MANILA — Mark Medenilla, a jeepney driver for 14 years proudly showed his “patok” jeepney, which he said has helped to put food on his family’s table and has won him awards at car shows.
Patok jeepneys are popular among tourists and Filipinos because of its unique design, sound system, and the way it runs on the road.
Tourists look forward to riding one when they visit the country and want to experience roads the so-called Filipino way.
Medenilla said that whatever happens, a patok traditional jeepney would always be his choice over a modern jeepney that looks like a minibus more than a jeep.
“Para sa akin, kaysa sa modern jeep, mas dito ako. ’Yung mga modern jeep na ganyan, walang piyesa rito ’yan,” he told ABS-CBN News on Friday.
“Sa Pilipinas lang sila nakakakita ng ganyan, kumbaga ang mga Pilipino malikhain.”
Meanwhile, for almost 4 months now, operator Nestor Hamora’s jeepney units are rotting in his garage.
While waiting for the Philippine transportation office’s clearance and go-signal before his units hit the road again, Hamora and his drivers have started to put plastic barriers inside their jeepneys to make sure that, when they are scheduled for inspection, they are equipped with all the required COVID-19 safety measures.
Though trying his best to comply, Hamora complained at how the government was not clear on their modernization plan. Months before the pandemic hit, operators were still asked to modernize their units only by repairing old parts.
“Ngayon bago rin ang mga jeep ko, so imo-modernize na rin nila? Hindi talaga patas ’yan. Magkano naman ang ipapautang nila? Kasi ayaw ko umutang sa gobyerno kasi malaki ang interest niyan,” he said.
Benie Arrope, a jeepney driver, added: “Ang in-explain nila sa’min, ’yung mga bulok ayusin, baguhin para magmukhang bago ulit. Hindi naman sinabing i-phase out, itigil ang jeep. Hindi na tangkilikin ’yung sariling atin.”
In a briefing last Wednesday, jeepney group PISTON said discontinuing traditional jeepneys is tantamount to erasing a symbol of Filipino culture.
“Galit na galit sila sa jeepney. Galit na galit sila dito sa cultural icon at produkto ng ingenuity ng mga Pilipino. Hangga’t nandiyan ang jeepney, alam nila na ang jeepney ay kayang i-sustain, kayang i-extend ang life. Hangga’t hindi nagkakaroon ang Pilipinas ng sariling industriya para magbuo ng sariling makina,” PISTON Secretary-General Steve Ranjo said.
Raphael Morales, owner of a patok jeepney-manufacturing firm, said this is painful for their company and for other manufacturers because they have tried hard to keep the Philippine symbol alive and popular for years. Families have passed on the business from generation to generation.
Now that they are faced with the threat of being phased out, Morales said they want to try creating modern jeepneys from scratch just like how they do traditional jeepneys.
“Gusto rin namin i-try. Ang kulang lang naman dito ay euro-4 na makina saka mga CCTV. Pwede naman kasi na i-modify natin ’yung jeep na papasa sa standards ng gobyerno,” he said.
“Iba na itsura ng modern jeep natin, mukha ng bus so sa tingin ko mag-retain sila ng mga talagang sumusunod sa batas na jeep.”
A traditional jeep costs about P800,000 to P900,000 while a modern jeepney has a base price of P1.2 million.
But if the government is willing to give them the proper support and financial aid, they can try producing modern jeepneys with the body of a traditional jeepney just to keep the culture alive, operators and drivers said.