Monday, July 28, 2008


The word came by cell phone late Thursday night. Jaime Tiongson, RIHS president, said that Dr. Arturo Corpuz, author of The Colonial Iron Horse (UP Press, 1999), was scheduled to be on Manolo Quezon’s ANC program The Explainer on Tuesday July 22. Jaime added that RIHS (pronounced Reese) was invited to be in the audience and that we could question Corpuz.

The Ayala Land urban planner and UP professorial lecturer was very helpful as I wrote a feature later published in 1999 in the Japan Railway and Transport Review. It promised to be a nice reunion.

Then late Monday: “Change of plan Gary. Instead of Corpuz that they will interview. It is now us!” That altered my expectations. The show’s theme still be railways. Another text made a request: “Please prepare for the technical stuff while I prepare for the other stuff.”

When Tuesday came, Jaime, Karel Brouwers, Nick Buenafe and I met at the ABS-CBN compound. Soon a makeup artist was brushing our faces as 6 o’clock neared.

The show opened with Quezon showing above-average appreciation towards flanged wheels on tracks. The Explainer mentioned the ceremony in Del Gallego, Camarines Sur (track km 288.91) that closed the gap between Manila and Legaspi in 1938. The Main Line South stretched for 474 kilometers back then. That accomplishment led to initiatives that year for rail routes on Mindanao They and a lot of other things got sidetracked because of World War II. A hopeful tone was in his voice as he discussed in passing the revival of those plans. A similar fate hit Meralco’s streetcars near war’s end.

Co-host Patricia Evangelista, Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist told of her four-year experience riding the EDSA MRT and noting the sudden increase in passenger volume over the last four months. The self-described “train commuting girl” said, after watching Japanese platform “pushers” in action, “that except in this case [Metro Manila], we shove ourselves in.” Later, Quezon told how today’s descendants of the Spanish tranvia and American streetcar returned in elevated form “at great expense, with tremendous delays, and fierce criticism and allegation of corruption.”

We joined the discussion from time to time. I mentioned briefly the aborted Cagayan Valley rail project and current efforts in Congress to create a Mindanao Railways Corp. When a texter asked about Northrail, Jaime firmly said the project should not be discontinued. Karel added: “And in the long term, it will be good for everyone living in the North. They’ll have easier access to transportation. Don’t forget, the railroad provides access to transportation to less wealthy people. The people who can afford a car, and can afford fuel, fine. They’ll get on the highway. The railroad will save wear and tear on the highway and eventually probably save wear and tear and make the highways safer by getting rid of some of the trucks.”

During the interview with Quezon, Jaime said that one current RIHS project is a campaign “to preserve what’s left” of the stations built during the Spanish and American times. Of particular interest is Manila’s Paco Station, constructed between 1912 and 1914. RIHS would like to see the station declared a National Historical Landmark. As for the lines, they are generally “in pretty bad shape.” Then he told an interesting story: “But one thing positive about the line that is going to Bicol is that it’s still being maintained by the people along the track because they are using it right now. Even though there’s no more train going to Bicol, the line are still being preserved by the people living beside the track because they are using it for their own transport. . . . They’re using the track and preserving it.”

RIHS is less than a year old. So exposure on any television program, especially one sympathetic to the institution called railways, is a great opportunity for the Society to become more familiar. That publicity has already generated an email response. The most likely reason it was sent was because Manolo Quezon took the time, to use his words, “to shamelessly promote the organization…” – Gary L. Satre

Friday, July 25, 2008

Reese at the Explainer

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Please follow this link to view the historical photos mentioned in the show.