The Pinoy jeepney has been converted into the first jeepney popemobile, the motor vehicle to be used by Pope Francis when the Vatican City leader visits the Philippines this January.
The pope is known to forego luxury cars and is known to prefer and take public transport. The Filipino people’s offering to its state and apostolic visitor is in this line of preferences.
The Manila road and cultural icon is itself a converted United States military transport turned into a public utility vehicle which can carry as much as 20 passengers.
The newest popemobile converted its passenger side into a platform to allow the public a clear view of the Roman Catholic Church head as the papal ride moves along the designated papal public route.
Although this version is painted white in stark contrast to its standard colours, the jeepney popemobile remains unmistakably a jeepney with its front long bumper and steel “bull bar”, the side stainless steel strips, and the rear checkered plates.
The hood, roof and sides carry the papal coat of arms, the eight-pointed star emblem of the Society of Jesus symbolizing the Virgin Mary, and a spikenard symbol of St. Joseph. The jeepney popemobile’s sides are flanked by the papal insignia and a glass cross sculpted by artist Ramon Orlina.
The passenger entrance remains at the rear, with the step that can be folded and unfurled with a red carpet. There are only three seats, one for the pope and the other chairs for the Filipino Archbishops Luis Cardinal Tagle and Socrates Villegas.
Each seat is fitted with a seatbelt. The interiors are also in white, with white leather, and white-painted side-grab bars and roof liner.
Air conditioning and electric fans have been added although the sides remain open.A Swiss guard is expected to drive the jeepney popemobile, a manual stick shift 5-speed drive running on a diesel-powered engine.
There will be two jeepney popemobiles servicing the papal visit, one for the Manila travels and another for the Leyte province.