I’ve lived in the Sta. Ana area for about three years now, and all that time I’ve only been vaguely aware of the various Old Manila-ish sites and structures within easy reach. There’s the old Sta. Ana church, for example. The Sta. Ana station of the Pasig River Ferry is just a few minutes away from the house, but I haven’t even tried it out yet. Some of the houses in the neighborhood, in fact, still reflect the Spanish-era style, albeit in various degrees of maintenance.
An old building that caught my eye one day, though, is the original Paco Station of the Philippine National Railways, near the corner of Quirino Highway and Pedro Gil. I rarely pass by that area and therefore did not notice the crumbling structure until recently. A few days after spotting the building, I had dragged Don back to the place so we can take a few photos.
Today, the formerly grand and regal Paco station is slowly disappearing right before our very eyes. Practically just the façade is remaining. In fact, one reason why I was such in a hurry to go back and take photos of it is because I had spotted some construction going on there and I was afraid that they’d be tearing down the building soon.
As it turned out, the building under construction that I saw has stayed that way for many years. It was supposed to be a mall, and was supposed to be part of a bigger project on the area, but it got cut short when Estrada was thrown out of office (at this point I feel compelled to tell you that my sources were the Pulis Oysters sweeping the area at the Plaza Dilao across the street, he he). Some construction was going on in the railway itself when we went there, though the workers that I asked didn’t have any idea about the plans for the building.
I didn’t find much information online about the old station, but I did stumble upon the site of a group focusing on railway heritage conservation here, and related blog that featured an old photo of the Paco station, here. Here’s what they had to say about the Paco station:
“The railroad line from Tutuban to Muntinlupa and Paco Railroad Station will celebrate its 100 years anniversary in 2008. The Manila Belt Line from Tutuban to Paco Station and Paco Station to Binakayan, Cavite of the Manila Railroad Company opened on March 25, 1908 while the branch to the south, the Paco to Muntinlupa railroad line opened on June 21, 1908. With the closure of the Manila-Dagupan line in the early 1990s, the Manila Belt Line to Paco Railroad Station and Paco Railroad Station to Muntinlupa is now the oldest railroad line still in operation here in the Philippines.
On February 9, 1945, a group of American soldiers together with Philippine guerrilla forces gallantly fought the Japanese Army to retake the Paco Railroad Station. An Indian American and a Spanish American soldier received the Congressional Medal of Honor Award, the highest award that can be given to an American soldier, for their efforts in retaking the Paco Railroad Station. The capture of the Paco Railroad Station caused the crucial defeat of the remaining Japanese forces in Manila.
The Railways and Industrial Heritage Society of the Philippines, Inc. will spearhead the research and complete documentation of the Paco Railroad Station and surrounding communities and will play a major role in securing the declaration of the Paco Railroad Station as a National Historical Landmark. The restoration of Paco Railroad Station to its old glory will also be part of the efforts of the society.”
Interesting. I’m glad that there are efforts to restore the building. It would be such a shame otherwise, especially considering how the “modern” train stations look like now. Parang sheds lang.
Anyway, across the street is Plaza Dilao, honoring the country’s first Japanese community, established in the area way back 1614. It forms an interesting foreground to shots of the Paco station, showing several layers of history: the grand but crumbling old station, the proud Japanese warrior, and the modern ugly lamp posts.
A few blocks away stands the old house of former President Jose P. Laurel. He chose to stay in his own house during his term, instead of living at Malacañang Palace. The house itself is pretty well-maintained, but its most interesting feature for me was sitting in the garage: a dusty and forlorn presidential car.
All this, just a few minutes from home. I really should go out more.
More photos in Multiply
P.S. My photos are of course nothing, but I found an amazing railway photo series here.