The jeepney is not fondly called the “king of the Philippine roads,” due to how they hog the roads to get passengers, and leave with a thick blast of black smoke in their wake. This competitive nature of jeepney drivers on the road has led to a machismo culture among these men, which is proudly and at times funnily expressed in the development of jeepney art. This was best exemplified by the humorous and sexist signs that jeepney drivers would hang inside the passenger cabin, to entertain the commuters. The most famous of these signs is the “Basta Driver, Sweet Lover!” And in my documentation of religious iconographic art on jeepneys that pass through Aurora Boulevard, I have discovered the airbrushed expressions of driver machismo that often clash with the images of saints painted right beside them.
One of the most common expressions of driver machismo is by painting racing and luxury cars on the sides of their jeepneys, alluding to their vehicles as just as powerful as these racers. This is also a subtle prayer that they wish they were driving a race car, instead of a jeepney.
With available of cheap cable TV services, drivers were exposed to monster trucks, and these quickly became a new symbol of masculinity. Soon monster truck, and the TV show Monster Jam, became popular, and the Monster Jam started staging events starting in 2015.
Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) are not too popular with jeepney drivers. This is probably because they are rivals for space in the city streets, and SUV drivers can be just as ornery as jeepney drivers, which leads to many confrontations. Never-the-less, this didn’t stop one jeepney driver in having a Ford Explorer painted on his jeepney, as his dream macho vehicle.
Whether it is a chopper, a racer, or a motocross bike; motorcycles have always represented the open road and the freedom to pass wherever you want. This is something the millions of moped riders know, throughout the country. Jeepney drivers use this symbolism of their own sense of freedom, especially how they try to get away with breaking traffic rules.
Military aircraft have always been popular with men, whose fascination with these aircraft was further enhanced with the release of the films “Top Gun” and “Iron Eagle” (1986). What are still popular now are late Cold War (1947-1991) aircraft, such as the F-14 Tomcat, the F-15 Eagle, the F-16 Falcon, and the Dassault Mirage III. In fact, many of the portrayal of the Cold War in the 1980s, still shapes the macho image of men today, especially the character of John Rambo, who was first featured in the film “First Blood” (1982).
Other military transport, specifically Americantanks, have also appealed to the Filipino male. This is thanks to the film and television portrayal of the American military forces as the best in the world, and the protectors of freedom. The M1 Abrams Battle Tank, and its latter variations, has been an iconic war machine, since its introduction in 1970. Still in production, with many modern upgrades, the Abrams Tank has served in the height of the Cold War on to the present.
The portrayal of water sports on the sides of the jeepneys isn’t about the driver’s interest in these sports. Rather the toughness and free-spirited nature of these athletes is what appeals to the jeepney driver.
However, the ultimate expression of the jeepney drivers’ machismo is the rendering of many sexy women on the sides of the vehicles. These portray the driver as virile, whether it is true or not.
These expressions of machismo on the jeepneys do not truly reflect the character of the jeepney driver. Many may complain of these images may be thought of as misogynist or chauvinistic, however many of these men are respectful sons to their mothers, loving husbands and doting fathers to their young daughters, and the artworks are a simple means to entertain themselves and the public, while on the road away from their families. This very well illustrated in how they share pop culture interests with their children, and paint these enjoined passions on their jeepneys, which is the subject of the next article.