scary first moves


scary first moves. A jeepney!

Originally published on January 16, 2012

Hi Laura
take a 50 peso shuttle to silay plaza,
then take a jeepney to talisay for 8 pesos,
get off at Durex. We will meet u there.

I received this text when waiting for the last of three flights, the first having been a 15-hour transpacific flight to Hong Kong, then a two hour hop in a 747 to Manila. My island shuttle to Bacolod on Negros had been rescheduled to two hours later.

So I had asked my Nomadic Hands host Simone if I should still meet her where she had initially said. I was told to, “Take a 50 peso shuttle to silay plaza, then take a jeepney to talisay for 8 pesos, get off at durex. We will meet u there.”

It is my first time in Asia, my two day stopover in Hong Kong in the nineties hardly counts. But luckily, I have traveled before. And I know that I, as one always does, will be comparing this trip to others. As open-minded and well-traveled as I like to see myself, I still like finding the comfort of the ‘known’ in the ‘unknown’, which I will either reject or cherish, depending on what it is.

So I know that the public transport, as it always is, will be new and complex but it will eventually be ‘how its done’ to me, too. Once I know the system I will also learn my own tricks in it, as I have for the Los Angeles road network and the buses in Quito. But first I will have to observe it and dive into it in a few scary first moves. There are no two ways about it.

So why not start at the airport after 30-hours of flying across the dateline? Reading that message all I thought was ‘well yeah, I am sure it will all become clear once I take the first step.’ – though I knew there was no way ‘silay plaza’ or ‘durex’ were going to be posted grandly on the inside or the outside of my vehicle, as stops are in, say, Paris buses.

And lordy, what on earth is a ‘jeepney’?

To my message to my sister Kate, she replied ‘Ha, the jeepneys! Fun :)’

So jeepneys are minibuses. LOTS OF MINIBUSES. Colourful minibuses. The insides are taken out, the back is open, as are the sides. Two benches line insides and people get in from the back and scootch in as long as there is a spot free. People with babies on their arms, people with shopping bag, old people, young people, all kinds of people; everybody gets into the jeepney and off the bus goes. It goes, meanders around other jeepneys, cars, buses, trikes (mopeds with sidecars serving the side roads), hops over potholes in the street while bodies and heads inside bob to the blows. You pay the driver en-route, people closest to the driver hand the money back and forth from the passengers. A ride costs 7,5 pesos. Which is 13 eurocents. You get off when the time is right; I think if you know where you want to get off, you tell the driver first.

I did not learn about this when I arrived at the airport in Bacolod.

I had decided that I was going to tackle the local ways without my luggage for two months of travel, after a shower and most of all, after horizontal sleep. I took a taxi. True tourist ‘oblige’, I took a private cab and paid twice as much as I would have needed to. Which was OK, for now.