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Finally, the LRT Line 2 Extension begins construction

The groundbreaking ceremony for the extension of the LRT Line 2 from Santolan, Pasig City to Masinag Junction in Antipolo City was held last June 9, 2015. This marks the beginning of the construction of the much anticipated and much delayed extension of the line to what was supposed to be part of the first phase of Line 2. I say supposed because most experts believe the current line should have terminated at Masinag from the start instead of at Santolan where the depot is located. Masinag had much more sense many years ago as it was a good staging point for possible extensions to Cogeo, Antipolo City proper or Marikina City. The areas along the Marcos Highway corridor beyond Masinag alone have experienced tremendous growth especially after the floods of Ondoy (Typhoon Ketsana), which submerged much of the Marikina Valley including Pasig, Cainta and lower Antipolo.

IMG11770-20150609-0638Traffic cones and signs guide motorists away from the inner lanes of Marcos Highway.

IMG11771-20150609-0638Two lanes from each side of Marcos Highway at the current end of the Line 2 were appropriated in addition to the median for the groundbreaking ceremony.

IMG11772-20150609-0638The stage is set – the stage for the ceremony is set under the viaduct with these barriers practically shielding the participants from curious passers-by (usyoso). Regardless, the event cause congestion along the highway.

Of course, that was the groundbreaking ceremony. As of today, there’s no sign yet of the contractor, DMCI, fully mobilizing and already reserving the inner lanes of Marcos Highway for the construction of the viaduct and stations. If the current works for the NAIA Expressway in the airport area is to be a reference, then severe traffic congestion is to be expected along the highway and this will extend beyond the actual construction site from Santolan to Masinag. As such, the public will experience inconvenience for the next so many months or perhaps couple of years (or more if there were delays). However, I believe that once the line is operating all the way to Masinag, it will help to ultimately decongest Marcos Highway and Aurora Boulevard and a lot of people will benefit from the improved travel times.

Incidentally, the term LRT is actually a misnomer here because among the 3 operational rail mass transit lines (I am excepting the PNR Commuter Line here.) in Metro Manila, Line 2 is actually a heavy rail system. Perhaps the government should already correct this by simply referring to Line 2 as ‘LRTA Line 2’ or renaming LRTA to reflect its nature as a transit authority that should not be limited to light rail only.

Some thoughts on transportation heritage in the Philippines

There have been a lot of buzz about heritage conservation and especially the past few weeks about certain buildings in Manila. A lot has been written about this in newspaper columns and blogs, and there have been features on television about heritage conservation focused on buildings, mostly houses, in Negros, Cebu and Panay. Of course, the most prominent heritage project has just been recognized as a wonder of the world in the city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. I think another area for consideration in heritage discussions is transportation. We do have a lot of historical routes consisting of roads, railways and even trails that could be preserved or enhanced and not just for commercial purposes but more importantly for the current and coming generations to remember and learn about history and heritage.

The availability and accessibility of such tools like GIS, GPS and aerial photography using drones make it possible to do studies and documentation of transport routes such as the old rail line to Antipolo, the PNR’s Main Line North, the Bataan Death March, and even Aguinaldo’s retreat to Palanan, Isabela. There are also pilgrimage routes linked to the most popular shrines in the country like those in Baclaran, Quiapo, Antipolo, Cebu, Penafrancia and Manaoag.

The PNR and Panay Railway lines are good starting topics for transport heritage studies that may lead to some form of conservation. Following are a few photos taken back in 2006 when we surveyed the alignment for what was supposed to be Phase 1 of the Northrail project. The activities were preparatory for transport surveys that would have provided data that were to be used as inputs to estimating passenger demand for the railway line.

IMG_0091Remaining structures of an old PNR bridge in Bulacan.

IMG_0103Old PNR station in Bulacan – I can’t recall if this were in Marilao or Bocaue but the red brick building reminded me of similar rebuilt and preserved buildings in Japan such as Tokyo Station and the warehouses at Aka Renga in Yokohama.

IMG_0116PNR Malolos Station back in 2006 – the building was occupied by informal settlers at the time.

A good reference for those interested in railway heritage and its conservation is a book entitled “The Colonial Iron Horse” by Arturo Corpuz and published by the University of the Philippines Press. There’s a lot of material in that book to get one started about rail history in the Philippines particularly for the island of Luzon and the two main lines of the PNR – the Main Line North and the Main Line South, which I have written about in previous posts. These could be good topics for interdisciplinary studies involving historians, sociologists, anthropologists, architects, engineers and specialist in other disciplines.

Daang Bakal

The right of way for the old railroad line going up to Antipolo is still there and is now a regular road. Daang Bakal rises from what is now Valley Golf Subdivision (Celso Tuazon Ave. and Taktak Drive) in Cainta, Rizal through Victoria Valley Subdivision (Taktak Drive), Fairmount Hills Subdivision and Hinulugang Taktak (Daang Bakal though often referred to as Taktak Road, which is actually a different road and on the other side of the river), and until part of the Sumulong Memorial Circle in the vicinity of the Antipolo Church (Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage).  I took a few photos of Daang Bakal on our way to the Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for Palm Sunday Mass. The photos have been modified as I took it at dusk. The originals were quite dark so I adjusted the brightness. Still, I can only imagine now how this route could have looked like back in the day when the Manila Rail Road line passed through this area. It could have been one of the most scenic rides as it is still a scenic route today.

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At right in the photos is a fenced property designating the Hinulugang Taktak National Park. Hinulugang Taktak refers to the water falls that used to be one of the more popular destinations in Antipolo. There is actually a popular folk song inviting people to come to Antipolo (“Tayo na sa Antipolo at doon maligo tayo…”) to enjoy the falls. The falls have deteriorated through the years as it has been affected mainly by the settlements around it. There seems to be an effort to rehabilitate the area but it is still closed to the public. The road though is in excellent condition and has low motor traffic volumes. It is popular among cyclists as well as joggers. This Holy Week, the area should have a lot of visitors because of the Parish church in the area, which has an impressive architecture and gardens. The church is perfect for those doing Visita Iglesia or perhaps people just wanting to go to a quiet place for some meditation and prayer.