Resistance to Jeepney Modernization symbolizes Filipino Primitivism


Our webmaster Benign0 and other bloggers have all mentioned how the jeepney is a symbol of the Philippines’ backwardness. Recently, efforts to improve it, or replace it with a better vehicle, met resistance from the likes of “transport groups” like PISTON, who want to keep their old ways. What’s funny is how even celebrities and middle-class commenters insert themselves and say, “keep the classic design of the jeepney, it’s part of our culture,” or “replacing the jeepney is anti-poor,” when they don’t know what they are saying. It’s also funny when they say they want change in the country, but what they’re doing is wanting to keep the status quo in public transport.

Perhaps they hold romantic notions of primitivism, keeping the “old thing” as culture, when at times it’s revealed to be rotten culture in practice. I have always held that this is one of Filipino culture’s greatest hindrances. I think of primitivism as the Filipino’s desire to keep things ridiculously simple (as in simple-minded or dumb), to become anti-intellectual, and to become careless as to throw everything to the wind (bahala na).

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The Filipinos’ mendicant culture drives PISTON and their ilk to keep the old jeepney. They want to keep the old system where they look poor, so they can then ask for assistance. They also want to keep the boundary system and not have a national transport system because they seem to prefer having transport companies compete. In this situation, it does not stimulate quality; instead it’s where each transport operator dreams of being a bigshot mogul. Or perhaps they are too lazy to improve and have the passenger’s welfare in mind, they only believe the passenger is obliged to risk their lives on their vehicles, but still handing over their money. In that case, that’s the primitivism of selfisnness and egoism.

The Nostalgia Trap

This might go on a tangent, but primitivism towards the jeepney reminds me of a lot of other things in Filipino culture. I sometimes see people in the nostalgia forums look at old bahay kubos and say, “oh I would like to live this life,” assuming it would be better. It also looks to me like the assumption behind a bahay kubo life is that they don’t need to work. They think they can go out of the bahay kubo, pick food or raise livestock. They think this is better?

Life during these times was lots harder, first, because you have no access to healthcare. Baby mortality rates were higher; probably every family on average would have a child or two die. Bahay kubo days also saw crocodiles (as well as other wild creatures on land) roaming the Pasig river, who would kill hapless people straying from their communities. And what would keep people busy? There are few books or art, and no cellphone games to keep people occupied, so they’d just do sex. That would lead to more kids who are at risk of dying, while they would think nothing of letting their children die like that. That reminded me of Hector Gamboa’s article where he described how Eskimo people would leave out babies to die in the cold if they could not take care of them. That would be murder, wouldn’t it (like how jeepney operators seem to believe the public should sacrifice for them)?

I’m also reminded of Nick Joaquin’s observations about the Philippines in 1965, which seem to have an eerie relevance to today’s world. He wrote of decreasing intellectualism and a widening divide between old and new. The young people of this time were losing interest in in literature and other liberal arts. This was also the time of “women should stay at home,” so they often just do housework, but gossip on the side, and dream of becoming hacienderas. They became today’s grandparents, who have been molded by 1950s-60s advertising to be rabid consumers, and lovers of what’s fed to them on TV (for example, most of the victims of the Wowowee stampede in 2006 were elder women). This is the generation that set the stage for our current trashy culture and the kind of primitivism we have today.

The “Good Old Days”

It seems to me that the “old things” that Filipinos love are reflections of their power-hungriness. One other example is My Family’s Slave that raised a furor a while back. I believe Filipinos would really love the setup where they could exploit other people’s labor and servitude for free (the parents of the family who enslaved Lola Pulido are of the same generation described above). It doesn’t matter if Filipino slavery is debt or indentured slavery instead of chattel slavery; it is still exploitation.

Since some transport groups have communists in their ranks, it would be in line with their beliefs to keep the transport industry cottage level. Communism also carries the spirit of primitivism. China during the time of Mao Zedong applied this, and boy, did that work for them (massive famine killed millions). Local communists keep on decrying capitalism and the modern lifestyles that go with it, while their leaders enjoy these modern capitalist luxuries. Local commie primitivism seems to imply gullibility as well.

If we ever want to move the country forward, primitivism should be excised from our mentality. Seeking the old culture is also connected to our sense of entitlement. It produces the identity that we are a poor country that must keep asking for things from other countries. And it demonstrates classic Filipino self-contradiction, because if Filipinos want life to be comfortable, they’re doing it the opposite way.

23 Replies to “Resistance to Jeepney Modernization symbolizes Filipino Primitivism”

  1. A lot of Pilipinos aspire to become a jeepney driver one day, with it being phased out, the aspiration will also vanish and there will be nothing more to aspire for, for these Pilipinos, it’s just the end of the world.

  2. This is the reason why Filipinos, stay as they are; mostly “poor as a rat”, and are content as OFW slaves, where they are abused and even murdered.

    Filipinos do not want to better their lives. The phasing out of jeepney, and the modernization of transport system will improve our transport system and lower the cost of fares. The Jeepney is obsolete, inefficient, gas guzzling , and can transport few passengers. Jeepneys were the military transports of the American liberators in World War II, when gasoline was 50 centavos a gallon.

    The commies, who use the poor, in their political agenda to gain the support of poor Filipinos, are also stupid. Other people, especially politicians, who are involved to resist the transport modernization, are doubly stupid and insane…they are using this issue , to become popular and to gain votes.

    Until, we learn to be innovative, resourceful and embrace the modernization of our civilization…we will never improve our country, and our lives !

  3. Jeepney drivers themselves are entitled when it comes to being inconsiderate drivers and smoking while they are performing their duty. I have seen a driver with my own eyes hit the concrete divider in the intersection of Ayala / Buendia since he had no brakes and the light was red. The jeepney ended up on its side and its a miracle there were no cries of agony. I know there were no brakes because our company messenger is nosier than I am. Jeepney drivers are above courtesy, manners, safety , rules, obsolescence and aesthetics. Yet we want them around. Is there anything more pinoy??

  4. “If we ever want to move the country forward, primitivism should be excised from our mentality.”
    Just take a look at all the Philippine laws. Adultery a crime?; no divorce? No same-sex marriage? Need I say more? All Philippine laws radiates primitivism.

    1. I won’t necessarily attribute all things you mentioned as primitivism. Well, us Filipinos are primitive enough, but Adultery, Divorce and SS marriage laws (or lack thereof) can be primarily attributed to Catholicism. And you know how “pious” the average Filipino can be.

      Despite their supposed separation, the Church (particularly CBCP) has a strong hold on state policies and such. Politicians are afraid that the Church will use their influence to smear their names if they ever try to go against their will.

      1. Random Citizen,
        I know and that is why I am baffled that Filipinos (F/M) do not protest (maybe by just voting for a political party that will “fight” to make such laws possible) and claim more free choices and options.
        I mean, we can all sit on our asses and do nothing but by that nothing will change in any near century/centuries in the Philippines and THUS, the Philippines will be seen and regarded as a poor 3rd world country. Well, if that is what you want … swell and peachy.
        But from my perspective, I do call it (those laws, or better yet lack thereof) primitive.

        1. No, that’s not what I want, but what is one person’s idea compared to the masses? I’m not a voter as I don’t believe (or no longer believe) in the power of vote given our country’s circumstances.

          Filipinos are very resistant to change. If it’s not convenient for them they will reject said change. Everybody wants change but nobody is willing to start it. It’s especially visible in this last election, Duterte represents change while Roxas represents the status quo so Duterte won. Now, the degree on whether or not Duterte is successful in his change depends on each person’s opinion.

          That said, while I do want change, I don’t automatically accept ALL change. With regards to same-sex marriage, my opinion there is to allow same-sex to be wed in civil law. That is, they could be registered as spouses legally and I fully support that. BUT what I may not readily accept is for them to be wed under Catholic marriage. Christians have their own views on the Holy matrimony with the intent of pro-creation and raising a family, and it’s going to be harder for the country or even for the entire Catholic religion to change those core concepts. I don’t exactly consider myself a Christian, but being raised as one I have some level of respect (and criticism) to the religion.

  5. These ongoing protests aren’t about resistance to modernization per se, but resistance to a form modernization that benefits the manufacturers of this new fleet of jeepneys now at the expense of jeepney drivers and passengers alike.

    1. @Pallacertus:

      Who are the manufacturers of the new fleet of jeepneys ? Are they charging too much ? In my opinion, we must phase out this jeepney in the urban areas as a mode to transport…except in the far flung areas of our country.

      We don’t have an automotive industry. We don’t have an industry that manufactures automotive parts. Almost all of the automotive parts of the transport industry are imported. Or if the foreign company makes its parts or transport system here; it is to use the low cost of labors of Filipinos.

      So, since we cannot make our own transport system and our own parts. The manufacturers dictate the price of the transport system and the parts.

      The modernization protest is nothing but a rabble rousing political protest by the : YellowTards, the commies, the Anti Duterte elements, etc…

      Filipinos are addicted to protesting and rallies, as if we will solve our problems by protesting !

    2. OFW-remittance-backed Filipino passengers will gladly pay double the fare for the comfort and convenience PUV modernization brings. How do they stand to lose?

      The poorest of the poor who can’t afford high quality transpo will just have to move back to their provinces to till the land. How is having less poor folks in urban regions any way a negative factor for the general public?

      As for your lowly undisciplined tsuper who’s caught in the middle, trust me pal: like roaches and sewer rats amidst a brewing storm they will not just survive but thrive in their new environment.

      Besides serving as a pilot for PAL is more dignifying than being a small-time independent turbo-prop operator. When one hits rock bottom, there’s no where else to go but UP.

    3. You mean, at the expense of the jeepney operators, or business owners, who are often not the drivers. To say that the jeepney drivers are the ones buying the vehicles is misinformation. One owns, another drives.

  6. Bad advice from out-of-topic know-it-all people aside, the arguments, back and forth talk between the Government and PISTON has little to no productive compromise for the last couple of years, even if you have 100% state subsidy for them, they’ll just say that this is anti-poor, and there’s also the notion of how bad the Government will regulate this. The modernization plan gives out better and more efficient vehicles than the smog-smoking monsters , clean air, a reduction in pulmonary diseases, and cost-effective fuel management. My last suggestion is to do test-runs for the “Modern Jeepneys” in controlled cities if they can, alas, there’s a limit to appeasement to these people who will just rinse and repeat their threats while the Government will fold.

  7. Forgot to add, pretty much agreed with ChinoF, delusional nostalgia and fantasy along with pure greed and hunger for political power with these hypocritical people, even more laughable that in the Government, we have know-it-all politicians like Grace Poe and her supporters putting her worthless two cents in how to solve the traffic crisis and reduce carbon pollution in Metro Manila.

  8. It probably has nothing to do with primitivism. I mean who doesn’t want better tech and a more convenient or efficient mode of transport? It’s a culture that has been conditioned to settle for less… and a lack of intention to really solve the problem.

  9. Random Citizen,
    I dont think it is possible for a government (any government) to tell a church (or whatever religion) to do what said government dictates them to do. Hence, a (religious) same-sex marriage inside a church, I dont see that happen very soon. Will I accept it, if that happens? Yes, of course.

    “That said, while I do want change, I don’t automatically accept ALL change.”
    I really dont understand why you say this. What will you gonna do IF (a big IF) it happens? Personally, I can be against a whole lotta things but they will happen anyway (whether I like it or not). Trying to fight it, is a negative energy. And – lets stick to same-sex marriager – it doesnt offend me nor insult me. And it shouldnt offend nor insult you (or anybody else for that matter).

    “Christians have their own views on the holy matrimony with the intent of pro-creation and raising a family,”
    I think, this is still the holy grail (getting married and start a family) for also non-religious people. Although what I see around me (in my country) is that more and more (married) couples do decide not to pro-create.

    What I dont understand from Christians/Catholics is that they take the bible so literally (go and multiply) without looking at the circumstances (living in a shitty shelter accommodation, no money, no real future). Being raised in poverty and staying poor all one’s life, is not really a dream come true (is it?).

    And here is where the government should and must kick in by improving ALL school’s curriculum. Education is the decisive factor for one’s future. So, where is Duterte on this one?

    1. Do pardon I did not immediately see your reply, so this is a rather late response. This is all personal opinion, so I don’t really mind if I’m on the “wrong” side of things.

      Hmm, my comment really mention the government forcing something onto the church. Tangentially, I do think it’s the other way around, where the church has some degree of political hold on the government because of the endorsement (and vilification) from the CBCP, Iglesia ni Cristo and the like.

      Personally, I am in the opinion of Live and Let Live. If they won’t bother me, then I don’t really care. So, same-sex marriage. The outcome, I personally don’t mind if same-sex marriage becomes a thing in the Philippines or not. The journey to get there however, the activism that comes with identitarianism of the greater LGBT movement, well that’s the part where I’m not readily accepting. Admittedly, said activism is mostly based on the stuff I see in American politics, but the stuff they do and say there are things that I’m not really comfortable if it comes to fruition in the Philippines. e.g. babies not being gendered at birth, “boy” and “girl” are sexist terms and can’t be used in sex-ed, restrooms that are not single-cubicles being made unisex. Although, I don’t really know too much about American politics and current events so I’m unable to filter out which ones are serious statements or which ones are made as an outrageous comment.

      Alternatively, a shorter answer I can give is that I’m not really a fan of discourse and chaos all that much so I have a natural aversion to activism. Yes, this makes me a sheep of the government, at the least I’m safe.

      Going back on topic, thinking about it from the perspective of a Filipino society which is heavily rooted from the Catholic way, then there might be complications there. Sure, we have gone a long way from the olden times that we stone “sodomizers” (man who sleeps with other men or animals, coz they do it in *that* hole) and adulterers to death, but the Holy Matrimony still holds for “man and woman in unity”. Hence, civil wedding is the best case scenario for our society to accept same-sex marriage… or for Pope Francis to actually decree that same-sex marriage is allowed in the Catholic Church… or people make their own Christian denomination where same-sex marriage is allowed in their church.

      Finally, on the topic of education, I’m not really going to defend Duterte on this. I don’t think he has a platform with regards to education when he was elected. Which topics are you thinking about though? If it’s Christian education, you do know the lessons they give there are VERY selective. Stuff written in kids textbooks are mostly the things that can be quoted out of context and be interpreted as good. They don’t really teach much about what happens to rape victims and homosexuals at the time, or all the rather questionable morals that comprises 80% of the bible.

  10. “Education is the decisive factor for one’s future”

    The topic is primitivism and not about education.

    What I’m saying is, there will be people who will try hard not to connect education to primitivism. Whoever they are you know they are the problem.

  11. I’m staying with family right now in the province and I regularly take the jeepneys over other modes of transport for over a year now. Why? I can’t stand those air conditioned van FX vehicles. I’m too tall for them and I don’t always get to sit up front where there’s more leg room haha. I feel like I need to wear bilateral SCD boots when I’m on FX rides to get better blood circulation. I like the jeepneys because of the leg room(barely) and the open windows where I can get real air (I can handle the polluted air or occasional stink with a mask I wear all the time in public). I wish the roof of the jeepneys where a little taller though. Some have taller roofs, some are pretty short. And speaking of ex-WW2 Jeeps, I was ex-military, so riding in these things reminds of the 2- 4 ton trucks I rode a lot in when I was in uniform. As far as the politics of all this? It would be great if these drivers could get the money to upgrade to those new fancy free wifi internet vans shown on tv to replace the old jeepneys. They look nice , comfy, and roomy. Maybe your government can work with them on that with a low interest loan of some sort? I thought I saw that on the news one time a few months ago. Gradually, those old jeeps will get replaced sooner or later. That’s obvious.

    1. Your suggestion is the goal of jeepney modernization after all, . Replacing it with nice, roomy (so large people like you can fit, instead of basing vehicles on smaller Filipinos), comfy, wifi-equipped vehicles. I would cite the Beep mini-buses plying the Lagro-Kalayaan-Cubao route here in Quezon City as an example. And the low interest loan is supposed to be part of it.

  12. Replacing old tricycles and jeepneys would be a step forward but to really go in the direction of modernity the Philippines has to let go of the car (or more in general the “sasakyan”) culture altogether and Filipinos need to learn to walk more. The most advanced countries are not simply the ones that replace old vehicles with new ones but rather the ones that have bicycle lanes on every street and people cycle, walk or use trams and subways.
    Filipinos need a car, a tricycle or a jeepney even to get to the nearest palengke like the one in my wife’s barangay in Bulacan that is only 300 mt away

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