I’ve recently found myself riding the train more often these past few weeks. No I’m not talking about the LRT or the MRT. I’m talking about the old Philippine National Railway, the rickety old trains that go through some of the major thoroughfares throughout Manila, Makati, Pasay, Parañaque, amd Muntinlupa. It’s been a lot of fun, mostly; you notice strange things on an at-grade train that you don’t notice above-grade, things like how the train tilts to one side on account of the natural slope of the land between San Andres and Paco stations, or how majority of the trains are repurposed Japanese commuter trains with maps of the (early) 1980s railway system of Japan.
I like riding the PNR commuter train, but it isn’t for everybody. The trains are old (and usually faulty one way or the other), and the crush of people during rush hour might turn other riders off the prospect. It isn’t as bad as the MRT has become today—I still think that line’s the worst of the lot—but it can get pretty rough, considering that the trains come in every thirty minutes, so if you miss one train, or if the trains are delayed, you’re losing quite a bit of time.
So far, I’ve been to several stations, including the Tutuban terminal station, the Sta. Mesa, Pandacan, and Paco stations, the Buendia station, and the Sucat and Muntinlupa stations. By far the nicest station is the one in Tutuban; riding the train there affords you a view of the vast expanse of property the PNR has, most of which have become graveyards for old train coaches. The land is overgrown with cogon grass, and some of the PNR staff have goats grazing here and there. It’s a very rural scene in the middle of the city.
One of the more puzzling aspects of the stations, though, is the fact that most of their platforms are shorter than the actual train. There’s virtually no way out from the last few cars than to jump, and I still can’t fathom how people manage to get inside. They still manage to get filled up anyway. Maybe there are some stations that have sufficiently long platforms, like the one in Tutuban. I have yet to see the Dapitan and Blumentritt stations, either.
Eventually, I’d like to ride this train all the way to Laguna. And once they reopen the tracks to Bicol, I’d like to take my girlfriend in one of the sleeper trains over to the south. That sounds like quite an excellent adventure.