Friday, August 20, 2004

From war machine to Pinoy "home on wheels"

On July 7, 1940, the US Army requested the War Department for an all terrain reconnaissance go-anywhere vehicle that seated three and had a mount for a 30-caliber machine gun. Tens of thousands of these vehicles were used in World War II. For many Filipinos the jeep was, and—with the continuing presence of American troops in the islands—still is an imperializing “text.” The jeepney, the Philippines’ most popular mode of mass transportation, resists this “text.” A jeep becomes a jeepney when it ceases to serve its original purpose and is transformed into something else, like beating swords into ploughshares. Jeepneys are unexpected readings of a jeep. Filipinos did at least three things to the jeep: they removed the machine gun mount, increased its limited seating capacity from three to sixteen-plus-passengers, and transformed the military vehicle into a “Filipino home on wheels.”

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