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Acts of Kindness

Updates from the LDS mission of Kathleen O’Reilly as she serves in the Philippines. Click “Subscribe to Blog” and be notified immediately of all new posts, photos, and articles.

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Aug. 17, 2013 - P-Day, Jeepneys, & Tricycles

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August 17, 2013 - Saturday - Today is Saturday and our P-day.  I did some laundry, washed some dishes, cleaned my bathroom and tried to get things picked up and organized.  Sister Doig is home and is still not as well as she needs to be.  She gets short of breath even just moving around here a little.  I am so sorry she has been so sick. I know how much I hate not feeling well.  I offered to go get her prescriptions for her but she, being the hard headed individual she is, insisted she could do it herself.  I walked over to the Pharmacy with her.  By the time we got back she was as white as a sheet, panting for breath and absolutely exhausted.  Poor thing,
After she rested for a while she wanted to go out to eat.  I offered to fix us something but she was pretty adamant.  We walked over to a place called "Johnny Rockets". I understand that there are Johnny Rockets in the States but I had never seen or been to one.  They look like a 1950's diner.  All red and white decor with black and white checkerboard floors.  They play loud music inside the diner and out on the sidewalk in front of the diner.  As part of their job the servers have to go out on the sidewalk and dance to the music to help drum up business.  It's kind of fun.  When we left I danced for a few minutes too.  It made me feel young and connected.  I could just see my theatre kids/students having a great time rocking to the music on the sidewalks.
I loved talking to our little waitress.  Her name was Ruszel.  She was a pretty little thing with such lovely dark eyes.  She told me she was from Rizal which is about 40 miles from here.  I said, "Wow! That's a long way to come to work."  Her answer was simply,  "I have to work and I am lucky to have this good job."  She waits tables at a this diner and comes over an hour each way in a bus, and a jeepney to come to work.  She thinks she is lucky.  How many of us would be willing to sacrifice that much just to get to a job that does not even pay minimum wage?  In America...not many I am ashamed to say.  Probably me included.  Oh how blessed and spoiled we are.  She probably makes about  $5.00 for an 8 hour day and thinks she is blessed.  I think of each day here as a miracle full of eye opening and awakening experiences that remind me of how much I have and how blessed my life is.  I know my Heavenly Father loves me.  Then I remind myself that he loves Ruzsel just as much as he does me and that his heart probably aches that she is without so much, but proud of her for trying so hard to make her life good.  She is one of the MIRACLES IN EACH DAY that I am going to always look for and write about.
For her to come to work each day on a jeepney is in itself a marvel.  Jeepneys and tricycles are modes of transportation throughout the Philippines.  They work really well here in the crowded city but they do make me just a bit nervous.  Like all vehicles on the streets here, most are driven like they are the only one on the road and it's unnerving.  Very little caution and a lot of nerve.
Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and flamboyant decorations, which have become an ever present symbol of Philippine culture and art. Some of the artwork painted on them is amazing and beautiful.  I especially like the ones with art work that expresses the Filipino culture and those that look like impressionists paintings.

Jeepneys were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War ll. The word jeepney came from the combination of the words "jeep" and "jitney".  It's  a small bus that carries passengers on a regular route with a flexible schedule. While most are used as public utility vehicles, jeepneys that are used as personal vehicles have their rears door attached with "For family use" or "Private" signs painted on them to alert other commuters. Jeepneys are used less often for commercial or institutional use.  Every weekday morning there is a jeepney that stops in front of the building I live in to pick up two white kids to take them to a private school.  So it has back doors and is labeled with the name of the school and the word PRIVATE painted on both the sides and the back end.
When American troops began to leave the Philippines at the end of WWII, hundreds of surplus jeeps were sold or given to the Filipinos. The jeeps were stripped down and altered by the locals; metal roofs were added for shade; and they decorated the vehicles with vibrant colors with chrome plated ornaments on the sides and hood. They reconfigured the back seat into two long parallel benches with passengers facing each other to accommodate more passengers. Its size, length and passenger capacity had increased as it evolved though the years.  These were classified as passenger-type jeeps. The non-extended, original-seat configuration jeeps were labeled owners, short for owner-type jeeps, and are used non-commercially. The original jeepneys were refurbished military jeeps.  Modern jeepneys are now produced with surplus engines and parts coming from Japan.

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The jeepney rapidly came into being a popular and creative way to re-establish inexpensive public transportation, which had been virtually destroyed during WWII. Recognizing the widespread use of these vehicles, the Philippine government began to regulate their use. Drivers now must have specialized licenses , regular routes, and reasonably fixed fares.
The part about the jeepneys that undoes me is the way people get on and off them in the middle of moving traffic in the middle of a highway.  It's a blooming wonder not more people get killed than do.
The people who own the house in San Pablo that Elder and Sister Hardin live in own the company called Celestial Motors which makes jeepneys here locally in the Philippines.  They are members of the church and are considered wealthy by Filipino standards.  They are wealthy by my standards.  They have the Gospel in their lives and know that Jesus Christ is their Savior and that their Heavenly Father loves them.  That is rich!
Jeepneys can be found at designated jeepney stands with dispatcher/barker present usually calling out the destination to usher in passengers. The routes are painted on the sides and below the windshield of the vehicles. They are often manned by two people, the driver and the conductor (also informally called the "backride".  If available, the conductor manages passengers and takes care of fare collection. In most vehicles, however, only the driver is present, and passengers have to ask the adjacent passengers to pass on the fare to the driver. The driver in this case, relies on the honesty of the passengers in paying their fare.
Jeepneys can be flagged down much like taxis by holding out or waving your arm at the approaching vehicle. Because of the proximity of the passengers in jeepneys, a certain etiquette is followed. Jostling and shoving passengers is considered rude; talking loudly and boisterous behavior is discouraged. Children are sometimes allowed to ride for free if they agree to sit on the lap of the accompanying adult and not take up seating space. The elderly and women are offered seats first if the jeepney is full as male passengers could sometimes cling outside or sit on the roof instead (referred to colloquially as sabit (in Tagolog) meaning 'to hang on with your fingertips'. This practice is dangerous and illegal but I see it all the time.
To ask the driver to stop the vehicle, passengers can rap their knuckles on the roof of the jeepney, rap a coin on a metal handrail, or simply tell the driver to stop. The usual words used  for asking a driver to stop is para, from the Spanish word for 'stop'.  But it a word rarely used outside of the jeepney world.  Another alternative is to say Sa tabi lang po, meaning "Please pull over to the side of the curb". It is also preferred that the passengers call out the words rather than knock, as evidenced in the common admonition painted on some jeepneys:     Ang katok, sa pinto; ang sutsot, sa aso; ang `para', sa tao which means : Knocking is for doors; whistling is for dogs; para for humans.
Modern jeepney owners often install buzzers operated by buttons or by pushing down a cable or string that run the length of jeepney's ceiling to alert the driver to stop, making it easier for the passengers.
There are pros and cons to jeepneys. The jeepney is the cheapest way to commute in the Philippines. Because of its open rear door design, picking up and dropping off is easy for  both passengers and drivers, they can stop anywhere unlike buses. But also because of this convenience, some jeepney drivers are the source of traffic congestion by indiscriminately loading and unloading passengers in the middle of the street, blocking traffic and risking the safety of some passengers. They are notorious for engaging in unfair practices such as jostling over passengers, blocking other jeepneys to get passengers in the middle of the lane and trip-cutting which is not completing the route, dropping off passengers if there are less than three in the jeepney. They stand and wait for a new set of passengers as it is not profitable for them to continue the route. Hence, some people are requesting that this mode of transportation be phased out. Jeepneys are also blamed as a major source of air pollution in the big cities. 

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The buses and taxi cabs and other public transportation is just like any other big city.  the only other unusual thing is the tricycles which are basically motorcycles with a side car.  I have seen as many as 8 people on a tricycle.  It's rather unorthodox and massively unsafe but it just goes on.  The scariest thing I have seen on a tricycle was the driver that had a baby and a toddler with him on the motorcycle part of the tricycle. Baby was probably about 6 months old and the toddler could not have been more than 18 months old. Both of those babies just clung to their dad like baby monkeys do to their parents.  Terrifying and beyond treacherous.   I had bad dreams about it the night I saw it.  I dreamed I had both my grandsons, Liam and Will, who are both less than a year old and I was trying to ride a regular bike with them hanging on and my leg was caught in the chain of the bicycle.  When I awakened with a start my leg was jammed between my bed and the wall and my foot was asleep,  When I realized it was just a dream I quickly said a prayer to thank God that my babies were safely at home with their Moms and Dads (monga Nanay at Tatay) and that I was not trying to ride a bike with them clinging to me.  I am so grateful for their safety and health and that they are so loved and protected. 
I am grateful too that I knew I could turn to my Heavenly Father (Ama sa Langit)  in that time of fear and that I would be comforted.  I am so blessed to know that he hears me and listens to my silly little frets and worries and that regardless of how simple and unmeaningful they may seem in relationship to the huge needs of the world, that I am still important enough to be reassured and to be given peace. I rejoice in knowing he is there for me.
I am going to go to bed now.  I hope you are all good and happy.  If not..find a way to be.
New Tagolog words for today: Nanay = mom. Tatay = Dad, Ama sa Langit = Father in Heaven
Hugs and love to all,  Miss Kate
Love,

Sister O'Reilly

"Blessed is the influence of one true, loving, human soul on another." -- George Eliot

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