INTRODUCTION from wayblima.com
Of course, not all of Cebu's jeeps are state-of-the-art. Some of the jeepneys have been running the streets for decades. Even some of the newer jeeps are cheap and hastily put together and almost as ugly as Manila's jeeps. But the rules of the market economy have dictated that only the fittest will thrive, and evermore advanced designs continue to join the ranks of the elite jeeps. The latest trend is clear, Lexus-style taillights.
All jeeps, officially classified as Public Utility Jeeps - PUJ's - are privately owned and operated, and government involvement is minimal. This has worked well. Jeep owners comply with the law of supply and demand, and jeeps run the streets at all hours of the day. The distinct designs ensure that customers are familiar with the jeeps plying their commuter route, and learn to avoid jeeps with rude drivers or conductors.
The LTFRB - Land Transportation Franchises Regulatory Board - grants licenses, or franchises to jeep operators. Cebu City's traffic control arm, CITOM, regulates traffic and routes in conjuction with the LTFRB. Standardized fares are set by the LTFRB. In May of 2004, the LTFRB permitted an increase in fares due to inflation, and some commuters have been griping about that. Fares increased by about one peso.
Both the LTFRB, CITOM, and TEDMAN (Mandaue City's traffic regulation arm) struggle primarily to keep traffic caused by jeeps to wihin manageable limits. Jeeps are restricted from entering certain streets, and the LTFRB does its best to limit the number of jeeps on the road. For example, in 2003, the LTFRB decreed that the ownership of a franchises cannot be transferred, though this has since been reversed.
Jeeps don't just look good. The jeepney system is the world's best and most convenient public transportation system.In no other country do you have competition - intense competition - between buses plying the same route. In all other countries, any particular route is operated by just one bus company. In the Philippines, each individual bus is owned by a different owner, and as a result you have buses competing with each other for customers. (Some operators own as many as a dozen jeeps, but these still amount to only a small fraction of the total number of jeeps plying that route.)
The bus companies in Europe, American, and Japan are monopolies for the routes that they operate. The bus company alone decides how frequently a bus is sent along a route to pick up passengers. While a city may have several bus companies, all ply different routes, and in effect amount to monopolies for the routes that they operate. Needless to say, the same is true for trains and subways.
Like all monopolies, the bus companies of the developed world provide only the bare minimum of resources, and service is only as good as it has to be. As a result, buses are infrequent, and passengers have to scurry to the bus station to catch a bus. So used to being controlled by monopolies are the consumers of the industrialized world that they think nothing of carrying around bus schedules and fretting about missing their only hope of transportation. Moreover, drivers and conductors (if available) will often be downright rude to their customers.
In the Philippines, jeeps compete with each along the same route. Competition for customers is intense, and thousands of jeeps eke out a living gathering as many customers as possible by running as often as possible. The result? The customer benefits, and passengers are bombarded with offers to ride along. Neither do Filipino passengers have to trek to a bus station - so eager are jeeps to gain your patronage, that they will stop anywhere for you as long as you are within sight. This is to the detriment of people in private cars, but to the benefit of the jeepney-riding public.
Regrettably, politicians never ride jeeps, and that is why people like Mayor Tomas Osmea of Cebu City try to crack down on jeepneys which stop anywhere, even though the number of commuters who ride jeeps outnumbers by far the number of commuters who drive their own car.
TYPES OF JEEPS
The thing is, these vehicles, as well as the larger trucks, originate from Japan, and, as such, are right-hand drive vehicles. A Republic Act of the Philippines prohibits the operation of RHD vehicles and hence - and I didn't think it possible before I arrived in Cebu - RHD vehciles are routinely converted from right-hand drive to left-hand drive. All of the nice-looking jeeps will have been converted from RHD to LHD.
Apart from multicabs, the vehicles most commonly imported from Japan and converted to LHD are Isuzu diesel trucks. Almost all of the cool jeeps - the new and beautiful models featured in Lookin' Good - are Isuzu Elf trucks. In Japan these are referred to as 2-ton trucks, and are ubiquitous because they can be driven with an ordinary driving license. Ever since Japanese authorities started cracking down on emissions - the Tokyo metropolitan government even barred entry to all diesel trucks - these Elfs started flooding into Cebu. The Cebuanos turned them into rolling works of art, barely recognizable from the drab delivery trucks with plain blue or white cabs and aluminum bodies. All the new and cool jeeps are based on Isuzu Elfs, although some are Mitsubishi Canters.
There are also some jeeps based on Toyota vans, commonly the Hi-Ace. These seat about 12 passengers in the rear, as opposed to the Elfs, which can seat as many as 24.
RIDING A JEEP
Now, technically, you are not supposed to get on just anywhere. There are PUJ stops at predetermined locations. Jeeps which allow passengers to board in a "No Stopping" zone get busted by the traffic wardens - which are plentiful in Cebu City. In fact, talking to jeep drivers, there number one complaint is not the traffic wardens, nor the traffic, but the passengers, who have a propensity to board and disembark just about anywhere.
But don't worry about that; the customer is king, and if the jeep driver gets busted by CITOM - the traffic regulatory agency of Cebu City - for letting you board in a "No Stopping" zone, it's not your problem. Jeeps are eager to gather as many passengers as possible, and unless traffic conditions are really bad and a traffic warden is in plain view, the jeep will screech to a halt no matter where you are, even in a "No Stopping" zone. Having said that, if it's your first time to ride a jeep, you'd better stick to the PUJ stops until you get a feel of how things work.
The easiest place to board a jeep is at a terminal. The terminals act as nodes connecting different routes. There are several terminals in Cebu: at Ayala; at SM; next to the LTO on Bacalso; opposite White Gold restaurant. The thing about terminals is that the jeeps usually wait until they are full before departing.
You can pay anytime you like: when you get on, halfway through your journey, or when you get off. I don't know how they do it, but drivers and conductors manage to keep track of all passengers. If a jeep has a conductor, you can pay either the conductor or the driver. In developed countries there are usually rules about disturbing the driver while a bus is in transit; those rules do not apply here. You can talk to the driver or hand him money whenever you wish.
If you pay in advance or before the jeep reaches your destination, the conductor or driver may ask you where you are going, or hold up the index finger - asking whether you will be paying for just one length. Currently jeep fares are PhP 5.50 for the first five kilometers and PhP 1.00 for every succeeding kilometer. In practice, most jeeps do not collect the 50 centavos and round the amount down to the nearest peso.
You may be puzzled why, when a jeep is empty, passengers will prefer to sit at the back of jeep, rather than in the front. This is because the payment of fares relies on a uniquely Filipino system. Fares are handed from passenger to passenger until they reach the driver (or conductor). Your 20 peso note may pass through the hands of as many as seven passengers before reaching the driver; your change will travel a similar route making its way back to you. Consequently, the passengers seated in the front and in the middle find themselves constantly handling other people's money.
Getting off a jeep is a bit harder than getting on. Clang a coin against the metal railing, or slap your hand against the side of the jeep, while yelling lugar lang. This signals the driver that you wish to get off.
Jeeps run at all times of the day and night. The number of jeeps on the road is determined by customer demand; needless to say, you'll have fewer jeeps at 2 AM than at 6 PM. The system works exceedingly well - I'd venture a wager that Cebuanos spend far less time waiting for public transportation than residents in European cities - and seems to be proof that the less governments interfere with the transportation market, the better.
- To yell the destination and beckon to potential passengers, urging them to take the jeep.
- To help incoming passengers cross the road.
- To collect the fare and give change.
- To wildly wave arms and - sometimes - feet, indicating to following traffic that the jeep is about to swerve to the left or right.
The juvenile conductors, even those of very tender age, are treated exactly like all the other conductors by the commuting public.
Most conductors are gaunt young men with hoarse voices (from all the yelling), dressed in a ragged shirt, shorts, and flip-flops. Often, the conductor will have a towel tied around his head.
Conductors and drivers have all manner of tricks up their sleeve to entice you to ride with their jeep. For instance, at a major stop, the conductor may yell "DIRETSO DIRETSO!" i.e. indicating that the jeep will hurtle directly to its destination, without stopping to pick up any more passengers. This is usually an outright lie. Even if passengers are already squeezed tighter together than sardines in a can, the jeep will pick up as many passengers as it finds along the road.
Another wily manoevre is aimed at beating the competition. When a gaggle of commuters approach a cluster of jeeps, the driver will rev the engine loudly and inch the jeep forward a little, while the conductor screams out the destination. The commuters will panic, thinking that the jeep is about to leave, and hurriedly scramble aboard. But the jeep will proceed to idle a few more minutes, and perhaps even repeat the charade.
A PUJ must clearly display the route (such as AYALA - COLON), the route number (such as 13B or 21B), and the LTFRB case number. Technically, the route destinations are supposed to be painted in a certain color determined by the LTFRB, but in practice the aesthetics of the design often determine the color. The route number must be painted on the sides; on the front and back a little metal sign should be attached near the roof of the jeep, but some operators just have it painted.
Drivers usually like to add the names of their kids, plus the name of the individual jeep. The name of the jeep usually goes on the front. Here are some names I've seen: Celebrity. Loverboy. Roy. Star. Jimboy. Melody. Angel. I saw one in Tabunok called "Broken Vow". Beautiful! Poetic! Bet you wouldn't see that on the front of your bus in Copenhagen.
You may also spot the name of the shop that made the jeep. The more common ones are Tabunok Surplus, RDAK, Chariot, Doris, Aztek, and Hilton.
Some jeeps sport the name of their union, such as VUDTRASCO or CITRASCO. Every now and then the PUJ's with a union will go on strike, to lobby for higher fares, to protest a rerouting, or, as was the case recently, to display displeasure with a city ordinance forcing PUJ's on certain routes to use a terminal owned by a relative of a political bigwig. (Jeeps have to pay to use a terminal.)
Lastly, a jeep may sport a slogan or phrase, often religious in nature. This slogan can be found on the sides, but is most often emblazoned on the mudguard at the rear. "May God Bless Our Trip" is very common. I've seen the US slogan "In God We Trust" a few times.
Clearly, jeeps with exciting designs carry more passengers. Jeeps do not follow any fixed schedule, and several of them will often be cruising within touching distance, competing for customers. Customers either take the jeep with the nice design, or a jeep with a sound system.
Stereos in jeeps were outlawed years ago, but, due to customer preference, numerous jeeps still have elaborate sound systems. The stereo is attached to the sound system with removable plugs, in a knapsack. When flagged down by a traffic regulation officer, the driver will quickly detach the stereo and save it from confiscation. Customers can determine whether a jeep has a sound system or not by the sound, or by peeping inside - the speakers occupy the space under the seats.