For the people of Quezon and the Bicol region, the PNR trains have been a major part of their lives. The PNR trains were the preferred mode of transportation between the southern provinces and Manila as the road network was not yet completed yet. My siblings and I knew of no other way of travelling from Sorsogon and Manila and vice versa except by rail. We didn’t experience South Road, the term used to describe the trip by land, as our father worked practically all his life for the Philippine National Railways (PNR). He started as a draftsman and worked his way up to the position of Assistant General Manager through the years.
As a little girl growing up in Sorsogon, I spent my summer vacations at the Mandaluyong house of my aunt and at my maternal grandparents’ house in Alaminos, Pangasinan. My vacation started with a bus ride with my family from Sorsogon to Legaspi City where a PNR station is located. After an early dinner of adobo, rice and another viand that doesn’t spoil at once, I got ready to sleep. It wasn’t fashionable yet for public conveyances to have television sets. The best option was to read a book if not yet sleepy. The very cold aircon was very conducive to sleeping. Since I slept early, I was already up and about at dawn when the train reached San Pablo station in Laguna. It was still dark outside so it was useless looking out of the window. After a few hours the train would have reached Tutuban, the grand central station and headquarters of the PNR. A lot of young people today associate Tutuban as the haven for budget hunters but for me it is a train station. I can still pinpoint where the offices of the different departments of the PNR were.
After a month in Mandaluyong and Pangasinan, it was time to go home to Sorsogon. We rode the PNR train once again. Just like the previous trip, sleep was easy to come by. I woke up early when the train stopped in Naga City in Camarines Sur. Naga City station, being a major station, was abuzz with activity.
Albay is the next province after Camarines Sur. You know it is Albay as you are greeted by the majestic view of Mayon Volcano, the volcano with the perfect cone, when you looked out of the window. A few minutes after is Legaspi City, the last station of the Main Line South (Tutuban to Legaspi City) of the PNR.
Today, the Main Line South is undergoing a major rehabilitation following deterioration brought about by natural calamities and vandalism of the company’s infrastructure. It is my prayer that with this rehabilitation, it will be able to bring back the glory days of the PNR and at the same time be instrumental in spurring economic growth in the region. After all, rail transport is still the most efficient mode for long distance travel.