Tutuban Train Station: Stumbling upon a piece of history in a Shopping Complex

One does not exactly go to a chaotic place like Tutuban and expect to uncover a piece of history. People go there primarily to shop for budget finds. But an ordinary weekend shopping trip for us turned out to be a moment of discovery; a trip back in the glorious past of the Philippines. It was a long-ago time when steam locomotives ruled the highways and the concept of traffic was unknown in Philippine streets.

Tutuban Center Mall

When we arrived, I could not help but admire the beauty of Tutuban Mall, with its arched entrances that frame old doors, its antique walls and cast-iron posts embellished with lovely details. Never mind the endless row of stalls inside, the building stood grand, as if it knows that it once played a pivotal role in Philippine history.

The focal point of Philippine transport

Ask anybody nowadays about Tutuban and they will surely tell you about bargain finds, the night market and endless shopping. Who can blame them, Tutuban has been well-known as a shopping Mecca since the 1990s.

Little do people know that it was once a bustling train station known as the Tutuban Train Station that connected Manila to most of Northern Luzon. It was part of the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan or the Manila-Dagupan Line, the first railway system in the Philippines.

Train tracks in Tutuban
Before the North Luzon Expressway, trains were the primary mode of transport from the late 18th century to most of the 19th century, bringing people as well as goods from Dagupan, Pangasinan to Manila and vice-versa. Come to think of it, Tutuban has been a conduit of trade since time immemorial.

Tutuban Center Mall entrance with its brick walls
Construction of the North Luzon lines began in the late 1800s during the Spanish colonial period and served Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan, to name a few. The South Luzon lines, meanwhile, were added during the American colonial period and plied Manila to Bicol. Steam locomotives were the king of long distance travel in the olden days. The tracks were operated by the Philippine National Railways.

Intricate details of the cast iron posts
However, financial difficulties, natural calamities and the destruction brought by the Second World War caused the closure of most of the train lines. But during the term of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the South Luzon lines were rehabilitated allowing the Philippines National Railways to resume its route to Bicol.

Conversion to a shopping complex

The old pre-war building of Tutuban Train Station, on the other hand, was opened as a shopping mall during the early 90s.

The whole shopping complex is composed of seven buildings that house thousands of wholesalers, high-end shops, a department store and parking spaces. Foot traffic is very high, around 200,000, on weekdays and doubles during weekends and holidays.

Inside the Tutuban Center Mall
The sheer number of shoppers can be overwhelming and walking around this huge shopping complex could be quiet tiring. So take a break from your shopping routine, look around you and admire the beauty of the antique architecture around you. Satisfy your love for shopping and kindle your knowledge of Philippine history the next time you are in Tutuban.

Going Loco over Locavore

Trust food-hunting with friends on a Friday evening to bring you to unexpected places. Thus, notwithstanding the heavy traffic in C5 and Kapitolyo, our search for decent dinner brought us to the latest talk of the town that is Locavore. I neither had any idea of what Locavore specializes in nor with what its name meant but I was told that they serve good Filipino food with a twist. I have previously been to so many restaurants claiming to put a spin on Pinoy food and they all fell short of my expectation. So for Locavore, I was not particularly expecting much.

When we were finally able to wiggle our way out of the knotted traffic in Kapitolyo, Pasig, we were greeted by a small restaurant, with an almost bare facade, save for the simple signage announcing that we have finally arrived at our destination. It looked like a bar, not unlike the ones you encounter in Timog. There were many diners that evening, so I started to lose my doubts about this place. We had to wait a little before we finally got our seats outside but it didn’t matter because we were famished.

Locavore’s Menu
A server approached us and the nameplate displayed a celebrity’s name. My eye caught another familiar name and I suddenly realized that the servers were all using the names of famous celebrities.

We ordered the street food platter as appetizers. We also got the menu’s must-tries; the Sizzling Sinigang and Boneless Pork Belly. We also ordered Pandesal Pudding for dessert and a pitcher of House Blend Iced Tea for drinks.

Street food platter
The street food platter is a sampler of fish balls, squid balls, kikiam and kwek kwek. It came with three dipping sauces — classic sweet sauce, spicy vinegar and sweet chili sauce. It’s a great introduction to the mains that were to come next or for pairing with a bottle of beer perhaps. The Sizzling Sinigang is probably their best, most unique and most memorable dish. It’s a skillet of tender, fall-of-the-bone beef; French beans, cherry tomatoes, onions and garlic, swimming in rich, tangy gravy. Aesthetically, it looked more like roast beef than sinigang though.

Sizzling Sinigang
The Boneless Lechon Belly, meanwhile, is very reminiscent of Cebu Lechon. The skin was superbly crunchy and holds the seasonings and spices really well. It was very flavorful and, as they say, deadly sinful. This dish, as well as the Sizzling Sinigang, deserves heaps of steaming white rice.

Boneless Lechon Belly
With all the savory dishes that we’ve had, it is but fitting to end our meal with a good dessert. The Sizzling Pandesal Pudding is served warm and almost gooey, topped with scoops of butter vanilla ice cream (mantecado) and drizzled with salted caramel sauce (their menu said it was salted egg dulce de leche). The combination of warm and cold, and soft and sweet was the perfect closing to an excellent meal. Also, where else would you find a dessert that is served sizzling?

Sizzling Pandesal Pudding
The long drive to this restaurant was worth it. It had good ambiance, the food did not disappoint and the price was just right. I would definitely say that Locavore delivered well in putting the twist in classic Pinoy favorites.

Locavore Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Heritage Series: Strengthening our Faith with a visit to Manaoag, Pangasinan

It was in 1989 when I first set foot in Manaoag, Pangasinan for a thanksgiving pilgrimage with my parents. I remember waking up disoriented in a bus station. It was early morning and still dark; we were in an unfamiliar place. My young mind could not fully comprehend our purpose for going there but I knew it was a special journey.

When light began to fill the day, we made our way to the Church. At the patio, I was panicked by the frenzy of vendors selling candles and religious articles, all rushing toward us and literally forcing their merchandise to whoever caught their attention. For a brief moment, I thought we were being mobbed.

But once we were inside the Church, I felt safer and more at peace. It was still crowded inside but at least there was order. My last memory was of my small hand touching the bejeweled dress of the image of Our Lady of Manaoag.


Manaoag Church

From the Lady who Calls 


Almost three decades later, my wife and I, accompanied by our Mama, were on the same pilgrimage to Manaoag. The past year had been very challenging for us but it was filled with memorable events as well so we thought it was fitting to thank God for His unending guidance.

We left Quezon City early and passed through the three expressways (NLEX, SCTEX and TPLEX) traversing the great expanse of Central and Northern Luzon. It was a long yet steady ride. Upon reaching Urdaneta City in Pangasinan, it was already a short drive to Manaoag.

Image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag at the altar

The municipality’s name was derived from the condensed form of the local word Mantatawag which means “to call.” Local legend tells of a farmer who had a vision of the Virgin Mother, bathed in blinding light, and carrying the child Jesus. She appeared on top of a hill and told the farmer that she wanted a Church built in her honor, promising miracles in return.

The farmer told his relatives and neighbors about the apparition. Soon, word about the Virgin Mother spread and people began to make pilgrimage to the site of the holy vision. When asked where they had been, the pilgrims would say “Dimad Apo Ya Mantatawag” or “from the Lady who calls.”


Side entrance to the Church with attractive antique details

Whispering a Prayer


A Mass was ongoing when we arrived. As we had expected, the Church was full, with almost every corridor brimming with attendees. Receiving communion almost seemed impossible at first but the lay ministers were considerate enough to go near the pilgrims to distribute the host. After the ceremonies, we went to the adoration room behind the altar. Here, we quietly uttered our prayers and personal intentions to the Holy Mother.


Inside the cavernous interiors of the Church


It has been the tradition of pilgrims to touch the garments of the image of Our Lady of Manaoag, either with one’s hand or a handkerchief, to receive Her blessings. Moreover, a visit to this venerated place is incomplete without offering candles to the Blessed Mother. Thus, we bought candles that are color-coded depending on our prayers and lighted these at the Candle Gallery.


People lining up to touch the image of Our Lady of Manaoag 


Religiouos statues on display


Lighting candles at the Candle Gallery

Those who have purchased religious souvenirs may have these blessed by a priest at the area beside the Candle Gallery. The holy water is sourced from the well that flows from the ground where the Church stands. Pilgrims who also wish to bring home with them holy water may fill their containers at the nearby faucet at no cost.


Religious items on sale

Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag

The history of the present Church dates back to the 1600s when Augustinian missionaries established the Chapel of Sta. Monica (the old name of Manaoag) at the site of the present cemetery. The Augustinians, however, soon relinquished the administration of the diocese to the Dominicans.

During subsequent years, threats from neighboring tribes forced the friars to transfer the Church to its present site on top of a hill. Construction of a larger Church commenced a hundred years later in the 1700s, and was expanded over a course of two centuries.

Enshrined within the Church is the 17th century ivory image of the Virgin Mary carrying the child Jesus, bestowed with the title Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag. According to historical records, the statue was brought to the Philippines from Spain via the Manila galleon from Acapulco, during the early 17th century by the priest Juan de San Jacinto.

Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine Museum

Capping our pilgrimage was a visit to the Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine Museum. Here, statues of Our Lady of Manaoag in various sizes and garments are on display. One may also write prayers or thanksgiving notes to the Blessed Mother and drop these at the wooden box.


Gifts and notes for Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Manaoag for her divine intercession

From the Church, we roamed around the roadside vendors selling religious statues, rosaries, blessed oil, food and souvenirs. It was nice to see that the place is now very orderly and disciplined as compared to my memories of it as a child.

We headed home soon after lunch, carrying with our hearts the gratitude for having been able to hurdle numerous challenges as well as for having experienced many joys.

A funny roadside sign we saw on the way back to Manila
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