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Balik Tanaw: The History of Jeepney

Balik Tanaw: The History of Jeepney

Under the heat of sun, on busy streets of metro manila, you’ll hear an indescribable noise as drivers feather their gas pedals and impatiently jiggle their vehicles. You’ll see bright metallic vehicles with deafening roars and smoke plumes soaring into the air, competing ferociously for passengers. Its name is Jeepney, and it continues to rule supreme in Metro Manila as they have for nearly seven decades.

Unfortunately, they might soon be replaced by more advanced modes of transportation despite being a longstanding symbol of Filipino culture. The question now is, are these living pieces of history something the Filipinos could ever live without?

History of Jeepney in the Philippines

Jeepney are actually a World War II relic. The creation of the Jeepney came after the Philippines had been devastated by World War II. A significant amount of infrastructure in the Philippines, including the rural and urban transportation systems, was destroyed after World War II.

After the war between the Americans and the Japanese, there was a large surplus of Jeeps and other vehicles used for military purposes. The vehicles were acquired from the military in large quantities by enterprising individuals who later converted them into transit vans to carry numerous passengers. They saw the potential of adding a roof, lengthening the vehicle by two meters, and adding two rows of seats to make enough space for more passengers. Consequently, this led to the birth of the “Jeepney,” the first shared shuttle in the Philippines.

The term “Jeepney” is a combination of the words Jeep and Jitney. A jitney is a small bus that transports passengers about a town for a small fare. The term “jitney” is now more often also known as Dollar Vans.


Do you know why they are called “jeep-knees”?

According to an article of the Las Piñas City Government, it was called “Jeep-knees”, because Jeepney seats are frequently completely occupied. In order to maximize space and revenue, passengers are packed into jeepneys in a variety of seating arrangements (in-out). Yet, new passengers are constantly being added.

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They say that riding in a jeepney will inevitably cause you to touch your neighbor’s knees, hence the nickname “jeep-knees”!

Jeepney: A Philippine Pride

As the Jeepney’s bare metal frame can generally accept any type of art, no two are exactly same. Moreover, the concept of jeepney art is distinguished by “Borloloys” in the form of mirrors, horns, and tassels. Paintings of NBA players, super heroes, cartoons, and religious images are also painted on its sides. They may also come to represent art and what some refer to as street art. It also became a source of national pride and became the symbol of the Philippines.

Jeepneys are dubbed as the “king of the road” because, despite its bulky frame, it was flexible enough to weave in and out of them. It was swift, but it was also strong enough to carry anything on its roof, from fruits to animals. Jeepneys are also far more cheap than other forms of transportation.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate the Jeepney’s history in the Philippines and how it contributed to shaping the present and the future of our country.

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