A day in the life of a jeepney driver: Why modernization cuts deep

Text and photos by Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2019 05:07 PM

At past midnight on Friday, Raynaldo “Eman” Valenzuela is greeted by his wife after more than 12 hours on the road driving a passenger jeepney. 

He parks his motorcycle – the vehicle he drives from the jeepney parking going to his house – and immediately hands over his total earnings after a long day's work to his wife. 

Valenzuela takes the route from Malanday, Valenzuela going to Pier 15, Manila with an average of four hours to complete one of three trips he does every day. 

“Ito ‘yung buhay namin araw-araw,” Valenzuela, 46, said. 

(This is our everyday life.)

With an average earning of P1,000 each day, he sends his two children – one grade 9 and one grade 11 – to school. 

“Kahit papaano, nabubuhay,” he said. 

(Somehow we get by.)

On good days, he earns up to P1,800 while on rough days, he only gets about P700. Outside of his earnings, he pays P700 per day to his operator. 

“Nagsimula akong mamasada noong 1996. Nag-umpisa ako sa taxi. Noong 1997, PUJ na. Tuloy-tuloy na hanggang ngayon,” he said.

(I started driving in 1996 as a taxi driver. In 1997, I shifted to Public Utility Jeepney. I have been driving a jeepney until now.)

Valenzuela started driving a jeepney back when he was in his early 20s and has continuously been doing so. 

But with the PUV modernization program, his livelihood might be put to an end.

Jeepneys that are 15 years and older are to set to be phased out by 2020 after the program was launched in 2017. 

Valenzuela drives one of 180,000 jeepneys in the Philippines set to be modernized. 


Upon its full implementation, Valenzuela said that many jeepney drivers will lose their jobs. 

“Karamihan samin hindi na makakabalik sa trabaho. Sigurado ‘yung pagkawala ng hanapbuhay namin,” Valenzuela lamented.

(Many of us will not be able to get back to work. It will guarantee the loss of our livelihood.)

He cited the high cost of modern jeepney units as a hindrance for small-time operators and jeepney drivers to avail their own. 

“Eh sa jeep namin ngayon, pag meron kang P150,000 hanggang P200,000, makakabili ka ng isang buong jeep. Eh sa modernization, more than 2 million bawat isang unit,” he said, noting that only rich people can avail million-peso worth of jeepneys.

(With our current jeepneys, you can avail one if you have P150,000 to P200,000. With the modernization program, it would cost more than P2 million per unit.)

Valenzuela, now the president of transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide or PISTON, said that while their group opposes the current program, they are pro-modernization. 

He appealed to the government to make the locally made modern jeepneys affordable, and to adopt policies that are beneficial to the masses. 

At present, Valenzuela drives a 21-seater jeepney owned by a single-owner operator. 

Valenzuela plans to work as a taxi driver while his wife considers managing a small sari-sari store if the jeepney phaseout will push through. 

Asked about other options provided, he said that there were no plans presented for drivers and operators whose jeepneys will be phased out. 

“Wala silang ibang binigay na alternative. Mekaniko, welding, ‘yun lang pero wala ring makukuhang trabaho kasi kapag nagmodernize na, automatic lahat ng sira ng sasakyan, kasa (car dealers) ang gagawa,” he added.

(They did not give other alternatives. Mechanic and welding work – that is all, but we would not be able to get jobs because once jeepneys are modernized, all vehicles will automatically be brought to car dealers for repair.)

“Yung mga driver na nakakausap ko, wala pa silang plano. Umaasa sila na hindi matutuloy ‘yung modernization, ‘yung pagkakaphase out ng mga sasakyan kaya hanggang ngayon, lumalaban pa rin,” he said.

(The other drivers I have talked to said they do not have plans yet. They are still hoping that the modernization and the jeepney phaseout will not push through, that is why they are still opposing until now.)

“Mahirap mag-bagong buhay, lalo na wala kaming puhunan. Ito lang alam naming gawin,” he said. 

(It’s difficult to start a new life, especially since we do not have money for capital. This is the only work we know.)


On September 30, major transport groups held a nationwide transport strike in several parts of the county despite the cancellation of 20 franchises of jeepney operators and drivers who joined the strike organized by PISTON in 2017. 

Classes in some areas were suspended because of the transport strike.

“Sa mga tao, humihingi kami ng dispensa sa mga nagiging abala namin,” Valenzuela said, referring to jeepney commuters.

(We apologize to people for the trouble that we cause.) 

“Gusto lang namin na maipaunawa sa kanila na kung kami ay mawawalan ng hanapbuhay, lahat din naman ng mamamayan ay apektado lalo na sila kasi pag napatupad yun, tataas ‘yung pamasahe. Mawawala na ang pangmasang transportasyon, kaya sana kami ay lubos nilang maunawaan,” he added.

(We just want them to understand that if we lose our livelihood, everyone, especially them, will be affected because of the higher fares. They will lose the mass transportation that is why we are hoping that they will understand us.) 

“At sa gobyerno naman, ang lagi naming panawagan, magkaroon sila ng programa para sa taong bayan para naman walang naaapi at natatapakan para pagdating ng panahon walang nangyayaring strike o mga pagkilos sa kalsada,” he said. 

(And to the government, we call on them to have a program for the people wherein no one gets aggrieved and stepped on so that when the time comes, there will be no strikes and protests on the road.) 

Valenzuela said that he does not fear joining strikes despite the warnings, adding that they will all lose their franchise once the PUV Modernization is fully implemented in 2020.

“’Di baleng mawalan kami ng prankisa ngayon, kaysa hindi namin pinag-laban ‘yung aming panghanapbuhay,” Valenzuela said. 

(We would rather lose our franchise from joining the strike than not having fought at all for our livelihood.)

Raynaldo "Eman" Valenzuela prepares his jeepney before leaving the gas station, where he parks his vehicle, for his long route from Malanday, Valenzuela to Pier 15 in Manila. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman starts his 12-hour day, working from early morning until way into the evening, to make 3 full trips a day. The roundtrip from Valenzuela to Manila usually takes 4 hours. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman receives payment from a passenger while keeping a relaxed mood despite the arduous driving conditions. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman makes a quick stop for gas and water at a gasoline station in Malanday, Valenzuela. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman makes an average of P1,000 a day, where he gets everything for the upkeep of a family of four. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman makes a stop at a local eatery in Malanday, Valenzuela. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman calls out a pedestrian to take a ride on his jeepney. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman takes time to clean the windshield of the jeepney on a quick stop at a gasoline station. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman talks to his friends and fellow jeepney drivers during a stop at a local joint for a meal. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Part of Eman's task is balancing the working hours, the expenses the whole day, and the number of trips to make in order to take home what is left of the day's earnings. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman wipes his back with his towel before riding his motorcycle for home after parking the jeepney. Eman pays P700 a day to contract the jeepney from an operator who owns the unit. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman hands over his earnings to his wife shortly after arriving at their house in Malanday. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman's wife serves dinner at their house. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News

Eman started working in his 20s as a taxi driver but shifted to driving a jeepney a year later. Now 46, he is still not sure what route he is going to take when the planned PUV (Public Utility Vehicle) modernization program pushes thru. Lisa Marie David for ABS-CBN News