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Travel stories: Mindanao, Philippines

Let's take a ride in Mindanao, The Philippines

By Ronald de Jong

The Jeepney is one of the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines, an unique way of travelling. The Jeepney was originally made from left over US military jeeps and in time became a symbol of the Philippine culture.

On the Island of Mindanao most jeepneys are festively decorated and are often named after biblical characters and females. Every single Philippine jeepney is personalized, no jeepney is exactly the same as another. These undisputed “Kings of the road” are famous for their fantastic illustrations, bright colours and notorious for their crowded seating and horn blowing drivers who can be, most of the time, an amusement to their passengers and the best guides one can find in any city in Mindanao.

Because the jeepney is very popular the seats inside are often filled with passengers and their belongings, seated face-to-face and knee to knee, your personal space will be minimized to almost nothing. However, always new passengers will be added to the already crowded cabin, but Mindanaoans are very flexible and creative people. They will still get on board, eager to start the journey to their own destination, hanging from the tail bumpers and sitting on the top of the jeepney. The fare is very inexpensive and riding one is always a fun and exciting experience.

One of the most interesting ways in getting around Mindanao, is taking a local jeepney, it can take you almost anywhere you would like to go. These jeepneys mirrors Mindanao's culture, you can take a good look at ordinary people in their daily life. Standing aside the road and hailing a jeepney with a raised hand is enough to stop it and catch a ride, once inside you can stop the vehicle by knocking on the jeepney's ceiling-top or tap your peso coin on the roof. The various destinations are displayed on the sides of the jeepney and it's windshields. But jeepneys do not take you to where you exactly want to go except if the place is along their daily route, additional transport, like te tricycle, would be required.

In places where there are fewer jeepneys, the tricyle is another popular way of transportation. The tricycle is a motorcycle with a sidecar combination, a canvas or metal roof stretched over a framework of metal bars, welded to the sidecar. A three-wheeled workhorse that carries passengers and cargo and which can easily reach the interior roads, narrow alleys and rural areas in Mindanao.

This people's transportation mini vehicle can be seen in many different forms and length, it can serve passengers in almost any kind of weather, terrain, road and traffic conditions. It is rigged for the transportation of people, live animals, fish, furniture, charcoal, appliances and hardware and sometimes even used as an ambulance. Tricycles are often decorated with various mirrors, colourful banners and constructed with stainless steel and shiny chrome.

The colourful jeepney and the exotic tricycle both symbolize the Philippines, they perfectly capture the carefree atmosphere of the Island of Mindanao and are the most recognized, most distinct and the most unique modes of primary transportation in this region.

Taking a ride with these icons of local transport will get you in touch with the real countryside and allows you to mingle with the local population. An unusual, great and inspirational way of travelling with these symbols of Filipino ingenuity and indigenous improvisation, that will open new and personal frontiers.

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