Problem: Define a failure. Answer: Someone who is still riding a jeepney after 40.
By that definition, I shall be counted (small consolation) half a failure. Barring rain, strikes, rush-hour traffic, and the stark necessity of having to get from here to there, fast, when my old, beat-up car breaks down — I enjoy jeepney-riding. It is an economical field lesson on Philippine culture, a compact refresher course on being Filipino.
Once, with an American friend, I was in the Danao marketplace to catch a ride back to Cebu City. The place was a veritable cockpit of jeepneys. Three jeepneys were competing for passengers, revving up their engines, furiously moving backward and forward, then backward again, in a game of creating the illusion that they were about ready to be on their way.
My friend and I committed ourselves to one of them. We were in no hurry. We watched with much amusement rival conductors jostling with each other to get the approaching passengers. Even the driver of the vehicle we had boarded would suddenly stop the jeepney right in the middle of the road, jump out of his seat, leaving the engine running, to run towards a prospective passenger he just sighted. Our jeepney would leave the marketplace, making as though we were finally on our way, only to turn around the block and bring us back to where we started. A young woman on board our jeepney, exasperated, abandoned us and boarded a rival jeepney that seemed like it was winning the contest. My friend, who was enjoying himself, remarked: ‘Sus, she has defected.’