THE COURTESY PROBLEM

Riding a jeepney in the Philippines didn’t use to be such an extremely annoying experience, and this is barring the perennial problem of traffic congestions. You didn’t have to be Ms. Sunshine – you simply had to be mindful and courteous, which are all part and parcel of the social contract. Looking at the situation rationally, there is no way that the people at entrance can hand their money to the driver thus, to solve the problem, the other seated passengers lend a helping hand. The same modus operandi goes for the ones who “ride” by standing at the entrance and hold on for dear life on one of the rails.

The young girl – probably in her late teens – wasn’t to blame, but it seemed like she was the one being blamed when I snapped, “Pakibigay sa driver!” My brusque tone was meant for any of the two passengers to my left who were irritatingly nonchalant; the tone was aggravated by the fact I had to pick up the PhilP20 that fell on the floor because the man next to me decided to play dumb and blind. He and his woman friend were discourteous and deliberately ignoring the social contract of jeepney riders. I was two people away – the two being the unconcerned man and woman – to hand the fare of the person from the opposite side of the jeepney. It was that young girl who, without qualm, handed it to the driver. Adding to the aggravation was the woman helped who was equally rude. Thank you was not part of her vocabulary.

In the Philippines, the American military jeepney has been reinvented as the one of the country’s form of public transportations that ferry the multitude of lower and middle class citizens to various destinations. A jeepney typically sits between 22 people excluding the driver, who multitasks as barker, conductor, and driver in every single trip. The front of the jeepney sits the driver and two passengers; this section faces the road like regular car passengers would unlike the back of the jeep that has two parallel lines of 10+ seated passengers per side facing each other. If you’re seated right next to or simply a distance from the entrance, it becomes customary that your fare is passed down the line of passengers until it reaches the driver. The same thing happens with your change. This passing down of the fare and change is the social contract among riders – you help out by passing the money to the next person once the person says, “Bayad po. Makikisuya lang.” Naturally, you utter or mumble “Salamat po” in return after the help extended to you.

This afternoon’s jeepney ride around the Timog – Tomas Morato just demonstrated the lack of cognizance, if not deliberate, disregard of the social contract. The two passengers, who were in their silver years, were behaving as if they were riding a taxi or a private car hence this I-don’t-care attitude towards other people. But this is completely wrong because public transportations demand interaction with humans probably not on a BFF scale but, at least, on a level of human civility. The logic is simple: if you are taking the jeepney, you must expect a level of involvement and, in this case, you do your part in passing on the fare if needed. If you are the obstinate kind and see humanity as beneath you yet still need to take the jeepney, then you make sure you are the first passenger onboard so you can walk the length to the driver and hand him the fare personally then scurry back to the seat at the entrance so you don’t have to be part of the fare chain.

This little incident is symptomatic of what is plaguing the Philippines, as read in newspapers and heard from TV news of fist fights and whatnots. However, courtesy isn’t the problem itself, but the lack of its teaching and practice of extending courtesy toward others. How can one be courteous if one wasn’t ever taught the need and importance of the concept? Everyone is caught up with his/her own angst, selfie moments and ego that are antithetical to courtesy. It will certainly be a regressive point in Philippine life if a courtesy campaign is to be launched.

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