Jeepney drivers have one of the most unappreciated jobs in the Philippines. Yet, literally speaking, where would we be without them?
Meet Manong Remi (not his real name), a 44-year old jeepney driver in Cebu city. He’s been driving jeepneys for almost twenty years. It was an idyllic Sunday afternoon, as I was on my way to Ayala, I was able to talk to Manong Remi about the specifics of being a PUV driver.
*Note: Original conversation was in Bisaya. If you want to read the original, it’s here.
N: How much are you renting this jeepney for? And does the rate depend on the season?
MR: The rate depends on the season. It is summer right now so the rate is at Php400-Php450 per day. I usually get a profit of Php300-Php400. When school starts our rent will increase, it’ll be around Php500-Php550 per day. My route is from Alumnos to Colon so that’s my average rate. The ones who drive the Pit-os, Talamban and Mandaue jeeps usually have a higher rental rate because they travel further than average.
N: Can you say that you get bigger profits during All Soul’s Day, Christmas and Sinulog?
MR: It’s still the same, I’d be lucky if I get Php500. The traffic does not really help.
N: Is it better to rent a jeepney or own one?
MR: I used to be the owner of this jeep that I’m driving now. It’s better if you rent rather than own one, because if you own the jeep, you pay for everything; including machine repairs, registration and insurance. If you just rent a jeep, you only have to drive it, refuel and pay the rent after.
MR: I go out at six in the morning every day, have lunch at twelve noon, drive again at one in the afternoon, have dinner at around five thirty until eight in the evening, I drive from Alumnos to Colon, so in one day, I gas-up around twenty liters, and that costs around Php800.
N: Do you rest on Sundays or on days that have less jeepney passengers?
MR: Not really. I don’t drive on times that I’m sick or when Pacquiao has a fight, because there are usually no passengers at that time. I’d rather watch Pacquiao fight, then after the match I go back to driving.
N: How do you pay your dispatchers (conductors – the guy who accepts money in the back of the jeep)? Do you split profits or you give them a fixed amount?
MR: Usually, we split the profits with our own dispatcher, but we exclude the money we get from the passengers who sit in front. There are also others who give Php150-Php200 to their dispatchers.
N: Based from your experience as a driver, would you know if a passenger pays or not?
MR: No, sometimes we can’t tell, because passengers come and go. But if I notice someone who didn’t pay his fare, I try to remember his face. If ever I pass by that person again, I’m not going to let him ride anymore.
N: Do you also pay those dispatchers on the road (the guys herding people into the jeepneys)?
MR: I do if I can’t avoid it. There are some dispatchers who hold a grudge if you don’t give them some coins. The truth is they are not really helpful. Most people from the city are familiar with the jeepneys they want to ride.
MR: With our line of work, that’s one of the things we can’t avoid. Some thieves ride our vehicle and we can’t identify them because sometimes they are dressed decently. Some of the snatchers’ telltale signs is that they usually have roving eyes, they stare at the passengers they want to rob. The best we can do is signal our passengers, but if they don’t understand, then there’s nothing we can do anymore. We can’t really shout that there are robbers in the jeepney because we would be at the losing end. These snatchers will remember our face and the jeep we drive. We only follow one route every day.
N: What is the one thing that makes you happy as jeepney driver?
MR: I usually come home very tired. But the food tastes better, I sleep better, and there are times that I feel that my job is important because not all people have cars, and not all people can afford to ride a cab every day.
A famous sign inside a jeep once states, “God knows Judas not pay.” My conversation with Manong Remi made me realize that my fare is actually a small price to pay to be transported safely to wherever I’m going.
That wrapped up our conversation about his work, I almost forgot to pay my fare, but he might ignore my waving hand the next time he drives by my place.