Apr 01, 2021
8 mins read
In the Philippines, jeepney is dubbed as “King of the Road”. Jeepney, for Filipinos, is a symbol of Filipino culture and continues to be the symbol of the Filipino's creativity, innovativeness, and ingenuity.1 From military vehicle to mode of public transportation, Jeepneys are the most powerful expressions of the Filipino people’s capacity to beat swords into plowshares according to Revelation Velunta.2 This vehicle serves as an affordable mode of public transport by the Filipino masses. This is not just a kind of public transportation, this also an icon of Filipino culture, values, and skills. If Filipino culture has a strong connection with Jeepneys, are Jeepneys have a strong connection with Filipino spirituality?
Pagsabit sa Jeepney: How this phenomenon occurs?
Part of the growing problems of ordinary Filipinos, especially those in Metro Manila, is the poor public transportation system. This problem is correlated to the phenomenon of “pagsabit sa jeepney” or hanging on the jeepney. This phenomenon is often experienced by many Filipinos almost every day when they are struggling to ride a public transport in the morning going to their work or school. Most people who do “pagsabit sa jeepney” are males, but there are also females who do this when taking public transportation is in a very struggling situation. During peak hours when public commuters are on the streets, taking public transport going to work or home, or even there is a public transport strike wherein the numbers of public vehicles is limited to serve the Filipino commuters, there the phenomena of “pagsabit sa jeepney” happens. In fact, in most rural areas, the struggle to ride jeepneys is much intense that even the roof of it use to accommodate public commuters. In the most difficult time, jeepneys serve the Filipino masses just like how it was created after World War 2 to serve the struggling Filipinos in a public transportation crisis.3 It approves Velunta quoted, “Filipino (mind) is conditioned by survival instincts and desperate situations, can do things on-the-spot waiting for every development to guide the next big move.”4
What is Faith?: Looking for the common understanding
Before discussing how the phenomenon of “pagsabit sa jeepney” becomes a possible image of Filipino’s faith, what is actually faith for most people? Hebrews 11, which commonly known as the ‘Faith Chapter’, suggests the biblical definition of faith, “Now FAITH is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1 – NRSV). Faith is commonly defined as “firm belief in someone (or something) for which there is no proof.”5 For Matthew Easton, ‘Faith’ is the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true.6 On James Strong’s concise definition, Faith means trust, confidence, assurance, and belief.7 Analyzing the common definition of faith, in general, Faith is about the state of the mind believing in someone or something as true and trustworthy without any need of evidence. Now, what is faith for Filipino people and how it is connected to the phenomenon of “pagsabit sa jeepney”?
II. Analysis of Filipino’s Faith
‘Sampalaya’ means Faith: Revealing the meaning using the concept of ‘Pagsabit sa Jeepney’
The Tagalog word for “faith” is “sampalataya” which according to Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, there are two important things that we can learn from this word: “sampa” and “taya.”8 “Sampa” which means “hop on” and “taya” which means “bet” are two root words combined to form the concept of sampa(la)taya. Crizaldo found a very interesting connection between the phenomenon of "pagasabit sa jeepney” and Filipino’s faith by analyzing the phenomenon of “pagsabit sa jeep” and used it to explain the concept of “sampalataya”.9 In relation to “pagsabit sa jeep”, it means that “you need to hop on and hold on, then you need to bet your life that as the jeepney starts to run you will not lose your grip on the metal handrails.”10 When you hang on the jeepney, you need to hop on (isampa) your whole body; you do not hop only one of your foot because for sure the jeepney will drag you.11 It is also the same with faith (pananampalataya) in God, we must not be half-hearted, we need to entrust to God all the plans we have and even our whole self. At the same time, to have faith means you are willing to stake and risk your life to God.12 Sadly, many Filipinos have the philosophy of “to see is to believe.”13
“Bahala na”: Another Filipino value
Many Filipino Anthropologists believed that “spirituality” is innate in the lives of the Filipino people.14 Even in the ordinary things that Filipino’s do every day, you can see their attitude and spirituality, like the phenomenon of “pagsabit sa jeep” which translates to an image of Filipino’s faith. Another Filipino value that shows their innate spirituality is the Filipino expression “Bahala na.” Some scholars see this attitude of Filipinos as “fatalistic”, which is a possible way of saying “Bahala na ang tadhana,” whatever will be, will be, or Que Sera, Sera.15 It is somehow shown that Filipino accepts hopelessness or defeat easily. However, Ed Lapiz had the latest observation about this popular Filipino expression“Bahala na,” that when Filipinos say this word, they actually mean “Bathala na!”16 The word “Bathala” is a Tagalog word that pertains to God as the Creator of all things. It is someway of Filipinos’ saying, “Lord, I allow You to take over.”17 Someone who will “Sabit sa Jeepney” would say, “Bahala na!” which might also mean to say, “Lord, I will hang in the jeepney. I entrust to You my life, may you keep me safe.”
The spirituality of the Filipinos truly sees in their attitudes and culture. Crizaldo believed that the innate spirituality of the Filipinos is the reason why they have a high resiliency that the other races admire.18 Even in the midst of struggle and difficulty in life, whatever natural calamities come to the Philippines, Filipinos can still stand, smile, and continue to be hopeful in life.
Sampalataya: A Unique Understanding of Faith
Analyzing Filipinos’ faith (sampalataya), it concludes that the Filipinos understanding of
faith is different from the general or common definition of faith. For Filipinos, “sampalataya” is not just believing in a certain person or things, it not just to have hope that it will happen – for Filipinos, “sampalataya” means you need to put your trust and willingness to take a risk.19 Filipinos’ faith is not just a condition in mind but is a way or action, an attitude, or we can say it as a way of life. The reason why Filipinos have a different understanding or approach on faith is related to what Florentino Timbreza wrote, “What is uniquely Filipino are the ways by which Filipinos arrive at decisions and conclusions which are based more on their values systems rather than on logical principles.”20 Filipinos understanding of faith is unique because they based it more on their values systems.
Moreover, Filipinos’ sampalataya is embodied in their ugali (attitude) which contains loob. Loob, according to Dionisio Miranda, could be referred to the actual choices that sarili (self) makes.21 Such decisions are classifiable in a variety of ways: central or peripheral, minor or grave, decisive or unimportant, incidental or habitual, and so on.22 For Miranda, loob is a psycho-moral reality of the Filipinos.23 Though, Crizaldo has some reservation if sampalataya, which concept is related to “pagsabit sa jeepney,” is the Tagalog equivalent of faith since the English terminology of it does not capture what it takes to make “sabit sa jeepney.”24 Crizaldo believed that faith in a general sense is more technically linked to “certainty” and “evidence,” while its Tagalog counterpart is more on “trust.”25 But then again, Filipinos’ faith is different and unique because they based it more on their values systems.
1 Godofredo U. Stuart Jr., “The Philippine Jeepneys,” Stuartxchange Blog, 2017, accessed October 23, 2017, http://www.stuartxchange.org/Jeepney.html.
2 Revelation Velunta, Facebook post, October 15, 2017 (5:50 p.m.) accessed, October 15, 2017,
3 Revelation E. Velunta, “Filipinos and their Jeepneys,” Jeepney Hermeneutics Blog, February 19, 2008, accessed August 16, 2017, https://jeepney.blogspot.com/2008/02/filipinos-and-their-jeepneys.html.
5 Merriam-Webster, s.v. "Faith," definition 2b, 2017, accessed October 23, 2017, https://www.merriamwebster.com/dictionary/faith.
6 Matthew George Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1897), 348.
7 James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2001), 1315.
8 Rei Lemuel Crizaldo and Ronald Molmisa, Pinoy Big Values (Mandaluyong City: OMF Literature Inc.,
9 Rei Lemuel Crizaldo, “For Filipinos, it is Not Faith,” XgenesisRei Tumbler Blog, May 19, 2017, accessed July 14, 2017, http://xgenesisrei.tumblr.com/post/160833492835/for-filipinos-it-is-not-faith.
10 Crizaldo, “For Filipinos, it is Not Faith.”
12 Crizaldo and Molmisa, Pinoy Big Values, 80-81.
14 Ed Lapiz, Pagpapahiyang: Redeeming Culture and Indigenizing Christianity (Parañaque City: Church Strengthening Ministry, 2010), 16-17.
15 Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano, Filipino Values and Our Christian Faith (Mandaluyong City: OMF, 1990), 14.
16 Lapiz, Pagpapahiyang: Redeeming Culture and Indigenizing Christianity, 34.
17 Crizaldo and Molmisa, Pinoy Big Values, 74-75.
18 Crizaldo and Molmisa, Pinoy Big Values, 74-75.
19 Crizaldo and Molmisa, Pinoy Big Values, 80-81.
20 Florentino Timbreza, Filipino Philosophy Today (Mandaluyong City: National Bookstore, 2008).
21 Dionisio M. Miranda, Loob: The Filipino Within (Manila: Logos Publications, Inc., 1988), 30-34.22 Miranda, Loob: The Filipino Within, 30-34.
24 Crizaldo, “For Filipinos, it is Not Faith.”