What’s the Future for Filipino Jeep Drivers-Conductors
I have always been a commuter. I have days when I would almost curse the traffic nightmare in Guadalupe, Makati and the boorish, undisciplined jeep and bus drivers in EDSA. But I still couldn’t help but admire these people. There were moments when I will find myself wondering about their living condition and family background: “Were they able to finish high school? Where did they learn Math? How many children are they feeding? How much are they earning after a day of driving (to the same route over and over again) with a bunch of hot-headed, competitive drivers? How much savings do they have? Then I would be consumed by furiously blaming the government — specifically the Binays, who claimed to have beautifully painted Makati while leaving Guadalupe and its reeking garbage of prolonged curse and rottenness behind.
If given the opportunity and resources, these Filipino jeep drivers and conductors will very much excel in life. I can never do fast Math while driving. And it fascinates me how dexterous they are in collecting passengers’ payment, breaking down bigger bills, keeping their eyes on the road and being able to tell who’s paid and unpaid. A full jeepney has more than 20 people who are simultaneously paying their fare; some are annoyingly selfish because they all wanted to go first, get their change so fast that you’d feel obliged to manage a comfortably seated throng of professionals and students and ask them to just settle down.
Most jeep conductors stay in the terminal. These are young men who could have conquered the corporate world or teenagers who could have spent their nights out with friends and groupmates accomplishing school projects or reports. I could still sense their joy in their own space of ‘hard work notwithstanding the dark, putrid and polluted place they spent their nights at. I often wonder if these young men have time to play sports or go to malls. Maybe they are satisfied to watch a movie some meters away from the dilapidated stall of pirated DVDs. Movie directors or writers may have emerged from that group.
I have also counted a few jeepney drivers whose taste in music are far richer and more extensive than the usual music buff. Who knows, some of them could have been a great musician or an underground indie artist.
If I am in an awfully bad mood, I sometimes see them as rude and dirty brutes but they are not, at least not all of them carry the same scoundrel feather. I can still remember the times when a kind jeepney driver would give me a ride even though my money was not enough to pay him. One time, a downpour caught me unprepared with no umbrella and with not enough money for a taxi ride, this grumpy driver put a jeepney-roof over my head. To me, it was such a dear blessing.
Poverty in the Philippines has since ached the hearts of many. A quarter of the government perhaps is doing the best they can to defeat corruption. As of late this pork barrel scam with billions of money involved has unraveled stories over the Internet about the suspects’ lavish, superfluous lifestyle. The driver-conductor segment is not even the most impoverished among the social classes in the Philippines, but I know for a fact that most of them are the same people we labeled as informal settlers. It’s funny because just a few months ago, a local celebrity opined that these informal settlers are being treated like babies.
These “impoverished babies,” who have not a single centavo to spend to hire lawyers and fight for the injustices/crimes committed against them, who have never experienced celebrating their birthdays in a hotel or having their photo taken set on a photowall, compared to our long list of corrupt politicians who have probably spent our hard-earned taxes on “a-time-of-their-life” guilt-less binge, who can most of the time fly away from thievery or just plain enjoy the convenience of house arrest, well, babies do need someone to cling on to so they can learn how to walk, talk, and live. Their future, for now, lies in the hands of their parents..But who can stand up for them and give them an unconditional parental love and guidance?
I took this photo while I’m aboard the Ay-Mak Jeepney going to Bonifacio High St., Taguig City. It has a CCTV camera. All passengers were admiring its modern interiors and its hi-tech sound system. The driver was happy as if he’s being recognized for his innovative designs.