Jeepneys are the most popular and affordable means of public transportation in the Philippines. In some parts of Cavite, they have their own unique public utility vehicle, which is a bit larger than the famous jeepney yet smaller than typical buses. These are the “baby buses” or “mini buses” as locals call them.
Alongside the traditional modes of transportation and private cars, baby buses can also be seen plying through the busy streets of Cavite. Just like a typical jeepney, it is characterized as an eye-catching public transportation that is painted with vibrant colors and flashy accessories.
Its structure is simple with wooden seats attached to classic steel. Unlike the traditional jeepney, baby buses can take in more passengers as it caters up to 30 people.
Baby bus drivers also use the famous tagline “Libre sakay, may bayad pagbaba.” Instead of saying “para po” when you wish to alight the ride, you just have to press a buzzer to signal the driver to stop. Passengers would pay the fare just before they descend.
With designated routes such as Bacoor City, Naic, Rosario, Kawit, Noveleta, and Cavite City, baby buses stop anywhere along the way to let off or pick up passengers.
In an interview, Raymond Garcia, 36, shared his experiences as a driver for almost a decade now.
“Bata pa lang ako, nandito na ito eh. Nang maisip kong magtrabaho, ito na rin pinili kong tahakin. Mabilis kasi ang pera dito,” he said.
Usually starting his drive before 6 in the morning, he works full hours along the Bacoor-Zapote route until 9 p.m.
During the good days, Garcia earns up to P1,500, while on rough days especially during the pandemic, he barely gets P800 a day. Outside of his earnings, he pays P1000 per day to his operator.
“Kahit papaano, nabubuhay, nakakaraos,” he said.
Garcia also shared his sentiments about passengers who just jump out the bus without paying the fare.
“Maraming nag 1-2-3 dito. Minsan, nakakasama ng loob kasi sayang ang kita. Nagtatrabaho kami nang tapat, hindi sila nagbabayad nang maayos. Ang dami nila. Halos araw-araw. Pero wala naman akong magawa. Bahala na ang Diyos sa kanila.”
Since driving a baby bus is his main source of income, Garcia expressed his concern over the jeepney phase-out for baby bus drivers will also be affected by this regulation.
“Nakakalungkot talaga. Kung matutuloy man, baka hindi na ako makabiyahe ulit,” Garcia said adding that small-time drivers like him can’t afford the modern jeepney.
For Garcia, baby bus has been a cultural icon and a trademark of Cavite.
“Sa Cavite lang meron nito. Naging tradisyon na rin yan dito. Malaking kawalan sa kultura ng mga Caviteno kapag nawala ang baby bus,” he said.
Currently, there are only a few baby buses left. Most of them have been retired from the road or have been converted for other purposes.
“Yung iba, kapag medyo luma na, binibenta nalang sa mga artista. Pinapasabog nila sa shooting ng mga pelikula.”
Baby buses have been on the road for six decades now. This cultural symbol of Cavite proves that their own “Kings of the Road” can withstand the province’s struggles, progress, and change through time.