What is a Jeepney?

by Jeepney Projects on February 15th, 2011

Jeepneys are cool.  Their improvised, jerry-rigged sensibility appeals to my personal aesthetic.  This sensibility is a resourceful and inventive spirit with a refreshing sense of humor.  I have always been a sucker for collage, and being an artist from California, this gets channeled through a funky/beat/assemblage prism.  As a kid, one of my favorite cartoons was Scooby-Doo and the excellent Scooby-Doo van (Mystery Machine) must be the beatnik cousin of the Jeepney.  I am pretty sure that Scooby Snacks and Lumpia have no relation.


Stylish graphics - a must.


Chrome is good

BTW – Gas price is in PHP (Philippine Peso).  One dollar is about 43.5 Pesos – you crunch the numbers.

After traveling through the time warp from San Francisco to Hong Kong and finally to Manila, one is greeted by ubiquitous, hue saturated jeepneys.  We had smiles of delight as we encountered the crazed epic onslaught of jeepneys in downtown Manila.  What is a Jeepney, you ask?  The word jeepney is simply a blend of the words jeep and jitney.  Jeepneys started out as repurposed army jeeps (Willys and Ford) that were transformed for public transportation when they were left by the U.S. military after WWII.

They have since become an integral part of Filipino lifestyle and a symbol of Philippine culture.  Jeepneys have names: Tazmanian Devil, Spiderman, Jesus Knows, Princess, Eagle, Wolf, Golden Fighter, Cowboys, Nightcap, Socialite, Madrid, you get the drift.

Lots of shiny bling is key for a successful Jeepney.


Attitude helps, too.

Jeepneys are highly accessorized.  Must have massive bling; custom chrome hood ornaments are common.  Extra shiny horns, lights, mirrors, stickers, decals, stripes, logos, phrases.  Any jeepney worth it’s considerable weight cannot be merely overstuffed inside– It’s gotta have a party on top of the vehicle to complete the picture.  Oh, yes, one last detail: exhaust, lots of it.  Preferably dark and billowing.  This aspect is about to change as the jeepney has evolved through 2nd and 3rd generations to eventually what will be the jeepney of the future, the E-jeepney (electric).  Sweet.  Jeepneys are not the only cool rides in the Philippines, there are the insane motorized tricycles and Skylabs (low altitude).  Uh huh, Skylabs.  More on this in later blogage.


Diesel smoke, many passengers on the roof, and traveling at high speed completes the requirements for a great jeepney.


Your basic run-of-the-mill jeepney.

Did I mention the morning we had just passed through a military inspection driving down a dirt road at about 5:30 AM when our jeepney caught on fire?  Turns out that the cracked exhaust system that belched diesel fumes into the jeepney the prior day had not been welded, and apparently welders were not available late Saturday night, so greasy rags were wrapped around the cracks and caught on fire as we reached  the middle of nowhere.  Fiery scenes from the Henri-Georges Clouzot’s movie, The Wages of Fear, came to mind as we watched the orange glow of a small bon fire emanate from underneath the carriage of our jeepney.  Our guides and driver eventually chucked enough water on the problem to continue our adventure.


Post jeepney conflagration: did fare better than Yves Montand did in Wages of Fear.

Our no frills jeepney got us past army check points and illegal loggers to remote key sites for spectacular endemic birds, such as Azure-breasted Pitta, Silvery Kingfisher, Blue-capped Kingfishers, and cool critters such as Wagler’s Pit Viper, and troops of Long-tailed Macaque.  Note lack of old growth trees and small shank of felled trees in foreground.



Having fun yet!