Sunday, 6 March 2011


From about 6.5 thousand miles, Josh West, a London Bus Driver, travelled around 18 hours going to Manila to see what it’s like to be an ordinary jeepney driver and experience one of the most shocking and dangerous conditions of the planet.

Philippine Jeepneys: A hybrid of the American World War 2 vehicle
Manila, the world’s most densely populated city, in the eyes of an innocent Londoner who cross thousand of miles, dropped for ten days the comfort and convenience of his work and braved the chaos streets of the Philippines capital city.
One of the UK’s well-followed TV giant BBC 2, featured yesterday a documentary of Mr Rogelio Castro, a jeepney driver, who feeds a family of eight and is able to build his own humble shelter through his daily savings in the crowded San Andres Bukid,. But, he still dreams to send his children to good school in college, to secure a much better life in the future. He met Josh West, a valiant bus driver from London who got the shock of his life to realize the unpleasant condition of Filipino squatters and the kind of life they are going through.

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The TV documentary called its show ‘The Toughest Place to be a Bus Driver’, considered Manila a contrast of poverty and wealth, showing the sea of rubbish floating on a very filthy river opposite the skyscrapers of Makati central district. The gap between the rich and poor is one of the worst in the world. Whilst the rich enjoyed the luxury of life, the poorest among the poor work the hardest to have something to eat.

It was a bit funny though that the British man, in all honesty, expected a bigger bus when he arrived only to find out, with wide embarrassment, that he was actually going to experience to drive a jeepney that Rogelio owned. Well technically, the Pinoy jeepney is a hi-breed of a World War II American bus and has ever since become a symbol of Filipino transportation. Jeepneys are all over the country and are one of the popular methods for public transports next to tricycles.

Josh was truthfully not pleased about the cruel condition on the road, and much more not happy about the humiliating situation of the many people he met in 10 days. But for the poor Filipinos working more than 12 hours a day, it is the best they can have, the most decent source of living. Watching it was so demeaning, not because I am ashamed of my country, but because in my mind, it would truly take a long time to restore a country broken not only politics and corruption, but also indiscipline and social injustice.
The Hundred Islands Of Pangasinan, Philippines

The Philippines is generally a beautiful country, long stretch of white beaches, beautiful mountain ranges, abundance in natural resources, and a vast agricultural land that could have make it a tiger country if only its resorces are used properly and appropriately to propel the economy.

The beautiful Pearl Farm of Davao, Philippines
But too much politics and inequity to rural development forced people to move to highly urbanised cities, build shanties around unoccupied lots and eventually become a social problem to development. Squatting is rampant around Metro Manila and to visitors and tourists, these eye sores provide the impression that there is not enough land to cultivate.
To my mind, it is still not too late to create a paradigm shift to development. That instead of dreaming to become a highly industrialized country in the Southeast Asia (a vision by former President Ramos), why not develop it into becoming an agriculturally advanced nation and encouraged its citizens to become partners in agricultural revolution.

Thailand remained strong in its farming programs and therefore food is not a serious problem Vietnam which was considered an economic duckling 20 years ago has now put itself in the most progressive countries of Asia. Malaysia which maintains a balance in countryside development and urban development continues to reap good harvest and benefited its economy and people. The Philippines on the other hand has to import agricultural products and livestocks and degradingly lost its glory to having the best agricultural scientists some 30 to 40 years ago.
Paradise Island Resort of Davao, Philippines

But again, it is never too late. If the programs of government must change, it should shift focus, it should shift its attention to the agricultural potential of the rural communities, it should depart from the vision of highly industrialized country. Otherwise and sadly, poverty is a tough drive to alleviate, and a progressive Philippines would be the toughest way to drive.

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