Remembering Lolo Neong, the first UP Ikot driver 2
“Yung makita niyang masaya ang nasa paligid niya, he could provide properly for his family—that is the ultimate satisfaction for him,” says grandson Ardie Lopez. Photo courtesy of Lopez.
Culture

Remembering the first UP Ikot driver: ‘He was a hard worker, a man with simple joys’

The grandson of the recently departed Irineo Odoy talks about his lolo, founder of a Diliman icon
RHIA GRANA | Apr 20 2022

Ever wondered how the UP Ikot route started?
 
Before the year 1949, UP Diliman students had to take long walks from one class to another because there was no public transportation inside the campus. Irineo Odoy, whose family runs a store inside the State University, would regularly see tired, sweaty students as he drove his jeepney on his daily palengke run. 
 
To ease the difficulty of the UPD students, he thought of offering them a ride around the university for 5 centavos. His fellow jeepney drivers would laugh at him for the measly rate, but they were later surprised to learn that Odoy, or Mang Neong, was actually earning up to 100 pesos daily. 

Soon the drivers would follow Mang Neong’s lead, and that was how the UP Ikot route started and how Ikot jeepneys began making the campus rounds. Mang Neong would ply the route only for nine years but the UP Ikot business would continue for decades. 

Lolo Neong shared these recollections to his grandson Ardie Lopez, a UP alumni, in a Father’s Day video published in 2020. The old man was 97 then. Sadly, last April 12, Lolo Neong passed away after a long bout with pneumonia, Lopez tells ANCX. He was 99. 
 
Lopez remembers his Lolo Neong as a very hardworking padre de familia, one who did not hesitate to take on all sorts of manual labor to support his family. He and his wife Marquita had 10 children.

Lolo Irineo
Lolo Neong with UP Ikot drivers who were thrilled to meet the pioneer himself sometime in 2008.

“He wasn’t able to finish elementary school because they were so poor. Because of that, he learned to work early. Maaga siyang naging driver. He was a bus driver first and that was how he provided for his family,” says Lopez who claims to be one of his lolo’s favorite apos.  
 
Yung makita niyang masaya ang nasa paligid niya, he could provide properly for his family—that is the ultimate satisfaction for him,” Lopez offers. Aside from driving PUVs, Lolo Neong once worked as “tagabuhat” or an assistant to a mechanic, a relative. He would also buy coal from Isabela and bring them to Manila to sell.
 
There was a time during his summer vacations when Lopez would join his Lolo Neong in delivering goods, and the young man would be so impressed at how good his grandfather was in dealing with people. “He was very jolly at magaling makisama. Napaka-makatao niya. We appreciate him for being simple but good-hearted,” Lopez adds.

A native of Nueva Ecija, Lolo Neong kept his traditional Filipino values intact through the years. “Siya yung type na pag may funeral procession, aalisin niya ang sombrero niya, yuyuko at magbibigay galang siya,” says Lopez. “Nag-trickle down yun sa mga anak at apo nya. Sa kanya kami natutong maging magalang.”
 
Lolo Neong loved telling stories about his younger days. He enjoyed getting visits from his grandchildren and great grandchildren; there are probably more than 40 of them. Christmas and New Year’s Day were his favorite occasions because of the family reunions. “He loved being Santa Claus,” shares Lopez. “We’d give him some money but he would also give them away. Nagpapapila siya sa mga apo. He loved the act of giving.”

Lolo Neong Odoy was laid to rest Wednesday, April 20, at the Himlayang Pilipino in Tandang Sora, Quezon City. He may have passed on but his legacy will live in the memory of every UP Diliman student who rode an Ikot jeep.

Photos courtesy of Ardie Lopez