Once upon a time, the jeepney was more than just another public transportation in the Philippines. Aside being one of the living legacies left behind by the US Army after World War II, the jeepney was literally an artwork on wheels.
From the vibrantly colored banderitas waving on either side in front to the meticulous airbrush masterpieces depicting tourist spots in the Philippines, religious images, and characters in Filipino folklore, it’s so hard not to spot one a mile away. Even the inside has been decorated with crocheted quotes and a Sto. Nino placed on top of the dashboard. At night, the interior is lighted with multi-colored lightbulbs of yellow, purple and green.
Aesthetics Makes Way to Practicality
Sadly, these days seem to just be a memory. Other than a few neon-colored stickers here and there and a splash of paint, the once colorful jeepney now makes its way through the busy streets in the Philippines humble and bare.
In her article entitled Philippine Jeepneys Nearing the End of a Colorful Road, Candice L. Quimpo wrote that practicality has forced many jeepney owners to forego this dying art. One jeepney artwork project can easily cost as much as P100,000 (approx. $2,282). With the jeepney fare only costing between P8-20 per passenger (depending on the distance), choosing to spend this meager earning to pay for bills and other basic necessities is a no-brainer.
Biyaheng Makulay Jeepney: A Glimmer of Hope
All may not yet be lost. That is what I discovered when I came across the Biyaheng Makulay Jeepney Art Contest and Exhibit recently held at the Newport Plaza in Resort’s World Manila last week.
About Biyaheng Makulay Jeepney
Literally translated as “Travel Colorful Jeepney,” the art contest and exhibit was part of Grand Fiesta Manila 2011, a series of events hosted by Resort’s World Manila to pay homage to the vibrant arts and culture of the Philippines.
Fine arts students, amateur painters and celebrity artists gathered at the Newport Mall’s Plaza for this colorful event, each giving their own tribute to the dying art of beautifying the Philippines’ iconic public transportation.
Insights on the Jeepney Art Exhibit
Even though the jeepneys on display here were miniature versions of the real thing, the artwork done by the different artists that participated in this jeepney art exhibit and contest was remarkable. Just like the old days, the designs on each jeepney featured different sceneries and sights in the Philippines.
Here are pictures of my favorite jeepney art designs:
Of these, my favorite was the Fiesta on Wheels jeepney art done by Emelle Felice Gamboa. I admit that the “face” on the front part will definitely be a scary sight if done on a life-size jeepney (can you imagine those eyes shining back at you at night?). But scary eyes aside, this was a beautiful artwork that would work so beautifully with the airbrush techniques used in traditional jeepney art.
I have to admit, I would have loved to see at least one life-size jeepney in the exhibit in all of its vibrant glory. But as I looked around the area where the exhibit was held, I figured that there was just no space for it.
I applaud the management of Newport Malls and the organizers of the recently concluded Biyaheng Makulay Jeepney Art Exhibit and Contest. It may have been a small pebble thrown in a huge pond. Still, it is a start to revive the appreciation of the dying jeepney art. Hopefully, this will not be the end. With a bit more awareness, and a bit of support, perhaps the colorful jeepney would once again reign in the streets of the Philippines.
Is there something that you’d wish would make a comeback in your city or country? What is it and why do you want it to come back?