Tag Archives: bicol

To España (via Philippine National Railroad!)

In Alabang, PNR staffers told passengers that they could only accommodate those who bought tickets from an earlier time. The rest would have to wait  for two hours for the next ride. Yes, not efficient but if you don’t have any options you’d be happy to wait. Well,  air conditioned Metropolis Alabang is nearby so those passengers can go inside and idle their time away.

No not madre españa but that frequently flooded area named after the Iberian motherland.

The journey felt like an attraction ride. It ran steady at 20 kilometers per hour as it wildly swayed from side to side. Not to disparage efforts our government is taking to modernize our train network but like its current speed—it’s too slow.

To this my mother said, “mas mabuti na yan kaysa wala”.

But let me point out that even in its current condition PNR benefits many of our countrymen. The trip from Alabang to España was under an hour. That’s faster than taking any other public transportation today.

During the ride, I stroke up a conversation with a farmer from Tanauan. An OFW from Saudi who decided to come home to farm. He was headed to Pasay to buy pesticides. He dreams that our trains would one day connect his beloved Tanauan, hometown of the hero Mabini, to Manila.

“Pare, maybe not in our lifetime, but who knows?” I told him.

I went to a public elementary school in Makati where many of my classmates lived “home along da riles”. Our school was near the Buendia Station. Our teachers would pause from teaching as trains blasts their thunderous horns.

We played in and around the railroad. I noticed how scant and unkempt my friends houses were. They were illegal settlers along the railroad. Their shanties stood in stilts with the canal below serving as sewage. But what made an impression on me was how happy they were even living in that condition.

Rail work begun in 1887 under British direction. The asset was transferred completely to the Philippine government during the American administration. Since then it went through its phases of development.

Our PNR stations these days are devoid of the former elegance and grace it once had. We never had grand and wide stations like those in old Europe but they were lovely. They look pretty and there are a few of them left, like Paco and San Fernando (Pam.), though slowly crumbling to their deaths, scattered along our old riles.

Our trains had its good days. The line north referred to “Sugar road” while the south transports “Sugar, forest products and petroleum.”

History teachers tells us of Rizal’s letter praising the women of Malolos. Well, he visited the town via our railroad. He then proceeded to see friends as far as San Fernando. This was a century ago. The crumbling stations along the north has been waiting for the trains return.

When? that depends on how determined our government wants to put us right back on track (there’s the pun).

Recent developments under Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” vision looks promising. It comes as one of the bigger items in the infrastructure build up. The railway sector get a big pie with 1 trillion pesos (this budget includes the MRT).

The north would be extended all the way to Malolos (from Tutuban). Then another 55 kilometer railway reaching Clark in Pampanga. So you can alight from Clark airport and go straight to Manila.

To the South, from Tutuban the railway would run once more and reach Los Banos. I’ve been dreaming of riding an overnighter train to Bicol since I was a little boy. I wonder when would I finally get to ride one—I’m almost 40 now!

While I was on vacation a few years ago when visited Quezon province I saw the old railroad cut through an intensely green rice paddy (if memory serves me right I was in Unisan). Imagine if you were on a comfortable train ride going down south and you wake up seeing something like that?

Aside from moving goods and people, there’s tourism money for the PNR and towns it serves. A reliable and working train network is good for local economies too. One of my favorite travel show is “Japan Hour,” it is basically people riding trains to visit towns in the province.

The plan to establish a train running near the Laguna De Ba’y was drawn during the American occupation. Another plan that would have benefited us if it were carried out (much like the Burnham plan for Manila) to its conclusion. Due to massive population growth in recent years all you see today are houses.

Experts say that trains would contribute in dispersing the population out of Manila. It improves local economies. People would build their homes outside Manila if there’s an efficient public transport. This is something we haven’t realized yet because we have a failed rail system.

How we ended up with a mismanaged railway system? We all know the answer to that. The same answer why we ended up with poor infrastructure all over our islands.

I now live here in Singapore where the slightest delays in train arrivals makes the evening news—and theirs I feel is one of the best in Asia. They demand the highest standards from the people that runs their train system. I imagine having the same trains going in and out of our cities, taking us to our provinces, north and south, to see relatives and spend fiesta holidays.

Sana lang we get to see it in our lifetime. Sana.

 


Universidad de Sta. Isabel and the Legacy of Padre Gainza

Right across the grand cathedral of Naga lies one of the most historic building in Naga, the Universidad de Sta. Isabel de Nueva Cáceres, the pilot normal school for women in the country.

The founding of the school is the idea of one visionary man, Dominican Francisco Gainza. He saw the potential of women to be educators, this in a time when Filipinas were considered little more than home caregivers and producers of offspring. He envisioned a school where every parish would be required to send one representative to be schooled as teacher. The plan was for these ‘pensionadas’ to return to their communities and teach. He fought long and hard to get funds to erect the foundations of his school.

Universidad de Sta. Isabel today.

After the red brick school was completed Gainza then lobbied for subsidies so women from poor parishes could enter and complete their schooling. He petition the local administrators of the province to help shoulder the costs. From the period of 1877 up to 1898  the school produced 300 graduates.

Padre Gainza came in the country to further his religious studies–here he was ordained priest and rose from the ranks, retiring as bishop of Nueva Cáceres. In his younger years, he was sent to China where death is a constant, looming presence for religious missioners. He was typical of his generation of Spanish missionaries, highly educated, extremely devoted–most of these men died without seeing their families and homeland again. Padre Gainza taught physics in UST, he was a canon lawyer and a member of the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos de País.  He wrote the novenario for our Lady of Peñafrancia. The good Bishop died in 31 July 1879.

In his latter years as bishop of Nueva Cáceres, he sat on the ecclesiastical tribunal that reviewed the case of the GOMBURZA priests. The religious in Manila had petition the priests implicated in the Motín de Cavite to be divested of their priestly status. Bishop Gainza, not only said ‘no’, he went farther– expressing  his opinion that the three priests be pardoned. If he had his way, those three priests would’ve walked away free but Governor General Rafael Izquierdo had approved for the execution to be carried out.

We’re obviously looking at a visionary priest here that was ahead of his time. His biography, like all those obscured heroic friars that were placed in a bucket called ‘Damaso’, awaits to be written.

The Universidad de Sta. Isabel was where the Spanish signed the instruments of surrender in 18 September 1898. The provincial governor surrendered the entire province to the revolutionary forces to two corporals, Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo.
When Lukban arrived to help the revolutionaries overthrow the local Spanish administration the general was greeted with locals who had already deposed the Spanish. Elias Angeles, who organized the local government in Naga, held office in Sta. Isabel. This man was known for his gentlemanly character. A quaint iron plate marker describes him as, “the perfect gentleman, respected and treated with utmost courtesy and consideration all the Spaniards.”
Majority of the schools founded during the Spanish era have retained the patron saints name but dropped the Spanish ‘Universidad’ and ‘Colegio’. Some schools in Manila that adapted this strange arrangement are: Sta. Isabel, San Beda, Immaculate Conception, San Sebastian to name a few.

The most awkward change was that of Universidad de Sto. Tomas, now University of Sto. Tomas. They must have changed ‘Universidad’ to win regard from the Americans. Universidad de Sto. Tomas predates Harvard by a quarter of a century. The Ateneo schools retained the Spanish “Ateneo de” but like UST had the English ‘University’ attached as part of their official name. Like all Spanish founded schools, they went through a major overhaul when the Spaniards were sent packing–the faculty was Americanized.

Laudable are schools that maintained their original Spanish names like Colegio de San Juan de Letran. The Colegio de la Inmaculada Concepcion de la Concordia has retained the official name but is commonly referred to as Corcordia College these days.

But why is it the original name is even important?

As humans, we keep our name because it’s an integral part of our identity. Those who change their names either wants to forget their past or has decided to embraced a different identity. When we allow our streets, towns and institutions to be casually renamed, we’re permitting the deletion of our forefathers memory. These constant changes are common in this country. Not surprising because most of us are apathetic when it comes to our history.

May 2013


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