I had the best seat in the house. I was sitting on some pieces of cardboard on top of the spare tire tied to the roof of a Jeepney, bouncing along the roads near Banaue in the Philippines.
My Thanks to Richard from Travel Tramp for the pictures of me on the Jeepney and the hike.
You have probably seen pictures of the Jeepney. The Filipinos took the old American Jeep design and turned it from something utilitarian to something with a bit more style. It was extended to allow more people to ride inside. It is decorated and often has a slogan where you would expect to find a destination on a regular bus. From Manila to the highlands of Cordillera, the jeepney is an efficient way to get from one place to another.
The first Jeepney that I road in Manila as part of a tour of the old walled part of the city, Intramuros. This Jeepney had some upgrades. The benches along the side had been replaced by seats, there was air-conditioning and a karaoke machine. It was a fun experience to be sure, but nothing like a typical Jeepney rides (I should point out that I got decent points for my rendition of “Blowing in the Wind” but was no competition to two French bloggers Antoine and Violette from Life Explorateurs who belted out “When the Lights Go Down in the City”). Regular Jeepneys do ply the streets of Manila on regular routes but you may need to ask a local to figure out which one to board, but since English is an official language of the Philippines asking a local is easy.
We had a more typical Jeepney experience when we got on board one in Banaue to visit the local Rice Terraces of Cordillera UNESCO site. When I say we hopped on, I do mean on as on top of. The locals say the best seat is sitting on the rack on top of the Jeepney with nothing for padding but a few pieces of cardboard. Don’t let them fool you, the best seat is definitely the spare tire. While the view from the open windows of the Jeepney of this amazing landscape is good, it does not compare to watching the world go by from the top.
Is it safe? Heck no. Please, no one tell my mother I did this. But these vehicles can not go very fast on these mountain roads, so I told myself I would probably survive.
Even though we were on a private tour the Jeepney got more than a few hitchhikers up the steep hills. Kids would jump on and hold on to the ladders on the back of the Jeepney in a fashion that would give the car seat lobby a heart-attack. The driver seemed to know which kid went with which family and would slow down a bit at the house at the top of the hill so they could jump off again. The local village chief joined us inside for a ride. Since she was a bit tipsy, it was probably just as well she didn’t hold onto the outside.
The Jeepney is an endangered sight. There are still many of them in the Philippines but the production of them by creator Sarao Motors has gone from building out 12-18 units a day to just 40 a year because there are more economical vehicles than the Jeepney. So if you want a Jeepney ride, you had better book your ticket to the Philippines soon.