Can Vehicles Talk? What Would They Say?

A muni-muni by Sean Marie Prythyll A. Patnubay | August 30, 2022

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm (2021), we are taught that all animals are equal and that whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. But in this concrete jungle, Filipinos understand that some vehicles are “more equal” than others. Despite having four wheels or metaphoric wings that can fly you from one destination to another, other drivers treat jeepney operators as foes, not friends.

Now, if only vehicles could talk to each other, we’d know what they’d want to say.

In the documentary Sabi ng Jeep, Miranda and Sadorra (2017) present three narratives: a jeepney driver, a member of the middle class, and a college professor. These representations show us the importance of perspectives in our treatment of others and are the closest we can get to hearing these vehicles talk.

Personally, the nationwide modernization of the iconic jeepneys removes not just our culture and symbolization as a nation but also removes the jobs of jeepney drivers, depriving them of their life, liberty, and even property.

As explained in the documentary, Mang Virgilio earns more than the average daily wage in his stint as a jeepney driver since the 1970s. It has allowed him to send his kids to school and buy his own plot of land at the expense of his humanity. Here, we see the blatant dehumanization on our roads that lies in how we treat others, poorly or otherwise, based on the vehicle they drive.

We see them not as men but as jeepneys, trucks, and luxury cars.

Again and again, jeepney drivers become prey to the powerful by following their rules and apologizing for any infractions they commit despite becoming outlets of our ire — all lightning, thunder, and engine roars.

The middle class often conceives them as drivers who lack discipline while their diesel engines are blamed for pollution when more and more of our roads see driver-only cars. They are faulted for creating traffic congestion to load or unload passengers on roads built for cars. So, where are the designated stops designed for these vehicles operating in the Philippines for so long? Why have our traffic enforcers failed to reprimand bullies that lord over our national highways who shout at these perceived lesser drivers, point their guns at them, and threaten them with their larger vehicles?

Not only that, we see a dialogue with them as going down to their level when we should be treating them as equals — stewards with different rationalities in maintaining law and order on our roads for our safety and convenience in traveling to our destinations. When we refer to them, we fall into the temptation to include the word “just” before their titles: just jeepney drivers, just drivers, and this intolerance and violence (borderline hate) toward poverty and the marginalized should end in this generation.

Yes, the government should address the violations of road rules of the old jeepneys as well as the need for more environmentally friendly PUVs. Yes, their current approach to modernity is well-meaning yet it does not make it any less anti-poor because they do not listen.

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