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Jeepney King Festival
Manila - April

From an American surplus to a Philippine icon. The jeepney driver is honored in the Jeepney King Festival celebrated in Manila every April. Festivities include exhibitions of colorful jeepneys and fiesta caravans.

The jeepney's stereophonic sound system blares all over the road, it travels accentuating the cacophony of urban traffic of Philippine streets. Like a breathless daredevil, it swerves aggressively and fearlessly here and there at top speed, even in the narrowest street of the Philippines.

A tacit display of Pinoys' indigenous ingenuity and improvisation, the jeepney is the cheapest and fastest transportation available this side if third world. Its humble beginnings started in the greasy dirt yards and garages of small welding shops in post-Liberation Manila in the 1940's.

From an American surplus jeep, it was an expedient mode of transportations. When these surplus units were lined up for disposal, Pinoys, being resourceful by nature overhauled and transformed these into some pop baroque contraption on wheels, complete with colorful paintings, banners and blinding lights adorning them.

It was molded after the kalesa, or more precisely, the Visayan tartanilla where the entrance is at the rear and the passengers sit facing each other.

An image of our collective consciousness, the Jeepney does not allow them to be merely functional. They are embellished with ostentatious display of ornaments; they became a canvass of our creativity and sentimentality.

With its exuberant borloloys- colored plastic streamers, religious icons and pin-ups, false antennae, crocheted curtains, fowl wings and metal horses on the hoods, they become a multisensory experience.

The colors, the sounds and the pulsating liveliness of the jeepney are an embodiment of our optimism. So they have been around for ages. And given it a jeepney king festival are making them well known in the world they have not only endured but have also prevailed to be the one and only "King of the Road". You ban them from the roads and it's like killing the festive spirits of a truly Pinoy urban setting.


Philippe Girardeau collection from the exhibit  "King of the Road" commisioned by the French Embassy

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