One can liken the Philippines to the thousands of jeepneys plying her roads. While this rickety, sometimes rusting steel beast is a testament to the Filipino ingenuity of taking what is not ours and turning it into our own, it’s also a portrait of the nation’s failure to modernize. Overcrowded, unsafe, and often driven recklessly for profit, this prime mode of public transportation can be loud, boisterous, flamboyant, aggressive, and plain problematic.
In an era of flashy SUV’s and luxury sedans, the jeepney is also the popular (because it is the only way) yet inconvenient truth of the state of public transportation, and even the quality of government policy and initiative. On a larger scale, it is the concrete example of the Philippine’s sentimentality coupled with an ironic forgetfulness which typifies so many of our socio-cultural issues. Filipinos long for the past yet abhor history. We remember the golden days when the nation’s economic standing was envied by Asian neighbours and yet we are adamant to make the necessary sacrifices to catch-up with the rest of the world. Why? It’s easier to stick to what we’re used to.
The Philippines has one foot trapped in the past and another in a daydreamed future often cloaked by the smog of pressing issues left unresolved by a lack of individual and national will. We always find a way to start, but we never find the follow-through – from unfinished urban projects, to civil cases that in a year’s time, is forgotten and turned to dust. We turn a blind eye on the present. But like with the jeepney, the clock is ticking. Changes must be made to succeed in a tomorrow full of promise, yet just the same, is full of immense challenges. Large-scale overhauls in different systems of society, and in varying depths and layers, must be undertaken to cleanse ourselves of the unnecessary nostalgia, and unfortunate amnesia plaguing our people.
There is a price to be paid. And we, as a nation, have to pay it in full. Progress comes at a hefty cost. And like the popular stickers plastered inside jeepneys best put it, “God knows Hudas not pay”.