Jeepney has always been a king in the country because it’s still the main mode of weaving through the city’s traffic-heavy streets. Besides that, jeepneys are also a cultural icon. But with health issues such as air pollution threatening to dethrone the “king of the road,” a group took the steering wheel to set Philippine jeepneys to a new direction.
Jeepney Arts Festival, a three-day festival with the famous jeepney as the centerpiece of the event, aims to revive the lost art of jeepney, not just as a cultural icon, but also as a vessel to boost the Philippine tourism. Teh festival opens Semptember 20 through September 22 at the SMX Convention center.
The highlight of the said festival will be a jeepney-painting session, where viewers will witness the art of breathing vivid colors to the king of the road with images showcasing the best of the Philippine islands. Aside from the jeepney paintings, people will also see different kinds of jeepneys dating as far back as the post-World War II to its current airconditioned incarnation used by Jeepney Tours, a tourism enterprise behind the Jeepney Arts Festival.
According to Clang Garcia, Managing Director of Jeepney Arts Festival, the Philippine jeepney industry has been suffering from the negative imagery attached to it and a number of workshops have been closing over the past years, including the iconic Sarao motors, which is known for its colorful jeepneys and the famous horse on top of their hoods.
“The jeepney is an icon. But the jeepney art is already dying, and I’ve been thinking of the best way to promote it. We’re in the tourism group so we have to move the people around and I thought of jeepney as our official transportation,” Garcia said. She also said that a ride with the jeepney across key tourist destinations will promote a positive vibe to the jeepney.
Furthermore, she said that the jeep, being an image of the Filipino spirit, also reflects how we deal with situations and ordeals.
“If you go back to the history of Philippine jeepney, it came during WWII. Due to Filipino inguenuity and artistry, we managed to develop it and survive even the war so we were able to come up with something from scratch,” she said. She also mentioned that it is a product of the country’s “ingenuity, artistry, resiliency, and entrepreneurship.”
Also, Garcia said that they have been talking with Sarao motors in reviving the firm’s operation, but still has a long way before succeeding because of issues like “if an operator orders one, it’s for life.”
Tourism assistant secretary Domingo Ramon C. Enerio III raised the important role of jeepneys in Philippine tourism, stressing that it offers a unique experience to tourists which cannot be found in any other country.
“For one thing, we have a new event that we can be proud of. It’s another event that can attract tourists in the country and we’re looking forward to see this event grow over the years to show the talent and creativity of our local artists. It will also upgrade the standards of our jeepneys so that they become safe, secure, and a very efficient mode of transport for both local and foreign tourists,” Enerio said.
Meanwhile, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority general manager Corazon T. Jimenez said that while it is necessary to revive the jeepney as both a tourist and industrial venture, it is equally important to have disciplined and law-abiding drivers to create a positive outlook not just to the jeepneys themselves but also to Metro Manila as well.
“First of all, we need some upliftment here in Metro Manila and our vision here is to make Metro Manila a livable and world-class. With DOT around here, we’ll probably meet that. The only other thing we’d like to promote here is the ethics and etiquette of the jeepney drivers; the hygiene, the attire. And of course, we would like to deal with this air pollution issue. Another important thing is to deal with drivers who are not really following the traffic rules and regulations,” Jimenez said.
While the jeepney has been on the road for long, with many versions and incarnations such as the eco-friendly e-jeeps, the king of the road will need more than just external makeover if it wants to retain its crown and keep up with the times.