August 8, 2022

SENIOR BYAHERO

By Joseph Bautista

During my university years, I envied my classmates who traveled long distance just to study in Manila. Especially a classmate who came from Bicol, and he would tell stories of coming to Manila on a train that took almost a day. He would tell us stories of trains breaking down in the middle of nowhere, of people throwing things inside the train from rocks to trash to dead cats. The story actually scared most of my classmates, but not me. I was actually looking forward to riding that scary train to Bicol.

Fast forward many years later. I was planning to finally try the train. But to my disappointment, the train to Bicol was suspended.

Years of neglect, problems with informal settlers, natural disasters and cheaper, more efficient forms of transportation like by bus or by airplane contributed to the decline of train travel in the country. It’s not fun in the Philippines if your face is hit by a flying object while sleeping on a train.

The growing need to improve mass transportation became a challenge to the Department of Transportation as the increasing population needs to move quickly, safely and efficiently. One of the solutions is to bring back the train system. That was more than 10 years ago. It was a slow train to progress, literally.

The Duterte administration worked hard to fast-track the return of the long-haul train system. Five days before he left office, President Duterte re-opened the San Pablo-Lucena line. The news of its opening got me very excited.

Checking some postings on Facebook, I learned that the PNR Train leaves San Pablo every four hours for Lucena, with 7 a.m. being the first trip. I had no idea where the train station in San Pablo was but I’m a traveler and getting there was already going to be an adventure.

My first challenge was to reach San Pablo by bus by 6 a.m. Having no idea if there’s a bus going to San Pablo very early in the morning, I left my house in Cavite at 3 a.m., arriving in Alabang 30 minutes later. I walked to the bus station hoping to find a bus that early that would stop by San Pablo. Saw one going to Bondoc Peninsula and they can drop me off to San Pablo said the bus conductor.

At 5:30 a.m., I was already alighting in San Pablo. It’s 10-minute walk to train station according to Google. But I was hungry. Thankfully, the train station is right next to the city market. I took a quick breakfast of lugaw with egg before walking to the station.

The San Pablo train station looked spotlessly clean when I arrived at around 6 a.m. I could still smell the fresh coat of paint which was put on in a hurry for the visit of the Philippine President early that week.
There was a handful of people already waiting, mostly senior citizens excited to take a nostalgic trip on a train. Not this senior, I come for adventure.

I asked where I can buy the ticket. I was told that tickets can only be bought from the train conductor. And so, we waited.

The train arrived at 6:30 a.m. It was a brand-new INKA-built PNR 8100 class with new livery. It already exceeded my expectations.

The conductors came and started selling tickets. Forty pesos for seniors going all the way to Lucena.
Got my ticket but was told to wait for boarding. Everybody seemed so excited to get their photos taken next to the train, so I did the same. If my classmate could see me now.

Boarding time, and we were led to a train that look even better inside. Everything looks clean and modern, and with very cold working air-conditioning. I also noticed the thick tempered glass panel windows. They really made sure that no objects can be thrown from the outside.

The train left exactly at 7 a.m. Wow, parang Japan! As soon as we left San Pablo, the scenery changed to a beautiful country side. From the train window, I could see the morning sun peeking thru Mt. Banahaw. I saw children briefly stopping to wave at the passing train. I saw endless fields planted with coconut trees, and farmers tending their chores unmindful of the train. It was such a beautiful sight that I never see when driving a car or riding a bus.

I arrived in Lucena 90 minutes later. Since my return trip was at 1:30 p.m., I decided to explore Lucena. I saw the beautiful capitol Art Deco building and the massive Quezon statue which was made from coins donated by students. While admiring another beautiful Art Deco building, a man approached me and invited me to come inside. The building turned out to be a museum, and they never had guest from outside for such a long time. I learned so much about the province during my short tour of the museum. I also walked around Lucena and saw many well-preserved ancestral houses and buildings.

When I came back to the station at 1 p.m. for the return trip I was tired but happy. It’s not easy for an old man to explore an unfamiliar place on foot. There were plenty of misses and wrong turns before I saw the city attractions. But the discoveries I found in Lucena were enough to compensate for the aching legs and feet.

Lucena is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. And this senior could not have seen it if he did not get on this journey by train.

(The author is a senior who recently retired. His taste for adventure has not kept him from travelling, usually via not-so-usual routes.)

SENIOR BYAHERO

By Joseph Bautista

During my university years, I envied my classmates who traveled long distance just to study in Manila. Especially a classmate who came from Bicol, and he would tell stories of coming to Manila on a train that took almost a day. He would tell us stories of trains breaking down in the middle of nowhere, of people throwing things inside the train from rocks to trash to dead cats. The story actually scared most of my classmates, but not me. I was actually looking forward to riding that scary train to Bicol.

Fast forward many years later. I was planning to finally try the train. But to my disappointment, the train to Bicol was suspended.

Years of neglect, problems with informal settlers, natural disasters and cheaper, more efficient forms of transportation like by bus or by airplane contributed to the decline of train travel in the country. It’s not fun in the Philippines if your face is hit by a flying object while sleeping on a train.

The growing need to improve mass transportation became a challenge to the Department of Transportation as the increasing population needs to move quickly, safely and efficiently. One of the solutions is to bring back the train system. That was more than 10 years ago. It was a slow train to progress, literally.

The Duterte administration worked hard to fast-track the return of the long-haul train system. Five days before he left office, President Duterte re-opened the San Pablo-Lucena line. The news of its opening got me very excited.

Checking some postings on Facebook, I learned that the PNR Train leaves San Pablo every four hours for Lucena, with 7 a.m. being the first trip. I had no idea where the train station in San Pablo was but I’m a traveler and getting there was already going to be an adventure.

My first challenge was to reach San Pablo by bus by 6 a.m. Having no idea if there’s a bus going to San Pablo very early in the morning, I left my house in Cavite at 3 a.m., arriving in Alabang 30 minutes later. I walked to the bus station hoping to find a bus that early that would stop by San Pablo. Saw one going to Bondoc Peninsula and they can drop me off to San Pablo said the bus conductor.

At 5:30 a.m., I was already alighting in San Pablo. It’s 10-minute walk to train station according to Google. But I was hungry. Thankfully, the train station is right next to the city market. I took a quick breakfast of lugaw with egg before walking to the station.

The San Pablo train station looked spotlessly clean when I arrived at around 6 a.m. I could still smell the fresh coat of paint which was put on in a hurry for the visit of the Philippine President early that week.
There was a handful of people already waiting, mostly senior citizens excited to take a nostalgic trip on a train. Not this senior, I come for adventure.

I asked where I can buy the ticket. I was told that tickets can only be bought from the train conductor. And so, we waited.

The train arrived at 6:30 a.m. It was a brand-new INKA-built PNR 8100 class with new livery. It already exceeded my expectations.

The conductors came and started selling tickets. Forty pesos for seniors going all the way to Lucena.
Got my ticket but was told to wait for boarding. Everybody seemed so excited to get their photos taken next to the train, so I did the same. If my classmate could see me now.

Boarding time, and we were led to a train that look even better inside. Everything looks clean and modern, and with very cold working air-conditioning. I also noticed the thick tempered glass panel windows. They really made sure that no objects can be thrown from the outside.

The train left exactly at 7 a.m. Wow, parang Japan! As soon as we left San Pablo, the scenery changed to a beautiful country side. From the train window, I could see the morning sun peeking thru Mt. Banahaw. I saw children briefly stopping to wave at the passing train. I saw endless fields planted with coconut trees, and farmers tending their chores unmindful of the train. It was such a beautiful sight that I never see when driving a car or riding a bus.

I arrived in Lucena 90 minutes later. Since my return trip was at 1:30 p.m., I decided to explore Lucena. I saw the beautiful capitol Art Deco building and the massive Quezon statue which was made from coins donated by students. While admiring another beautiful Art Deco building, a man approached me and invited me to come inside. The building turned out to be a museum, and they never had guest from outside for such a long time. I learned so much about the province during my short tour of the museum. I also walked around Lucena and saw many well-preserved ancestral houses and buildings.

When I came back to the station at 1 p.m. for the return trip I was tired but happy. It’s not easy for an old man to explore an unfamiliar place on foot. There were plenty of misses and wrong turns before I saw the city attractions. But the discoveries I found in Lucena were enough to compensate for the aching legs and feet.

Lucena is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. And this senior could not have seen it if he did not get on this journey by train.

(The author is a senior who recently retired. His taste for adventure has not kept him from travelling, usually via not-so-usual routes.)

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