Thursday, December 14, 2017

Bulacan's Old Brick Train Stations : Reminders of A Century Past

Before the advent of all light rail transits in the metro (MRT 3, LRT1, LRT2, MRT 7), there was the Ferrocaril de Manila-Dagupan first, a heavy railway that runs from Tutuban in Manila all the way to Dagupan, Pangasinan. This railway was opened during the latter part of the Spanish Occupation in November 1892, just when the revolution against the Spanish authority is about to break out.

Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan, Bulacan Section. 

The province of Bulacan, as well as its citizen benefited much from this railway because the transportation became easier for them, and traveling to Manila or up north until Dagupan, became much more comfortable. The movement of products from the province to other neighboring provinces, towns, and cities also became much more fluid. Seven stations were built in Bulacan, starting from  Meycauayan, then Marilao, Bocaue, Bigaa (Balagtas), Guiguinto, Malolos Y Barasoain, and finally Calumpit. 

For so many decades, these railway and train stations became part of Bulakenyo's life and consciousness. Everyday, the trains would pass by and people from the towns where stations can be found hustle around riding or alighting from the train. Some of them are busy offering their goods to the passengers around the stations while some are just loitering around to watch the trains and people come and go.

Now, after more than a hundred year, only the brick train stations of the railways remains. In Bulacan, there are still 5 remaining stations of which one (1) is totally in ruins while 4 are still mightily standing (whole, or in part). Nothing remains from the two of them (Bocaue and Marilao). Let us now trace the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan's remaining Bulacan brick stations starting from south going north.

MEYCAUAYAN STATION

Meycauayan Station. Philippine National Railways.
This old train station stands proud in the middle of a grassy land on the left side of McArthur Highway. This is the second station in Bulacan after Polo station. When Polo (now Valenzuela City) became part of Metro Manila in the 1970's, Meycauayan Station effectively became Ferrocaril de Manila-Dagupan's first station in Bulacan.

Among all Bulacan train stations, this is the only one with a 2nd floor still standing. It is currently dilapidated, and in a very sad state. The last time this station was operational was in 1997, and was closed together with the remaining stations of the PNR North Line (Caloocan, Malabon, Valenzuela).

MARILAO AND BOCAUE STATION

Bocaue Station. Philippine National Railways. 

After Meycauayan, Marilao Station is next followed by Bocaue Station. Marilao Station serves the whole Marilao town while Bocaue Station serves the whole of Bocaue and some western villages of Santa Maria. Unfortunately, no remains of both station can be found nowadays. A picture of the Bocaue Station (above) survives though. The picture was taken from "Las Estaciones Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan" by Maximo Noche Lopez del Castillo accessible here.

These two stations were operational until 1991, and was promptly closed the same year because of the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

BIGAA STATION

Bigaa Station. Philippine National Railways.

This station can be found at the present day town of Balagtas (Bigaa is the old name). It still stands whole and serve as an outpost (not sure if barangay or PNR outpost though). It was once a very important station because it serves two northern lines, the first one is the original line going to Dagupan, while the 2nd one is the Cabanatuan line. It actually served as the terminus of that 2nd line.

The Cabanatuan line starts from Bigaa, passing through different northern Bulacan towns of Plaridel, Pulilan, Baliwag, San Ildefonso, and San Miguel; then Nueva Ecija towns of San Isidro, Gapan, Penaranda, Santa Rosa; then finally, Cabanatuan. This line was abandoned after World War II, was reopened in 1969, and abandoned again in 1980.

After the Cabanatuan line ceased operation, Bigaa Station continued to serve the people of Balagtas as part of the original main line going to Dagupan. It was finally closed in 1991, together with Marilao, Bocaue, Guiguinto, and Malolos because of Mt. Pinatubo's eruption.

GUIGUINTO STATION

Guiguinto Station. Philippine National Railways.
This station used to serve all of Guiguinto town and neighboring villages of other towns. It is now just ruins and only the southern and western wall is standing. This is very much appalling considering this station is part of Guiguinto, as well as the national history. It was made famous by an incident during the revolution when the Katipuneros ambushed Fr. Leocadio Sanches, Guiguinto's parish priest, together with six other Spanish priest and a doctor, as part of the Katipunan's move to lead Philippines to freedom.

It was operational until 1991 but was closed down along with the others along Marilao-Malolos segment because of Mt. Pinatubo's eruption. 

MALOLOS STATION

Malolos Station. Philippine National Railway.

This station is still maintained and currently serves as an office for some PNR personnel. It was named Estacion de Barasoain Y Malolos for it serves both town then, Barasoain being just around 500-800 meters away from the station.

Old and original Barasoain Y Malolos Station.

The current station is not the original design but a restructured one. The original one, pictured above, was destroyed in 1945, and was replaced with the current one. This station was closed in 1991, during Corazon Aquino Administration, along with all the Bulacan stations from this to Marilao due to Mt. Pinatubo's eruption.

CALUMPIT STATION

Calumpit Station. Philippine National Railway. 
Among all remaining Bulacan Old Brick Train Station, this one is the most complete for even the place where passenger waits still stand complete with the roofings! Calumpit Local Government should be commended for the very good job they have done preserving this piece of history and heritage. This is the last station in Bulacan because the next one is Apalit which is already in Pampanga. It closed down in 1989 when the Tarlac-Malolos segment of the PNR ceased operation.

In Conclusion... 

These Old Train Stations serves as a reminder that once upon a time, a mighty railway runs north up to Dagupan, which can be considered a big transportation feat during those times... and Bulacan was part of that! These "estaciones" now become part of the history and heritage not only of Bulacan, but of the whole nation as well, making them deserving to be preserved, even just for posterity.

But the threat to their preservation is real. There is a new Northrail Project which aims to revive the PNR North Main Line, using the same right of way as the old one (because it is still owned by the Philippine National Railways by the way). It means these old stations will also also become part of that revived project. The question is: will they be left alone, or be demolished so that newer and sleeker stations be built in their stead? I hope it will be the former. PNR should find ways on how these stations be preserved without being an obstacle on building new ones. After all, they also forms part of the rich history of the agency/company, as well as the whole nation!

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Sources:

Philippine National Railways
Philippine Trains Wikia




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About the Author

I am ROMEL RAFOR JAIME, the man behind San Josenyong Gala. My travel blogger name came about because I am a proud resident of the City of San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. In real life, I am a licensed librarian who works in a college in Gapan, Nueva Ecija as a librarian and teaches general education subjects from time to time. My goal is to visit all the 81 provinces of the Philippines before visiting other countries. As of 2017, I have already visited 73... :)

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