto. He uses materials that are used for real jeepneys.
It’s a little pricey at Php4800 (inclusive of shipping, rush fee, and service fee because of the teeny and intricate design on the roof) but it’s such a cool and artistic gift to foreigners. I was almost tempted to tell boss that the jeepney got lost during shipping so I could keep the jeepney for myself. I might ask the artist to design a jeep for me sometime.
If packaged this way – tiny and clean with excellent and high quality craftsmanship, then I definitely agree with that culture and art thing.
In the age where almost everything is mass produced and reproduced and low quality produced, Chok Sotto and his miniature arts stand out. It gives me great pride to have “discovered” him.
It could almost change my mind about my views on the jeepney. Almost…