Leaf through any tourism promotional material released by Philippine tourism bodies � government or private � and chances are, you�ll come across at least one picture of the jeepney; that symbol of Filipino ingenuity, creativity, festivity, or whatever virtues we imagine ourselves to possess. Step onto any Manila street and you immediately witness the effects of the reign of the King of the Road.
No other icon of Philippine culture epitomises more the utter pompousness of the Filipino. For in trumpeting the jeepney as the symbol of our ingenuity, we not only provide insight to the dismal levels of our standards of ingenuity but also proclaim to the world that we find no reason to change for the better. If these machines are considered such priceless gems of Philippine culture, then why are they banned from Manila�s premier tourist showcase � the fragrant Roxas (formerly Dewey) Boulevard?
Their place as a novelty on the streets comes into question when one considers the amount of effort and expenditure that has gone into finding solutions to the traffic snarls and pollution that constantly plague Metro Manila and other major Philippine cities. While there is a general unwritten acknowledgment of the jeepney�s role in exacerbating these problems, there has been no known attempt (from people and organisations that could make a difference) to highlight it as a priority social and economic problem. To be sure, the MRT/LRT projects are pursued in the hope that these systems will expedite the demise of the jeepney as a primary means of public transport. However, the underlying government stance is that such transport infrastructure projects are, in fact, meant to augment �strained public transport facilities�. This stance implies that there will be no effort to phase out jeepneys beyond waiting for Metro Manila residents to make their choice of preferred means of commute. This is quite a disturbing prospect considering that train fare costs ten times more than jeepney fare.
Jeepneys defy systemic approaches to developing efficient mass transit in Philippine cities and have become eyesores wherever they turn empty lots and even streets into de facto terminals. A conscious effort on the part of jeepney drivers and owners to induce loud rumbling noises from their mufflers (or lack of them) whenever they rev their machines turns the metropolis into a seething cauldron that is an assault on the senses. And the persistence of a design dating back to the 40�s is a testament to an utter lack of innovation and progress in taste, practicality, and attitudes.
So while we wait for jeepneys to become uncompetitive (price wise � fat chance), millions of dollars are spent on massive infrastructure projects, private motorists bear the brunt of various vehicle reduction schemes, Manila�s air continues to increase in corrosiveness, and the average commuter remains short-changed in safety and comfort.
Left behind again not surprisingly by China as they continue expanding their mass transit system with the construction of their new magnetic levitation ("maglev") train in Shanghai.