The CuriousPages Sketchbook

A tragic jeepney ride in Cebu

Yesterday, Rhyan told me of an accident that he was involved in when he was nineteen. He was late for college one morning, so he took one of the older jeepneys (the silver, unpainted ones), rather than the new ones (which are painted). The older jeepneys usually drive faster and are known for being involved in more accidents. His mother would frequently remind him not to ride those jeepneys, but on this morning he was late and he felt he had no choice. The Danao jeepney (travelling from Danao to Cebu City) arrived and he flagged it down. It was already overcrowded, but he climbed onboard. The benches that run along either side of the jeepney were already full (with about eight people sitting along each side), but on this jeepney, there were also three seats placed along the length of the jeepney on the floor between the side benches. Each of these central seats sat two people, one facing forwards and one backwards. Rhyan sat on the last of these, facing forwards. The jeepney sped on its way.


Amongst the other passengers, there was an old woman sat on the end of the left-hand bench, right next to the open doorway with the road rushing past beneath her. On the end of the other bench, sat two lovers, also precariously close to the road. On the front of the right-hand bench, Rhyan noticed two young children sitting there. In front of them, there were also two passengers sat on the seat next to the driver. Hanging off the back of the jeepney was the conductor.

The conductor usually stands on the step that is beneath the open doorway and hangs on to a rail on the inside of the jeepney roof. I have myself watched young lads performing this role. They will jump onto and off the jeepney as it pulls up, yelling out for passengers and then herding as many of them onto the jeepney as they can, and when the jeepney pulls away, the conductor will then seem to be swinging on the back of the jeepney like a child on a climbing frame, only this climbing frame is speeding along the highway. These young conductors are usually a close relative of the driver, either one of his own sons or perhaps a nephew.

The jeepney came to a road in Canduman which descended down a hill and then crossed another road. This crossroads was an accident black spot. Close behind the jeepney was a lorry carrying empty liquor bottles. The lorry was driving too fast down the hill and it struck the back of the jeepney. The jeepney began slowly spinning. It span three times before coming to rest, at which point the lorry crashed into the side of the jeepney, crushing the jeepney driver and killing him. During the jeepney’s spin, the old woman on the end of the bench had been thrown through the open doorway but the bottom of her trouser leg had snagged on the jeepney’s seat and she had been dragged along behind the jeepney. As the jeepney camp to a halt, she was still hanging from the back. The skin had been ripped from the side of her face and neck and she lay lifeless. The two lovers had also been thrown from the jeepney, as had the conductor. One of the passengers who had been sat beside the driver was also thrown from the jeepney during its spin. The other front-seat passenger had been killed along with the driver. One of the young children who was sat on the front end of the bench to Rhyan’s right was also killed. During the collision, an oncoming motor cycle, being ridden by a married couple, was crushed by the lorry as it smashed into the side of the jeepney, and the couple were also both killed.

Rhyan jumped out of the jeepney, shaken but unharmed. A large crowd quickly gathered and it was not long before they began taking up stones and throwing them at the driver of the lorry, who remained locked in his cab, unharmed and afraid to open his door, lest he be stoned to death by the angry crowd.

Rhyan flagged down another jeepney and completed his journey to college. His friends told him that his face and lips looked white and wondered what had happened to him. And when he arrived home that evening his mother had heard the news of the crash and had been worrying that he may have been involved in it, since she had seen him taking the Danao jeepney that morning. He told her, “I was!”


23 June 2010


See also: Jeepneys, the backbone of public transport in the Philippines



© Copyright Fletcher Kovich 2008-2017