by Jim Bea Sampaga
When you think about the Philippines, the first thing that comes to mind, besides the food, is jeepneys. But when it comes to the classic Filipino modes of public transportation, let’s not forget about the small but reliable tricycle.
The Filipino tricycle is not like the average tricycle you see in Western media. Yes, they both have three wheels and a sidecar, but Filipinos made sure to utilize it to its full potential.
Using the military tricycles remains from World War II, Filipinos added a roof to the driver seat and sidecar. They also redesigned the sidecar to fit four people. And in true Filipino fashion, they personalized their own tricycles with colorful designs and decorations.
Among many other things, tricycle is truly a unique part of Filipino culture. That’s why the San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Commission funded the TNT Traysikel, a social sculpture that is “an immigrant metaphor constructed from a deep colonial history.”
The tricycle is literally a piece of the Philippines in a form of art. The vehicle is beautifully decorated with hand-painted images from Philippine culture. One of its most interesting designs is found at the back cover of the sidecar: “UFO: Unidentified Filipino Object.”
The tricycle is a collaboration between interdisciplinary artist Michael Arcega and digital artist Paolo Asuncion with contributions from the community.
According to Arcega’s website, it is a “mobile public artwork that operates as cultural marker for the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District in San Francisco.
Last month, the TNT Traysikel crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California followed by a parade of more than 60 Filipino motorcycle riders.
A viral video featuring the colorful and uniquely Filipino tricycle on the video sharing platform Tiktok garnered more than 1 million views. Filipino netizens shared their reactions on the comment section.
“Magkano pamasahe from Pilipinas to California po?” a commenter said. (How much is the [tricycle] fare from the Philippines to California?)
Another one said: “Panis! Yung tricycle nakarating na don, ako hindi pa hahaha.” (Cool! That tricycle already went to California but I still haven’t.)
Some even joked that the tricycle is still driving like it’s still in the Philippines.
“Pati ba naman sa US, nasa gitna parin ng kalsada,” a person commented. (Even in the US, it still drives in the middle of the road.)
American commenters also shared their reactions.
“I would’ve cried seeing it here in California,” a person commented.
While another expressed their excitement for another beloved Filipino vehicle: “I’m waiting for jeepneys to come to the US.”
Aside from driving around the Bay Area, the website also shares that the TNT Traysikel was “used as an aesthetic object, a protest tool and symbol of solidarity with the Black community against police brutality and delivery vehicle during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
To further emphasize the Filipino and Filipino American narratives, TNT Traysikel is hosting the TNT SideCaraoke, a karaoke interview show that features individuals while riding around San Francisco.
“[It] is a rolling karaoke interview show all about Filipinos and the Filipino American experience,” according to TNT Traysikel’s Instagram account.
Follow along TNT Traysikel’s journey on Instagram: @tnt_traysikel.
by Jim Bea Sampaga