Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Test-Riding The Metro-Tren

Yes, that is the Philippine National Railways’ good old and almost forgotten service, the Metro-Tren (or however this government wants to call it now). We all know it is still there, and we all know it may still be there for years to come, but has anyone of you taken that ride lately? Hmm, am almost sure of the majority’s answer! So I did go for a ride once again after almost three decades – if only for me to say that I have taken that ride recently!

Hint: while you can read in many news articles that the government is upgrading this service into a more “acceptable” conveyance, as of now this is a “take-it-or-leave-it” mode of transportation. With that, I mean, for majority of commuters, you either muster the courage to ride in it or go via another mode. We’ll get to the specifics as I go on…

Decided to start my “starlight express” tour at the Pasay Road Station since that is what I have seen most of my lowly life. The station is old since it has already been there for as long as I can remember – and am not that young! Every bit of metal or steel that you see in the station is either rusted or painted to hide the rust. The ticket booth will remind you of municipal offices circa the American Occupation or even earlier. There is a steel-grill and glass panel with a round hole in the middle and a rectangular hole at the bottom. The old lady in that booth talks in her normal kind of voice – which most certainly you can’t clearly hear so you prop your ear on to that round hole – just like at the LRT or a movie house! Now if you can appreciate the ticket booths of the MRT and the new LRT and rate them a 5 out of 10, this place you will most certainly rate a .02! Being old and consciously compared by your mind to the new LRT, you’ll have the feeling that everything around this station is yucky!

I have said so many things already but, we’re still at Pasay Road Station, okay?! Even at 2:30PM, the place looks sordid. Walls, doors, chairs, tables are dilapidated. At the southern end of this little building is a rotting door with a sign that says “IHI P13, TAE P15”. For those who don't understand that, I don't want to elaborate more! Just believe me its such a "huh?" sight! It even looked permanently locked so I said to myself “oh thanks”! Thankfully, I never smelt anything offensive to my nostrils as I moved around – in this station 

While this station is near to (even inside) the biggest business district of the country where you may think everything Makati is high-tech, take exception on the PNR and its facilities. They remain in the 1960s! Examples? Well, there are a lot but let’s cover just a few stark things:

Train schedules are posted on the glass window. Those are hand-written with a ballpoint pen on low-grade paper and posted with a scotch tape. At least the handwriting is legible enough! Other schedules are posted high up atop the glass window and near the ceiling that should be about 85 degrees and probably 9 or 10 feet up from where you stand! It’s a blackboard (yes the green board like at elementary schools) where everything is written with a chalk! How tedious that must be? At least we know that their schedules do not change often and we also know that they won’t bother to climb the walls and change those if there are delays or cancellations! By the way, and this will be important to you, the destinations are just written in general terms like Manila, Alabang or Binan.

Oops, where was I going?! After walking about the environs of this station, I finally approached the ticket woman and was not sure what to tell her – I just knew I wanted a ride. Seeing that it was already 3:30PM and the next train to Manila was 3:40PM, I said “Manila”! Then she asked me “saan doon”? I asked where/what was the northernmost station. Her answer was “eight pesos”! So I paid up and suddenly felt a lump in my throat. Where was this “eight pesos” taking me to? I did not ask anymore as other people were waiting in line. I just knew though that the end-point of this "metro tren" is a confusing Tayuman or Tutuban or Caloocan – but the posted schedules say Manila!

Stepped out unto the platform and saw about five people seated either chatting or texting. A woman employee who has a table at the platform asked if I already had a ticket. I said yes, showed it to her and she told me to cross the tracks and go to the opposite platform. I got confused and told her I was going to Manila. She said “kaya nga, dun ka na” in a friendly tone! So I crossed the tracks in a hop-skip style to avoid muddy portions (that is a pic of her after I crossed the tracks)! Now I realized that the trains ply their routes on a “left-hand” manner! It’s a "drive left" unlike how you drive cars on any street in this country!

This “other side” platform (nearer the south superhighway) had already some 20 to 30 people either just sitting or standing as they waited for the train. Some were silent, others in animated chats – and silent or bantering, most were texting! Yes, this is our beloved Philippines where people can even text while driving, so how much more while waiting for a sluggish train hehe! This is a long concrete platform and definitely very old. How do I know that? Because aside from the fact that everything steel or iron is rusted and aside from the other fact that a big area has had its roof already blown away, the concrete still stand sturdy despite the time it has stood there. I just believe that if this was a newer concrete structure (circa the ‘80s), it would have easily given to the elements since it would most certainly be of poor mixture! What an analogy hehe! Anyway, expansive as this platform is, the southern portion is now without a roof but the decaying supports are still there. At the northern end (nearest Pasay Road) were four shirtless old men huddled over bottles of Red Horse!

From a distance I could already see the big front lights of the train. Yep, I learned just here that trains have those front lights on even at daylight. I felt suddenly excited for my ride and at the same time felt sorry that it looked like a big black piece of decaying iron slowly coming forth to consume me. While those thoughts raced in my head, I had to prop myself for an unobstructed view to take a picture or two of the approaching thing. I was not very satisfied with my pic - amateur hehe! When it stopped, people started to spill out while others on the platform ran to their choice of entrances. I stepped up to the door that was in front of me (2nd to last car in this train).

First Impressions!
You guessed it! My first impression was “Oh My God”! I suddenly felt like I was inside a moving prison cell – in the quality, style and stench of many a prison cell in this country. It was like entering the LRT 3 bastardized a thousand times. Really! I immediately thought “this is not a thing I can be proud of to my family, friends and officemates – how much more to my foreign friends”. And I was asking myself “what happened?” In the forgotten past, when my parents took us for a Sunday ride going to Alabang, the coach we took was clean and smelled fine and they were colored white & orange outside, and the inside was bright! Now, it felt like I was inside the palace of “The Beast” when “Beauty” first knocked on its doors!

Seats in this train (all cars) are like in the MRT or LRT – lined like long benches on both sides facing each other. The windows are all fitted with wire screens so you have a less clear view of anything outside – as if there’s anything interesting outside anyway (more of this later). On some parts, aside from the screens there still remain the glass (or is it transparent plastic) that used to be the real window panes of this coach. The doors are/were manually sliding but some won’t anymore move. You’ll need to go for another door if you happen to chance upon said jammed doors! There are closets in each car that seem to be comfort rooms. I did not bother checking them out since where I was, was reason enough for me to infer on what could be in those “closets”! At where the coaches connect to each other, I could see that the material these cars are made of would already be very old and rusty in some portions just covered by equally aging paint.

The 'safety handrails' are like at the MRT and LRT. Some though are aluminum while others are yucky old rusted tubes painted to what might have been white. I observed even the conductor was not keen on holding on to those rails. Well, probably they’re too used to walking the trains as it moved. Oh yes, there are conductors who collect fares inside the train – probably cuz they know that people just pop in without paying first at the stations!

The Trip to Tutuban
Folks take note of the stations for you won’t see these listed in any train station unlike at the MRT or the LRTs. Again, all you have at these train stations are Manila, Alabang or Binan.

From Pasay Road, my train very slowly crawled up to another nearby station which I remember to be Buendia. Yes, Gil Puyat if you may prefer that. At the stop, people came in and out of the train.

Next stop, (and I’m not sure of this) was something like San Andres. What I was sure of was, this station is still part of Makati. Then it moved on to Sta. Ana? Then there was Paco, Pandacan, Espana, Blumentritt and finally Tayuman/Tutuban(whatever)!

Until now, I am still at a loss on what are the exact names and order of the places where these trains stop. I hope the above recollection is correct. Please leave me a comment if that is not quite right.

My Co-Passengers
This calls for a qualification of who I am in the Philippine Society lest I be tagged like who the fat Malu Fernandez is now!

So okay, I am a common citizen in this country without pretensions of belonging to the A, B or C crowd. For those of you who know me, I have friends who live in slum areas and friends who live in villages where there are no tricycles or pedicabs and where they don’t know anything about their neighbors; I have commuted via New Delhi and Karachi trains, the Bronx subway, PeruRail and the Shosholoza trains; I have gone days at sea fishing with fisherfolk in Samar; I ride the jeeps, buses, the pedicabs, taxicabs, FX, V-Hire, habal-habal, sputnik, kuliglig and what have you; I have gone places via a sibidsibid, subiran, faloa, banca, speedboat, lancha, barko, catamaran, yacht, RORO and even rafts of all kinds. I drink tuba, sioktong, lambanog, gin-bulag, kwatro-cantos, red horse or lapad to socialize wherever it may be in the metropolis or the provinces; I am an addict of fishball tusok-tusok by the roadsides and I often have lunch with officemates whose “baon” could be steaks, foie gras and salads while mine would be liempo, mongo or calamares bought from a jollijeep. I am saying all these because I am no social climber or “alta-sociedad” who wants to pick on the poor and hapless. In fact, hikahos din ako! And am saying all these because of the comments I have to make in the next paragraphs. K?

Now my co-passengers in that train ride. Most were the normal common commuter in the metropolis just like those we would encounter via the LRT and the MRT. Yes, there would be workers and the common Filipino people just going about their daily lives riding this train that I happened to have boarded. There was one passenger who was carrying a handsaw. Yes, the “lagare" of "lagari” that you use to cut wood. I thought that was normal. There was another passenger (or was she?) who had a beauty kit and was asking other passengers if they wanted to have a quick manicure or pedicure! Weird but I thought that was acceptable! There were some four or five people that sold chicharon, water, etc who kept walking to and fro and shouting out their wares. I thought it was a nuisance but acceptable too! There were two teenagers (probably brothers) who were lugging along a CPU and a monitor – and I thought, why not?! I see this at the MRT and LRT. There was a student in her all-white uniform and she was busy memorizing things from a book that seemed to be about the nursing profession – so I thought “what a diligent student”!

There were passengers sleeping, reading a bible, humming to the tunes on their ipods(or the likes), busy texting on their hand phones, old folks, younger folks, families, faggots, tinderas, palengkeras and every kind of soul you can think of. There was a couple (Caucasian male and Pinay female) who were apparently quarreling about some things. A girl to my left was obviously a house helper since I thought that call she took on her hand phone was from her employer. The handsome hunky Dad on my right was obviously an OFW or a sea-farer by just looking at his branded sneakers and board shorts plus the blinding shiny golden concoction of bracelet, wristwatch and necklace topped with a dark expensive-looking sunglasses. And he was lugging a leather clutch-bag. For all I know that bag may have contained a gun since his handsome collared shirt had a print about some gun club in the Middle East!

There were even nuns on board! Thus, this ride should have been normal. But…

But there were dreadfully more – and this was what made me uneasy and had second thoughts about using this mode of transpo on a regular basis or asking friends and family to patronize it. Dark thoughts ran in my mind thinking if I can actually still get out of this situation alive! Here we go:

Amongst the passengers in my coach were shirtless dudes who were not even drunk but were just as dangerously rowdy. Okay, to be fair, not all of them were topless. Two were wearing sando, one did not even have a footwear, and all of them did have confidently loud voices enough for anyone to understand that they are the “masters” in this place. They were huddled on two right-side doors. Some were standing and some were seated on the floor and the little steps that people use when boarding or getting off via those doors. Obviously, no one passed by those two doors. They were not just rowdy in the normal kind of kid things. They had very foul language offensive to many.

These folks were not young kids either. They were men probably in their 20s up to late 40s and they seemed to know just about every person who lived along those rail tracks as they often had a lewd or foul comment at everyone they saw. Samples? Here we go… "Hoy hostess, bihis ka na! Rampa ka ng maaga nang makarami", or ‘Tangina! Nakaw ang cellphone na yan, kahapon lang"! And they most certainly elicited equally shouted responses from those they were shouting at. Some of the younger kids they teased even ran with wooden sticks or little stones attempting to catch and whack or pelt them as the train chugged along. And you guessed it, these men would run scampering towards the inner portions of the train (which was naturally a commotion that would make you panic). When kids on the ground can’t keep up with the train, these men would be back at the two doors and back to their usual shouting spree at people we passed by. I even saw two women-passengers stand up and walk further front – obviously to get away from this.

I’d be a liar if I said I was not alarmed. I was actually more than frightened! Then again, I could have been over-reacting, right?

Now hear this: As the train went a chugging slowly after that Espana Station going towards Blumentritt, a guy came walking from the front coaches who seemed to be looking for nothing but trouble. As he passed where I was seated and just about to pass the rowdy men by the door, someone shouted on top of his voice saying “o kayong lahat, ingatan nyo mga gamit nyo, yan naglalakad na yan isnatcher yan”! The walking man did not even look back but shouted equally loud saying “tangina mo, hindi ako isnatcher, naghahanap ako ng masasaksak” and as he said that he lashed out a knife in mid-air. I looked at the faces of many passengers and almost all had the same facial expression – they pretended to have not heard that and they all did not look at the knife-brandishing man – and so I did not dare look at him too! This time I felt my balls were already above my forehead.

After having gone to the end part of the train, that knife-wielding man returned to the men perched by the doorway and he joined in the laughter, banter and dirty shouts at people we passed by. I clearly heard him telling the group that it was too unusual the week was almost over and he has not had a fight yet. As if to emphasize that, he said “kahit asawa ko ayaw akong patulan, nakakainip pare”!

With that, I don’t think I have to tell you more about my co-passengers in this train ride!

The Sceneries
I can assure you that the only good scenery on this ride was the slow hop from Pasay Road to Buendia. As the trip went further north, it just went from uglier to dangerous – at least that’s how I personally felt.

In Makati, the left side scenery was that of the South Superhighway with less traffic and less people walking about on a Sunday afternoon. To the right, the rail tracks are on some grassy grounds and a little beyond it were the houses and buildings of Makati.

After the San Andres Station, the views become a sudden cause for you to cringe. You’ll realize that this was probably the main reason why windows are screened with such tight meshes the operators almost even boarded those up to become walls instead of windows. On the left, it was almost consistent that slum houses were haphazardly built so that their edges like walls (yes, walls and not just roofs) are literally centimeters away from the train. Many times the train's windows would actually get scraped (oh that sound is enough to bother you) by various parts of those make-shift dwellings. You’d get dizzy if you keep looking this way as the houses are just too close more than your eyes can comfortably view.

The right side would be a bit an easier vista as there is the distance between the window and the slum dwellings by virtue of the opposite rail track! So this is where you see a lot of squatter community activity on a Sunday afternoon! My goodness! Let’s try to enumerate the things I saw.

There were children, hundreds of them playing by the tracks with their various childlike games and activities. Many of them would stop whatever it was they were doing and wave at the passengers on board the train. I specially liked those little babies being carried by their parents innocently smiling and waving at us! Yet many of the kids would attempt running with the train as if they were trying to outrun it. I thought that was dangerous for if anyone of them fell to the ground, it could be towards the tracks where the train was still passing-by and they could get caught by this giant of a steel machine. And in fact, I guess its really hard to run on railroad tracks. It would be easiest to trip on those planks or iron rails.

Squatters as these people are, I already expected to hear bad words from these little angels. True enough! I heard them little children not just once but many times shouting “putangina nyo istorbo kayo sa buhay namin”!

My heart really sank when the train passed by two little tykes, a boy and a girl of about 3 and/or 4 years old who just stood by the side of the tracks smiling and looking at the passengers with their right hands raised and making that dirty finger! I just thought “my goodness, that other child could not yet even properly control her fingers, and what she had to do was make a dirty finger”. Although I smiled as other passengers did, I felt really bad and wanted to scoop those two little angels out of the ground and bring them home to take care of them and let them live another kind of life. Oh well, this was the saddest moment.

Now enough of the children lest I just stop writing this article and continue crying!

The views were fairly consistent on the right side of the train (cuz as I said, if you looked left, it was dizzying). You would see people washing their clothes, cleaning their houses or cleaning the small front of their shacks. I did chance upon some folks ironing clothes inside those places they call home. A lot of them were cooking supper right out in the open to the full view of just about everyone. I was sure their “homes” were just enough for them to sleep-in so their kitchens and living rooms were the outdoors inches away from the rail tracks. Nevertheless, these people looked jolly!

More views: men and women playing cards on a table out in the open; men and women huddled and drinking also out in the open; sari-sari stores; children at play; men talking while carrying game cocks; dogs playing with children; children chasing cats, chickens and even pigs; men tending to cages of pigeons; hair-cut al fresco; people belting it out in front of a videoke machine; younger boys and girls obviously in a courtship mode; women breastfeeding their babies; “half-court” basketball on grounds that is no bigger than a car’s parking space; a “bombai” or two doing their collection rounds; young and old folks playing bingo; people taking a bath out in the open – yes those men are more daring in their jockeys while women mostly wore their “dusters” as they bathed; men drinking gin; men drinking beer; men drinking brandy; women buzzing about the latest gossip; old folks just there watching everyone else; dogs, chickens, dogs and other dogs; men and women drinking beer; men and women playing cards; men and women drinking gin; children quarreling; men and women playing cards; teenagers quarreling; people cooking; ladies in a hair-pulling war; men and women drinking; men and women playing cards… and so on! It is a repetitive scenery of all of the above!

At one time I saw a girl take aim at the train with what I thought to be a stone and I literally ducked in my seat! In a second I heard the stone landing on the outside walls of the train. And no sooner did I hear one of the muggers at the door shout saying “tangina mo nene, kung tinamaan ako kakantutin kita sa riles sa harap ng nanay mo”! Then another of those guys followed with “magsabay pa kayo ng nanay mo, bubuntisin ko kayo pareho”!

If it is any consolation, many parts of those slum dwellings have already been ripped away by the authorities – at least on most of the southern parts (Makati, Paco, Espana). But going further northwest to the end of this railroad, we have yet to see those demolitions.

On approach to the final destination (Tutuban), you’ll see a lot of tracks and a lot of rotting and decaying rail cars. Some are passenger cars, some are bulk carriers like those for gas and other materials. Some of the rail cars are parked in desolate hangars that seemed to be permanently submerged in flood waters. Then you reach the Tutuban Station.

Note: everything above was reason enough for me not to take pictures. I did not dare!

At the Tutuban Station
We finally arrived after more than an hour’s travel from Pasay Road and I felt a genuine kind of relief although there was still some apprehension. My balls were still up there somewhere! Everyone filtered out of the train, walked towards a building and headed left towards an exit gate just outside of the building. I just followed the crowd. But when it looked like I was already in front of the building, I veered right towards the two guards manning the main entrance.

At that main entrance, I learned that the next train going south to Binan would be leaving at 5:15PM and it was just almost 5PM. So I said, I will only take pictures of the frontage and head back in to buy my ticket. This is a big and modern building with a very wide frontage that is made into like a park with two rail engines on permanent monumental display. Just outside of its perimeters is a busy city street that I thought must have been somewhere near Divisoria (yes, I still remember the Tutuban Mall) but I did not venture out. Just took pictures of the frontage and went back inside the building lest I be left by the departing train going back south.

Oh, this PNR Station (and building) is big and grand – at least by design. The paint is still even new! It has a big lobby with good enough design and I take it that this must have been envisioned to be a headquarters (offices) and at the same time a mall. But alas, mall it never is! It is desolate and you’d really feel sorry why the government had to spend big on this structure when it is not being used to its optimum. Who rides the Metro Tren nowadays anyway?! So it needs a very good marketing plan to be occupied! As for now, it shall probably remain as a semi-white-elephant. I can imagine things to perk this place up but nay, why should I blurt them out here anyway. I’d have to get compensation if my ideas were sought on this topic hehe!

Hmm, while taking pictures of the lobby, the guard told me it was not allowed. Oh, okay! I even said sorry!

My Return Trip
Not that I did not have any other options since the city streets were just beyond this station and I could have taken a cab or the jeeps going home. However, for whatever whacky reason that prevailed in my mind, I opted to head back to Pasay Road Station using the train again – where I had (again) a not so beautiful experience.

The ticket counter at this building is a bit modern by design and material. It is wide and can probably sit up to 8 tellers. But only a small portion is used because obviously there is no need for a lot of ticket people when there are only very few riders. The counter is lined with the usual glassed-up partition and the round hole in the middle and the rectangular hole at the bottom. Funny though that the glass is not even taller than me so I reached out for my ticket over this glass “wall” and the teller obliged! Again, as at other stations, the schedules just said Manila, Alabang and Binan. The times of departure are there and everything is written by hand on a piece of paper and stuck to the glass! There are blackboards with chalk-written schedules but those are lying as trash by the unused teller space.

I asked how much it was to Pasay Road. The reply was “kwatro boss”, so I paid with a crisp P20 bill. As I did so, I was wondering why the price was half of that what I paid for on coming here. I said again "Pasay Road in Makati", and the teller said yes, gave me the ticket(s) and handed me my change – exactly P16 in coins. So indeed that teller must have not been wrong. My ticket BTW was actually tickets – yes, those were two pieces of four-peso tickets clipped together by a staple wire. Why so, I did not anymore ask since I can see other passengers were holding the same kind of “double-ticket” as I had.

Waiting lounge in this station is so huge you can even hold a party for two hundred people! But there are only a few seats, probably enough for 30 or 40 folks. This waiting lounge by the way is the other half of the equally spacious lobby. The whole area is not airconditioned but well ventilated as the ceiling is high and there are no usual doors. Everything is iron-grilled to a high point near the ceiling. This makes the place look good and welcoming. I saw some people walking to the edge of the building to what looked like comfort rooms. I went there pretending I’d go for a leak though I was sure I just wanted to check it out hehe! Clean. And with running water!

I asked one of the personnel if it was okay to smoke (since I saw an old man puffing). The reply was affirmative and came with a justification that this was an open space anyway. And so I lighted up, but distanced away from the waiting passengers for I could see women who didn’t like what I was doing. Headcount, there were about 30 of us passengers waiting for the boarding call. But the merry societal mix was way too far from the crowd I was with on that inbound trip.

My co-passengers here were never boisterous. In fact, they were all too silent like at airports. Wondering why, I even joked at myself that we Filipinos actually behave according to our surroundings. If you are in clean and formal place, you behave clean and formal or something like that! This merely consisted of people who were going home from work, people who had gone shopping somewhere plus adults and children who seem to have visited friends and relatives.

Boarding call came at about 5:10PM and gosh it was getting dark. However, I was not too worried as none in this group of passengers looked like muggers – everyone had a shirt and footwear on! Boarding was never a hurried or physical exercise as you would at the MRT. People took that leisurely stroll from the station to the train. Our train this time was an aged link of coaches colored blue - and I was happily surprised at the interiors.

Old as it may be, this train was very far from my ride coming to this place just about an hour ago. The seats are different. They’re not the MRT-style with long benches lined on both sides of the car. These were upholstered two-seater couches facing each other as what you would see in the European luxury trains. What a relief! Many of the 30 or so of us boarded from the rearmost car and just walked our way to our choice seats – some walking as far as the front-most car. There was never a wild commotion or anything, so I thought, this time, I could put my camera out and start clicking – which I did! In between the two-seater couches would be a window – yes fully screened too and you can even open or close the plastic transparent shades.

A bit excited, I thought I should start clicking my camera for some souvenir shots while there were less people on board and while there was still a bit of afternoon light moving on to dusk. I was still a bit uneasy taking pictures as some passengers may have noticed me and get offended from them to grab my cam and throw it ind the trash! Remnants really of my memory on the earlier trip! So the picture-taking had to be quick, and I moved as fast as I can without using flash to avoid being noticed. There were only two elder women on this last car where I was, but just the same, I was apprehensive.

Then I moved to the middle car and chose a right hand side couch. I was alone in this 4-seater venue plus I had a solo “ownership” of the window. About a minute later five homeward bound construction workers came to sit at the couches just in front of me. I could hear their conversations and all of them were speaking Cebuano. From those conversations and their movements, I learned a lot more about trains.

They were all going to Binan. Their initial topic was how convenient this conveyance was than riding the connection of jeeps and buses all the way to Binan, Laguna. And it was definitely cheaper one said so that he still had spare change for cigarettes. Having said that, he lighted a cigarette and puffed. His companions followed suit. Of course, I followed suit hehe! But there was no ashtray so I secretly craned my neck to watch how they managed their ashes and cigarette butts. Oh how clever! The holes in the grills are actually just enough for a cigarette to pass thru. So that is where they ditch the butts – out to the ground! I liked this! I puffed and puffed half wishing other passengers will be offended by the smoke so they would sit elsewhere. And I thought I was successful!

Soon the train moved and some kids were running along the aisles teasing each other that they’d go with the ride. I gathered they are kids who live near this station and were playing inside the trains. Then they jumped out at the rearmost car. I thought that must be dangerous. But it never bothered me much. The conversations of the Visayans in front of me now shifted to how sorry they were at the so many rails cars just rotting in this station and already useless. I looked out and there they were! Some were cargo rails cars, some were those that carried gas or oil and some were also “has been” passenger cars. They were now talking about what Gloria (yes, your president) should do to improve the lives of people who use the trains. Hmm, I listened more intently.

I was getting dark and I was not too interested in looking at the ugly views that the train passed by. So I listened to their conversations as I kept quick outside glances lest something happened. On approach to the first station on this northward run, some people hopped – the train was not even stopping yet. Only a few joined the ride, and the conductor was promptly roving about to get their fares. Now the conversations of my “bisdak” kababayans were already about the attitude of these people who lived by the tracks towards the trains. I learned that most did not like the trains passing by. Now, I recalled that on my northbound ride some little girls were shouting “istorbo kayo sa buhay”. Oh so that’s why! They hate the train as it bothered them doing their supposedly lives along the tracks.

And the conversations went into topics about people throwing things unto the train. I realized from what I heard that these railway squatters don’t just hurl stones or rocks at the trains. Sometimes its trash – even human excretions placed in newspapers are also sometimes hurled unto the trains. Now I was alarmed again and studied my position versus what I would do if anyone did hurl anything at our train. I even moved a few inches away from the window and kept an alert eye at people on the tracks as we passed by. Sometimes, it is human urine in plastic bags that these people would bomb unto the trains. One of the workers in that conversation even shared that it was not as often experienced along these tracks in the metropolis and further advised his companions to already stop smoking and close the windows when the train leaves Bicutan Station moving further south. I heard him say that it was the worst area.

As their conversations continued, I heard that those squatters do it by purpose so the public would avoid riding the trains until it is totally bankrupt until any further operations are stopped. Then the squatters will have succeeded and claim the railway tracks for them to live in. I thought that was greedy but I am sure I will not be the one to tell those squatters to cease and desist. Ayaw ko!

Busy with eavesdropping on the nearby conversations, I did not realize the train already got full and some people were standing on the aisles. Other passengers squeezed themselves in between those already seated so that the couches were now 3-seater! And soon enough, my “private space” was now public. A sleepy old man sat in font of me so I was not anymore free to stretch out my legs as if I was in my own living room hehe! A woman with a child sat beside me and her two other children sat beside the old man. Whoa full-house! The ceiling lights were poor and only two in the entire cabin were actually working. So it was rather dark. At least I did not hear of any mugger-speak on this ride. In fact, when I quickly scanned the people in this train, many of them seem to have come from church service or have attended children’s parties.

And I could not wait for Pasay Road! While still at Buendia, I stood up and inched my way towards the door. On arrival, I quickly hopped out of the train, walked as fast out of the also dark station. Thankfully, my driver (whom I earlier texted while I was still at Tutuban) was just waiting for me right outside the station. Upon buckling up, all I could say was… “I want to go home” and he noticed a little tremble in my voice!

Oh well, as of now; I strongly suggest you don’t do what I just did!


  1. Very informative & extensive. I had a great time reading your entries

  2. Oh thank you kegler! I am flattered and realizing you are an "aviation adik" I suddenly remember I have to double-time with my articles on the airtravel thing :)

  3. I was also able to ride this train once from Bicutan to Tutuban.

    Wala namang nangayaring masama, nakababa naman ng buhay. Sobrang dumi nga lang ng paligid ng riles.

    You're super observant and you're able to write them all.


  4. Pal, this is really helpful. I have used LRT and I have been to Tutuban but I have never been on Metrotren.

    Thanks to your article, I know what to expect.

  5. sir such a wonderful entry blog...i will be starting my journey tomorrow here...since i will be working in makati route was tutuban to pasay road station...hope i could have a great experience with these