The 15 passengers you’ll meet on a Philippine jeepney

Mark Rodel Dela Rosa

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The 15 passengers you’ll meet on a Philippine jeepney
The Slippery Sleepyhead, the Chewbacca, the Wrecking Ball, the Para-noid, and the rest of the funny group of people you often meet while you're commuting

Every day, thousands of Metro Manila public commuters partake in a quest to catch the best possible way to reach their destinations. Every day, our big cities that snoozed quiet in the evening are enveloped in murky clouds of allergy-inducing dust particles and smoke emissions from our congested lanes of cars, buses, motorbikes, and trucks in the morning. Every day, our stress levels rise up.

But if there’s one thing that stands out from the daily kaleidoscopic sea of transport disorder, it’s none other than the iconic Philippine jeepney. Known to be the undisputed King of the Road, jeepneys mirror the lives of many Filipinos – simple, sometimes troubled, but definitely colorful.

Given the large number of commuters in Metro Manila, most of us have tried to ride a jeepney at least once in our lives and we know how it feels like to be in it: crowded, cramped, smelly, noisy.

But hey, have you ever noticed the different kinds of passengers you’ve taken a ride with? In most of my daily jeepney commutes to work, I’ve got nothing else to do but to observe and find entertainment in how the crowd moves about. As a result, I’ve come up with a list of interesting jeepney commuters to watch for. Read on.

1. The Frontrunner

They run – to the front seat, of course. They love to secure the frontmost seat beside the driver as if it’s a precious throne out for bidding. A notable species of The Frontrunner include those who jostle with fellow commuters just to win the highly coveted spot.

Sometimes I hate them, sometimes I don’t. Why? Because sometimes I’m a jeepney Frontrunner, too.

2. The Takeaway Winner

One of the most hyperactive passengers you’ll ever meet in your entire commuting career. This type of commuter is so rare but once you fall victim, sorry na lang. First they excessively care to pass on your fare to the driver. But then, they will use your payment as theirs without you knowing it.

To avoid becoming a victim, simply shout “Bayad po!” (Here’s the payment!) and maintain a posture of stretched arm until you make an eye contact with the driver so he will remember you and your payment.

3. The Slippery Sleepyhead

This includes the workaholics, evening gamers, and insomniacs who suffer from lack of sleep. They can’t resist dozing off. They give justice to the song “Lean On Me” for they use your shoulder as their instant pillow. Be watchful as some them unconsciously slide down onto your chest and onto your lap.

An extreme version of the Sleepy Slippery is the one who loses grip of the hand bar, falls off, and tries to recover by clinging into an imaginary bar.

4. The Fishballer

You know fishball, right? You get your balls of fishcakes and you dip it to the sweet sauce. This type of passenger likes to meddle into the affairs of others and to fish for the latest chismis (gossip), occasionally from their companions. They like to talk about colleagues, classmates, neighbors, and even someone else’s horrible pet. They join in conversations of other groups uninvited. 

5. The Wide Reader

A subtle version of the Fishball Sauce. They love to watch you flip the pages of your textbooks. They peek at how you click and swipe your mobile device. They squint their eyes in an attempt to catch up with the text message you’re typing or the love notes you’re reading. Don’t be surprised if one day they stop you from turning the pages of your book and say, “Wait lang, ‘di pa ako tapos magbasa.” (Wait, I haven’t finished reading yet.)

6. The Device Manager

Cellphone, tablet, music player—they have all of these. The Device Managers are the favorite prey of snatchers for they display their gadgets all at once. They have at least two mobile phones: one is for texting and calling friends, the other one used as a flashlight.

7. The Hairy Chewbacca

The aspiring hair commercial model. I don’t know if they intentionally untie their hair to flaunt their smooth tresses, or they’re just so insensitive to notice how it hassles others. Doesn’t it hurt to be slapped on the face with a head full of hair?

Sometimes, even if you politely tell them to hold their hair, they just give you a sharp sneer in return. Chew ’em away!

8. The Boy Wang-wang

A huge fan of the phone’s loudspeaker feature, Boy Wang-Wang plays intense music from his handset in maximum volume, without the headphones, so that everyone else can listen to it. They usually come as a posse of youth who have the same taste for music. If the sound is good, though, I can’t stop my feet from tapping the floor.

9. The DIY Guru

They don’t like to pasa or abot the barya to manong driver. Whereas the Takeaway Winner is the most active, the DIY Guru tend to be passive. They are experts at ignoring the shaky hands of co-passengers. When you request “Makikiabot po,” (kindly pass it on) they keep their poker faces with a cold “do-it-yourself” response.

But would you say goodbye to the jeepney in favor of another ride?

10. The Para-noid

They don’t know where to say “Para!” (here!) Two sub-types of Para-noid include (1) those who don’t know their exact destinations and (2) those who cannot seem to memorize the route even if they’ve been going it for ages. The former is forgivable, the latter can be a nuisance when they slow down the trip.

11. The Wrecking Ball

If the driver says “Dosehan yan!” (There’s space for 12!) or “Isa pa sa kanan!” (One more on the right!), the Wrecking Ball do their best to find that sweet spot.

If you think they cannot fit in, you’re wrong. They are skillful in sliding their butts in tiny spaces and they have great balancing techniques to pretend they’re well-seated when they’re not.

Some Wrecking Ball forcefully secure their seats and all you can do is sing, “You wre-ee-eck me!

12. The Chairman

They are the masters of our seats, they are the captains of our soles. They act like they own the entire jeepney with the way they sit. They pay for one seat but the space they occupy is more than enough to accommodate two persons. They either sit slightly sideways or with legs wide open. They’re the main reason why the Wrecking Balls run rampant.

13. The Venting Viper

You know them very well. They’re the ones who make the usual hissing sounds “Tss” or “Tsk” every time the jeepney makes a quick turn to refuel at a nearby gas station or when the driver stops at every street to load more passengers. I’m a Venting Viper at times, especially when I’m running late for work.

14. The Head-turner

Have you ever seen the big protruding room light from the center of the jeepney’s ceiling? It serves two purposes: to light the jeepney when it’s dark, and to cause an accident involving those who forget to duck.

Many passengers hit the solid bulb with their heads, usually before getting off the jeep. The sound is sometimes so loud that all passengers will turn their heads to them.

15. The Sweet Lover

It’s not the driver after all. Sweet Lover possesses all the ideal qualities of a responsible jeepney commuter. They always have a helping hand. They proactively pass on someone else’s fare without being a Takeaway Winner; they assist kids and senior citizens in climbing up and down the jeepney; they help the Para-noid locate their stops; and they feel the pain of the Headturner.

Do any of this sound familiar? Let us know in the comments below. –

Mark Rodel dela Rosa is a travel bug slayer, a practical backpacker, and a future globetrotter. He dreams to skydive over the Swiss Alps, to live in a Mongolian yurt, and to sled on the icy plains of Antarctica. Follow his adventures of wanderlust at his travel blog

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