Past and Curious
Where our tickets to ride came from
Though collectors, for a long time, have continually acquired and preserved interesting or valuable items for posterity, ephemeral items are usually forgotten. In many dictionaries, the word ‘ephemera’ is defined as printed or single-page documents that are not meant to be retained or preserved. With no more value after usage, ephemera—like bus tickets, posters, protest or campaign materials, advertising signage, trade cards, and used stamps—are destined to be thrown away.
This writer has been collecting and preserving fare receipts or tickets as footnotes to the history of local transportation companies. The hobby started accidentally, literally speaking, after yours truly was involved in a bus accident and kept the bus ticket as a constant reminder of this second life. From tickets discovered and acquired, a brief glimpse into the history of local transportation tickets, tokens, and cards is now modestly shared.
La Compania de Tranvias de Filipinas was likely the first transportation company to issue tickets, followed by the Manila-Dagupan Railway Company in 1892. Established in 1882, it operated four horse-drawn and one-steam powered (tranvia de vapor) tram routes from 1888 to 1902. The company was subsequently bought by Meralco (Manila Electric and Rail Company), which operated electric-powered trams and motorized buses around Manila from 1905 to 1945. Commuters were charged according to the seating section selected.
Garage or livery station owners introduced calesa checks in the 1900s. The hourly rate cost P1.20, or double that beyond city limits. Meanwhile, public buses that appeared in 1908 only charged certain rates to commuters. There were no class rate distinctions; conductors gave fare receipts in the form of tickets. Based on rate and distance matrixes, ticket fares were punched accordingly. This procedure has been followed by most operators until now.
Meralco hired lady conductresses in 1919. They were assigned to handle the short MalateCustom route. Further hiring of bus and train conductresses peaked in the ’60s, then gradually diminished by the ’80s.
Transportation tokens were introduced in the late ’30s. Iloilo Transportation, Meralco, Clark Field Bus Line, and California Bus Line came out with tokens that slowly disappeared in the ’70s. The fare receipt or ticket remained the proof of payment acknowledged by bus inspectors, who usually board buses unannounced to do checks. Of late, some bus companies issue tickets printed from a conductor’s wristband-type ticketing machines. Taxi operators are doing the same by issuing receipts using similar printing machines.
The LRT reintroduced fare tokens in 1984. The MRT and the LRT-2 systems came out with magnetic cards. Initial editions of cards issued were even politicized with portraits of thenincumbent Philippine presidents.
The arrival of specialized transportation services (Uber and Grab) in the Philippines, which use smartphones and account numbers for transactions, have likely eliminated the use of printed tickets and receipts. While minimizing paper usage is really good news to environmentalists, it is sad news to ticket collectors and historians. And it looks like there will definitely be less tickets to preserve in the coming years.