Ilonggo Bucket List: The Jeepney

By spencer ravago

Ilonggo Bucket List is an ongoing series that hopes to showcase the Ilonggo experience, one place or activity at a time. For more Ilonggo Bucket List articles, check out the archives.

My previous Ilonggo Bucket List entries focused on the more obvious “institutions” associated with Iloilo. This time around though, I’m focusing on something a little more taken for granted, if you will: the good ol’ jeepney.

The jeepney is often used as a national symbol. While it is most commonly utilized as a convenient way for Filipinos to commute from one place to another, the jeepney has also become the primary medium for highlighting Filipino qualities like ingenuity, creativity and even love of family and country.

While we collectively gush over foreigners taking a jeepney ride (What up, Vin Diesel?), it’s largely just “there” for the rest of us. For us Filipinos, the jeepney is as mundane as drinking water, which is quite understandable since it is one of our most basic forms of public transportation. But like most public transportations, it provides a good barometer of a city or town’s population.

Ilonggo Bucket List: The Jeepney - Project Iloilo

Of course, it’s no different here in Iloilo. Taking a jeepney ride gives you a worm’s eye view of the city. You get a good sample size of Ilonggos of different shapes, sizes and economic backgrounds. It’s unimaginable having a call center agent interacting with a construction worker, but the jeepney is virtually the only place where you can get both kinds of people to sit elbow-to-elbow with each other. The only type of person you probably won’t encounter in a jeepney is the richest of the rich, unless he or she decides to commute for the novelty of it.

The jeepney ride offers an opportunity to see different types of Ilonggos; if you think people from Iloilo can only be super-courteous and malambing [soft-spoken], try jockeying for position inside a jeepney during rush hour, and that sweet, one-dimensional stereotype of who an Ilonggo is supposed to be gets shattered real quick. Each person has a different personality, and Ilonggos are no different: you’ve got the polite one, the complete jerk, and the person who’s somewhere in between [Editor: the term ‘maginoo pero medyo bastos’ comes to mind. Thank you, DJ Alvaro.]. That’s why you really have to be respectful with the driver even when passing the fare forward.

Aside from offering a closer look at the people of Iloilo, riding a jeepney also gives you a better view of one’s present surroundings. It can be easy for anyone to be trapped in a “bubble” when taking a cab or driving your own car, but riding a jeepney gives you a better look at things as they really are. If you’re inside a swanky mall, think of it as a view of Iloilo from the ground floor. Not that I encourage eavesdropping, but I’ve overheard many interesting conversations during the jeepney rides I took.

Ilonggo Bucket List: The Jeepney - Project Iloilo

I cheated a little bit by writing about something I’ve experienced countless times in my life, but it’s only recently I’ve made the realization that the jeepney is an important part of the Ilonggo experience. Not only is it a cheap mode of transportation, it offers a different view of Iloilo – one that is less “prettified”, if we’re to be completely honest about it. If Iloilo’s very own Passad is any indication, it’s that Ilonggos have appropriated the jeepney to become a part of the city as much as the churches and the heritage houses being touted here.

So, if you don’t usually take the jeepney, try it out from time to time. It won’t cost you much, and I believe it might offer an enlightening experience for you. It’s a good way to experience Iloilo in all its “real” details. If nothing else, you’ll be riding a jeepney that has a distinct Ilonggo look.

Photos by Xtian Lozañes and Martin Espino

Spencer Ravago is the creative director for Project Iloilo.