Tourists in Manila have a new sight to behold. The once colorful jeepneys that made the common mass transportation iconic in the first place just got a boost from volunteers at the First Jeepney Arts Festival in Manila held recently.
The jeepney has been part and parcel of the landscape of the country, both in the cities and in the provinces, since the end of World War II. But in recent years, the popular tourist draw has been relegated as just a means of transportation, losing its appeal as both a symbol of Philippine culture and as a venue for local artisans to express their work.
Organizers of the arts festival had this in mind when they set out to change this notion and bring back the jeepney at the forefront of Philippine tourist attractions.
Clang Garcia, operator of Daily City Tours, which uses the jeepney as tourist coaches in their organized tours of Philippine cities for local and foreign tourists, said the event is her way of helping the government's tourism program by utilizing an effective and free but neglected means of advertising.
Thus, the First Jeepney Arts Festival was born. The jeepneys, around 50 of them, were all provided by the Federation of Jeepney Drivers and Operators (FEJODAP).
In exchange, representatives of the jeepney association got free uniforms and a workshop on values formation and Philippine culture, which can be practical when they encounter tourists as passengers. Plus, they got refurbished jeepneys at no cost to them.
The project got the support of the Department of Tourism and eventually, private sponsors who provided the venue and materials needed in the repainting of the jeepneys.
As for the artists who worked on the units, Garcia was proud to be able to harness the bayanihan spirit of the Filipino by getting the support of schools, private entities and individuals who were tapped via social media, many of whom just walked in to help.