Jeepney 101: 17 Steps to Mastering the Jeepney

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  1. Prior to riding a jeepney, you must completely memorize a map of the city, using major landmarks and malls, not street names, as your orientation.
  2. When deciding which Jeepney to ride, bring binoculars so that you can read the fine print posted in the front window of the Jeepney. Do not be thrown off if the landmark’s name is shortened. For example if you want to go to a restaurant that is en route to Gaisano Mall, find the small placard that says “Gmall.”
  3. Before getting on a Jeepney, make sure you have small bills or coins (no larger than 50 pesos=$1.00).  If you do not have small bills, find something to buy from the sari-sari cornerstore in order to make small bills. This is critical preparation for riding the jeepney. Jeepney drivers refuse to carry change.
  4. If it is between 7 and 9 in the morning or 5 and 7 in the evening, be prepared to push, shove and run to catch your Jeepney, beating as many people out of the ride as possible. No holds barred. Note that leaving the house at 8:30 and leaving the house at 9am result in the exact same arrival time to your final destination.
  5. When you finally find the right Jeepney, discretely hold the number of seats needed for your party out to the driver (like a catcher would do with a pitcher in baseball) as if speaking a secret code. *Please note* “seat” in Jeepney terms is defined as ¼ of a Filipino butt cheek, which is approximately 1/8 of an American butt cheek.
  6. *translation note* If the driver raises his eyebrows, he is welcoming you onto his treasured jeepney.
  7. When entering the Jeepney, fold your body in half, while squeezing 1/8 of your butt cheek onto your designated seat. Hold on tight to the rail above you for added support. Raise your eyebrows to say hello to your fellow jeepney riders. Begin the obligatory morning texting to fit in with your fellow jeepney riders.
  8. Remove all precious possessions from your pockets, as they will fall out due to the fact that your legs have been squeezed in and raised to eye level.
  9. Even if you have your fee (8 pesos=10 cents) ready, resist paying immediately. That will make you look like a pushy, harried, on-time foreigner. At all costs, you must not look like you are timely.
  10. Do not pay when you get off, as this will hold the Jeepney up for an extra 2 minutes. Instead, wait for the perfect moment to pay, allowing just enough time to look casual, while also giving yourself enough time to receive change before your stop.
  11. Yell “bayad” (payment) and pass your money two people in front of you. When they do not take your money, yell “bayad” once more, while jiggling your change. If they still do not respond, shove your money in front of their cell phones to distract them from their 1000th text message of the morning. *translation note* If the driver makes eye contact with you in the mirror and raises his eyebrows, he is asking “how many people are in our party and where you are going.”
  12. Like your filipino counterparts, you should consider bringing a handkerchief to protect your orifices from the black exhaust emitted by morning traffic. Despite using a handkerchief, do not be alarmed when all of your boogers the next morning are black.
  13. Whatever you do, do not move to the left (away from the  jeepney exit) when someone new enters the Jeepney. If you must move, move to the right, forcing the new Jeepney rider to crawl over you. Do not make exceptions for old people or mothers with babies, this will make you look like a foreigner and a schmuck.
  14. To stop the Jeepney yell “lugar lang.” You may also make a kissing noise with your  lips (sucking in air) or tap a coin on the metal roof. Or, for best results, do all three at the same time.
  15. Even if someone exits the Jeepney a mere 15 feet from your destination, do not get off. Getting off early will make you look like a foreigner and schmuck and will require you to walk 10 extra steps in the glaring heat.
  16. Do not wait too long to get off the  Jeepney, as you risk flying past your destination. This will make you look like a foreigner and schmuck and will require you to walk the glaring heat.
  17. To exit the Jeepney, once again fold your body in half, while simultaneously sliding your backpack on your shoulder and hop off as quickly as possible. Do not be alarmed if the Jeepney starts moving again while you jump off.
  18. Wait for the next Jeepney to take you to your final destination. Repeat steps 1-17.
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“more fun in the philippines”

The department of tourism has recently announced a new campaign to attract tourists to the Philippines. The tagline: More Fun in the Philippines. The tagline might be lost on people who have never been to the Philippines or who do not know many Filipinos. The spirit of  joy in the Philippines is unmatched anywhere else in the world. A blanket claim, we know, and since we have not spent extensive amounts of time in every part of the world, it is also completely unfounded. But we stand by it! We have compiled just a sampling of why we agree with the Department of Tourism that it really is “more fun in the philippines”

  1. In-flight trivia and entertainment. On our flight from Singapore to the Philippines we knew we were making a cultural shift as soon as we stepped onto the plane. The in-flight entertainment is LIVE, and includes a trivia game with, yes you got it, real prizes! To top it off, everyone (despite age and class) is really really into the trivia game, working hard for the free Cebu-Pacific airlines tote. The trivia or in-flight LIVE entertainment is varied and sometimes includes karoake (yes, using the flight attendants announcement microphone). Whats more, this dance is incorporated into their safety demonstration! Buckle your seatbelts and turn up the beat, filipinos plan to get down if the plane goes down. And in response to a few criticisms, they added an all male crew dance.
  2. And the dancing doesn’t stop there…At the NCCC mall here, the staff stops what they are doing 4 times a day to perform a choreographed dance. And we mean everyone. This mall is 4 stories high. Watch and experience one of our daily encounters!
  3. You may remember a few years ago when a Filipino video went viral featuring Filipino prisoners dancing to “thriller” in one of the largest Cebu prisons. For a refresher, we highly recommend you watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KadX7lqgxpA&feature=fvsr and for a more recent production from the prisons of the Philippines, you can see the radio gaga dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAVVVMcTShQ&feature=fvsr as well as jai ho: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTMUZ39UHgo&feature=related
  4. UNO? I mean, who likes the game uno, right? Unless you are still young and just learning it might be one of the most boring games on the face of the planet, next to go fish. But somehow, filipinos magically transform the game of UNO into an exhilarating and laugh-till-your-stomach-hurts card game.
  5. Videoke. It’s the national pastime in the Philippines, but it’s not about singing well, its just about joining in together and singing your guts out. Bad singing can be heard on every street corner, but somehow coupled with laughter and chatter it becomes a wonderful reminder of the palpable joy that surrounds us daily.
  6. Filipinos LAUGH at everything. They love to laugh. When there is crisis, they laugh. When there is celebration, they laugh. When there is loss, they still manage to laugh. When something is funny, they laugh. When something is kind-of-sort-of-could-have-been-funny-on-another-planet, they laugh (usually followed by shrieks and more laughing).
  7. Filipinos love LOVE. Cheesy, cheesy, cheesy love stories, love quotes, romantic comedies. February 1st marked, for most filipinos, the month of LOVE. Our facebook accounts have been loaded with so many love quotes, not to mention valentines-themed posters that adorn every street corner, we didn’t realize this much cheese could exist in one city. Of course, the philippines makes national news about this time every year because they hold the guiness world record for the most people kissing at the same time. Indeed, Lovapalooza has become an annual tradition. And the sap quotes know no boundary: Men, women, old, young, can be heard shrieking with joy and sharing a giggle in the name of love. Pass the cheese, please.
  8. Icebreakers. You haven’t experienced icebreakers until you have experienced Filipino icebreakers. Every training requires several breaks with very energetically delivered icebreakers (songs, dances, etc) without distinction of age, social class or “professionalism” the best are trainings with older pastors who joyfully participate in all of the icebreakers. Another “training” phenomenon in the Philippines are different “claps” or “pak-pak” (round of applause you clap in a circle, the “rainbow” clap, the “fireworks” clap and the “rodeo” clap are among the top “pak-paks” used here).
  9. Of course, for us landlocked beings, its more fun in the Philippines because of our proximity to pristine islands: scuba diving, tropical fruits, fresh fish, moist cake on every street corner, its really hard to beat. Not to mention the frequency with which filipinos eat. They love snacking! So peanuts, caramelized bananas, taho, ice cream, and all kinds of wonderful snacks abound in every corner of the city! We eat breakfast followed by merienda followed by lunch followed by merienda followed by dinner followed by merienda… And for filipinos, its not a meal unless you have rice, so “snacks or meriendas” here include full plates of spaghetti, tuna sandwiches, and the list goes on…
  10. People Power. Perhaps the most powerful example of Filipino joy is the People Power movement. The People Power Revolution (or EDSA revolution) of 1986 nonviolently overthrew one of the worst dicators in Filipino history. Nonviolent activism doesn’t encompass the movement’s approach. Filipinos literally toppled the dictatorship with flowers, dancing, music and gifts. Photos abound of filipinos showering the military soldiers with cigarettes and flowers. It was a movement fueled, not by anger or despair, but by hope and joy and remains an incredible symbol of the power that continues to reside within the people of this country. Exuberant. Joyful. Infectious. Laughter.
How is it possible to have an entire country full of over-the-top extraverts who have a natural proclivity towards joy & happiness? Where does this abundance of {sustained} joy come from? Is it something in the food (stinky-dried fish does not strike us as particularly joy-inducing). Is it in the air (not unless you find joy in exhaust fumes and burning leaves & trash). Regardless of the mysterious source of incredibly infectious joy remains a mystery, it is hard to deny that it truly is “more fun in the Philippines.”
We’d love to hear your own examples of why its more fun in the Philippines (or WITH filipinos)!

Typhoon Sendong

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 There is no way to write our first post without talking about the Typhoon that hit northern Mindanao 10 days before our arrival to Davao. Much of our work in the next 6 months will be focused on the rehabilitation of the areas affected by the region and we have felt, repeatedly, that we have come at just the right time to offer a few more helping hands in the mid and long-term healing process for northern Mindanao.

We apologize ahead of time if the background and details are a bit lengthy, but much of what we will be writing about in the coming months will be directly related to this post, so we though a bit of background on the flood and the causes of the flood as well as Peacebuilders approach to relief and healing would be helpful:

On December 17th Typhoon Sendong hit the northern coast of Mindanao, causing flash floods in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Over 1,000 people died & more than 330,000 people were affected as a result of the flash flooding. There are still close to 50,000 displaced people in evacuation centers and make-shift tent cities.

Within hours of hearing about the Typhoon, Peacebuilders Community, Inc. began organizing and meeting to create a long-term relief strategy. Jeff and I arrived in time to accompany PBCI on their second direct relief operation and have now moved into “phase two,” preparing for mid and long-term strategies for the survivors of Typhoon Sendong.

Within our first week here in the Philippines, we have witnessed the incredible generosity and dedication of the Filipino people in response to this crisis. Though there has also been substantial international support, Filipinos have volunteered, donated, and contributed to the relief efforts in northern Mindanao in remarkable ways.

PBCI created 4 teams: direct relief, trauma healing, medical response & long-term strategic planning. The PBCI Relief Team served a total of 2,065 families. The Medical Team cared for a total of 906 patients. The trauma healing Intervention Team cared for a total of 460 traumatized children. Jeff accompanied the medical team, while I participated in long term strategic planning and coordination with a network of pastors in the region.

The flood is only an exacerbation of larger systemic and environmental issues in the Philippines, namely illegal logging. Illegal logging is inevitably connected to multi-national corporations, as well as ongoing conflict between these corporations and the New Peoples Army (one of the armed communist groups in the Philippines). Over the last several years, Peacebuilders has been working in one of the major logging areas, Bukidnon. Starting with the fairtrade coffee project (Coffee for Peace), they were able to build relationships with the people in Bukidnon and have now hired two teams of 3 people to work in strategic areas in order to address illegal logging as well as the ongoing conflict between the NPA and the multinational corporations by training and supporting Peace and Reconciliation teams within these strategic communities. The Coffee for Peace project of Peacebuilders also provides a concrete project, which encourages economic stability in the region, while also promoting sustainable agricultural practices (an alternative to illegal logging). The mudslide and flooding that caused the flash flooding in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro is directly related to the illegal logging in areas of Bukidnon. One of the more immediate and imaginative responses to the “killer logs” (named because many of the bodies were found under the logs) has been to retrieve and utilize them to rebuild homes for the survivors of the flood, being carried out by one of PBCIs partners, Ecoweb.

Since the causes of Sendong are multifaceted, Peacebuilders’ response is also multifaceted: working both at long-term solutions for illegal logging & peacebuilding while also providing direct support for relief and rehabilitation, restoration and reconciliation (potential conflict identification and management in the areas devastated by the flooding).

Jeff and I will be part of this multi-faceted approach to Sendong in our time here and the majority of what we will be doing will have a connection to the survivors of Sendong. To be part of an organization that recognizes the connection of environmental justice, peacebuilding, economic justice (fair trade) to Typhoon Sendong is incredibly inspiring and we are very energized to be a small part of these efforts. We are also very glad to dive headfirst into work here at Peacebuilders and are grateful for the ways we have been incorporated so quickly into the organization.

Although we have been here for several weeks, we just recently moved into an apartment (it was too busy and we were traveling before) and we are excited to settle here in the city (although Jeff leaves again for a medical response trip in two days). We’ll be posting more about our life here, the people we are working with, the foods & experiences we love and more stories of our work in the coming weeks and months.