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 (photo from yahoo images)

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.

London Bus (photo from Yahoo images)

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 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.

Rice Terraces of Banaue, has been dubbed one of the 7 Wonders of the World. (photo from yahoo images)

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.

The green ricefields promise a better future for the Philippines. (photo from yahoo images)

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.



The harmony of the green fields of grain, and the beauty of the blue skies call for improved agricultural programs. (photo from yahoo images)

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.



  1. miss says:

    It really was degrading. My British friend phoned me regarding this matter as I was inviting him to come over to visit the Philippines here in Manila as I was telling him of the beautiful beaches…but instead telling me of this tv program. I have not commented as I have not seen it yet. The city is too populated. I think it would be more helpful if the government would provide buses instead of smaller means of transportation and put restrictions to stop anywhere but only where they have to put a “bus stop” only and have a minimal produce of a smaller means of transportation like jeepney and tricycle. Make time and effort as assignment on every district to clean Manila and esp I am sorry to say but make way to clean informal settlers or make something for this people that makes the country looking very dirty because of undisciplined people make the whole country looking very bad. Give this people a living that will help them find a livelihood in their provinces so that they don’t need force themselves here in Manila.

    • earlied says:

      Hi Miss,

      Thanks for taking time to read the article..I was also very sad when i saw the program because the Philippines as whole was projected to be so dirty and poor when in fact our country is generally clean and there are truly beautiful beaches and tourist spots that you can surely be proud of. The whole program exploited the condition of our bus drivers, and i find it so unfair for BBC or the producers of the show to portray our country in that context.

      Don’t worry, just continue to invite your friend, and tell him the program was a biased presentation of the Philippines, there are also many poor people in the UK, lazy and are only after of government benefits, which to me is not a decent way of survival.

      My brother in law is a British but he likes the Philippines a lot, they have their own house in Davao and most of the time they spend their holidays in the Philippines because he is more at home in our country, he loves the beaches and the people, so tell your friend not be afraid because he will surely enjoy if he tries to visit our country.