I often wonder why we don’t have an expansive train system here in the Philippines. I was surprised to know that there used to be a railroad system used as early as during the Spanish colonization era, when I watched the films Heneral Luna and Just a Stranger. I learned that an old railway system did exist.
On our way home from Rancho Bernardo Villas we made a short stop to the city of San Fernado, Pampanga, where Just a Stranger was filmed. We were set to check out the San Fernando Train Station, a historical landmark now turned into a small museum. There was no one else in the musuem except for its Caretaker. He was accompanied by his two dogs, who I initially thought were part of the statues. Throughout our whole stay there the two gentle dogs would not be bothered from their afternoon siesta.
Entry fee was by donation, and we were given our San Fernando heritage passports which listed several historical pitstops within the city. It was built in 1892 as part of the Manila-Dagupan line built by the Manila Railroad Company. The country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, took the train here twice when he visited San Fernando. The museum showcased memorabilia from the American and Japanese colonial eras. The railroad could no longer be seen as it has since been buried by ashfall when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991.
Next to the museum is the Km 102 Death March Marker which marks the end of the Bataan Death March in 1942 where the remaining Filipino and American survivors from the march were loaded in boxcars and transported to be kept as prisoners in Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac.
After our short stop to the San Fernando Train Station we drove around to have a glimpse of the heritage houses. I don’t think they were open at the time so we just drove by while I quickly took photos from my phone camera. We plan to go back for a proper stay and longer tour in San Fernando soon.
One of the things I hope my country will have more of is a good commute system, like a wider train network. Prior to the pandemic Metro Manila’s traffic was the common subject in the daily news, and most of the commuters living in the suburbs would spend an average of 3-5 hours per day just stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic. A couple of years ago efforts have started to put up an extension of the LRT/MRT to the northernmost part of Metro Manila, and I look forward to the time they become operational so I can get to visit my family more frequently.