Jeepney Calls: Communication in Transportation

One of the jeeps that I frequently ride…

There are ways to distinguish that you are in the Philippines, most prominent and somewhat iconic of them, are the colorful jeepneys that pass by in every major road in the country.The jeepney, derived from the jeeps that were used during WWII, serves as a common transportation in the Philippines. We all might be familiar of the general appearance if you live in the Philippines or someone has brought home a miniature souvenir of the famed vehicle, but not a lot of people know what it’s like to ride one if they never did. To give a little context, here’s how I would enumerate the experience.

  1. Ride the jeepney or get its attention by waving at the side of the road when it has vacancy, then ride.
  2. Say “bayad po” (“my payment/here’s my payment”),  and your destination. Pass your payment to the driver in the front. If you’re too far, hand over to the passenger who can reach him. Wait for the change to come back in reverse if you have them.
  3. Wait to arrive at destination and watch for landmarks.
  4. Say “para po” (i don’t know the direct translation for this, closest would be “please stop here”) when you reach your destination.

Now, why do I need to explain this part? Well, it all started a few months ago and I only had the time to write it now.

I am a frequent jeepney passenger since the only public way to get around in the university campus is riding the jeep or walking. For months now, the jeepneys have been implementing a new “para system”, or the number four part of the list I made above. Basically they implement the system same as in buses wherein there is a cord you have to pull to stop.

It isn’t completely new, and I understand this completely when I am in a setting where 1) the traffic on the road/the jeepney’s sound system is too loud, or 2) if the vehicle is long and it’s inconvenient to shout “para po” to the driver. But we’re talking about a quiet area with possible 6 to 8 seater jeepneys.

This form of communication doesn’t need the use of voices, but it also limits the amount of conversation between the driver and the passenger, which I sometimes find fascinating to listen to. They come in different variants depending on the people. “Para po kuya” (Please stop here, brother), “Dito lang po” (Just here, sir), or “Brad, sandali, nahihirapan si lola bumaba” (Bro, please wait, this grandma is having a hard time going down) wherein there’s so much variety and in a way it’s sad that we get to eliminate this with the line-pulling system.

I guess the upside of this system is that it eliminates the signals of “para po” that I personally find offensive for the driver’s sake like whistling, “psst”-ing, or knocking on the roof of the vehicle, then knocking harder when the jeepney doesn’t stop. But I wonder if this pulling is also in a way offensive? or it’s not because it’s the drivers themselves that’s implementing it?

Getting used to using this new system, I don’t really have a problem with it. I just find myself questioning the method if it is actually more efficient to the drivers during their day. Or they find it better to have as little communication as possible with the passengers. Either way, it’s going to take a while for me, and maybe I can even ask the drivers for some feedback about it.



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