The Metro Manila LRT (Light Rail Transit) and MRT (Metro Rail Transit) systems are not under the PNR (Philippine National Railways), rather these are directly managed and owned by the DOT (Department of Transportation) and private concessionaires. Operating since 2003, the LRT Line 2 traverses 13.8 kilometers east-to-west and back, starting from the Santolan station on the Marikina-Infanta Highway (commonly called Don Mariano Marcos Avenue) in Marikina, to the Recto station along Senator Claro Mayo Recto Avenue in Manila.
Despite being autonomous from the PNR, the LRT is still part of the long history of rail transport in the Philippines. This is symbolized by the old Tutuban Train Station, in Tayuman, Manila; which is near the Recto Station. The Tutuban Station was part of the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan, the first national commercial railway that started operating in 1892 from Manila to Municipality of Dagupan, in the province of Pangasinan. By the American Occupation (1898-1946), more lines opened throughout the country linking more provinces and towns from Luzon, Panay, and Cebu. In Manila, the Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company (now MERALCO) started operating the electric Travania trams, which moved about the city, replacing the horse draw trans that plied the city streets. Although these would be the ancestors of the in-city rail systems of Metro Manila’s LRT and MRT systems, most of these in-city and provincial railways would cease operations due to the damage caused by World War II (1939-1945).
The LRT line 1 started operations in 1983, covering the south-to-north and back route from Baclaran in Paranaque City to President Theodore Bulloch Roosevelt Jr. Avenue in Caloocan City. It would take twenty years before the next LRT line would open in 2003. The east terminus of the LRT-2 is at the Santolan station, along the Marikina-Infanta Highway, which was named after the many santol trees (Sandoricum koetjape) that once grew in the area, but are now replaced by commercial malls, condominium units, and small residential subdivisions. Most of the LRT-2 route travels above Aurora Boulevard, which is named after Doña Aurora Antonia Molina Aragón Quezón (1888-1949), first lady and wife of President Manuel Luis Molina Quezón (1878-1944), to whom the city was named after. The next station is the Katipunan station along Aurora Boulevard, named after the revolutionary movement against Spanish colonial rule, from 1896 to 1898. Beside the north entrance of the Katipunan station is the Good Shepherd Provincialate (established 1963) and the all-girls St. Bridget School Quezon City (established in 1966), which are both run by the Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd.
Further west of the Katipunan station is the Aurora Milestone building, with it rotating 15 foot tall (4.572 meters) statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, by Bojie Pangan, located at the roof deck. Further down Aurora Boulevard is the Alliance Fellowship Church (AFC), which is one of the many non-Catholic Christian churches along the LRT-2 route.
The third station is the Anonas station in Project 3, near the corner of Anonas street and Aurora Boulevard. The street and station are named after the Anonas tree (Anona reticulata Linn), as all the roads in the Homesite Project 3 district are named after indigenous trees. The main landmark of the Anonas station is the Archdiocesan Shrine of Saint Joseph, which was completed in 1951. Inside the church are several murals by noted genre painter, Loreto T. Racuya (born 1940).
The Stella Maris College can be spied near the corner of Aurora Boulevard and Cambridge Street in the Cubao district. Established in 1955 by Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, they named the school after an incarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “Star of the Sea” or “Stella Maris.”
The streets north of Aurora Boulevard in Cubao are all named after famous foreign universities, such as Stanford Street (after the Stanford University, California, USA, established 1891), Imperial Street (after the Imperial College, London, UK, established 1907), West Point Street (after the United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, USA, established 1802), Cambridge Street (after the University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, established 1209), and Oxford Street (after the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, established 1096). Most of these roads are residential in nature, with a few businesses scattered in between. Unfortunately, many of these businesses are girly bars.
The fourth station is the Araneta-Cubao station, which is the central station that links the LRT-2 with the MRT-3 line that plies the north-to-south and back route along the Epifanio Cristóbal de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). The Cubao district draws its name from an old belief that the once forested areas was haunted by hunchbacked (“kuba”) witches; and if one would see such a creature, they would declare “Kuba, o!” The name Araneta is drawn from industrialist José Amado Araneta (1907-1985) and his family, who purchased 35 hectares of the Cubao district in the 1954, and developed it into the commercial center it is now. However, people forget the old history of Cubao, including the Cubao Elementary School, which was established in 1946, as part of the exodus from war ravaged Manila to Quezon City.
The LRT-2 crosses Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, which is the main thoroughfare of Metro Manila, as it passes through the cities of Caloocan, Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati, Manila and Parañaque. The road was named after Epifanio Cristóbal de los Santos (1871-1928), an influential politician, writer, historian, painter, musician, ethnographer and philosopher during the American occupation (1898-1946). At the center of EDSA is the Metro Rail Transit System (MRT-3), which started operations in 1999.
As the LRT-2 crosses EDSA, it continues along the westbound Aurora Boulevard route. However, near the corner of EDSA and Aurora Boulevard, there is a fork to the north that branches to E. Rodriguez Sr. Boulevard and F. Manalo Street. The main road is named after Senator Eulogio “Amang” Adona Rodríguez, Sr. (1883-1964). The side road was named after Felix Ysagun Manalo (1886-1963), the founder of the Iglesia ni Cristo, which has over 2 million followers to this day.
There are several bus terminals between the E. Rodriguez, Aurora Boulevard, and Sergeant J. Catolos Street. The oldest is the Del Monte Land Transport Bus Company (DLTB Company), which was first founded as Batangas Laguna Tayabas Bus Company Incorporated (BLTB Co.) in 1918, but had to change its name in 2010 for some legal issues. Another bus company in the area is the Raymond Transit, the Dangwa Trans-Corporation, the Partas Bus Company, and the Fermina Express. There are more bus companies and stations in the area, mostly near the New York street.
The western area close to the EDSA and Aurora Boulevard is called Barangay Immaculate Park, which is named after the nearby Immaculate Conception Cathedral (completed in 1950) And home to the Diocese of Cubao. The streets in the area are named after American cities, such as New York and Seattle. Although mostly a residential area, one of the notable roads is Boston Street, with the highly influential Boston Art Gallery at the corner of Lantana Street. Other nearby roads are named after indigenous flowering trees, such as the Lantana (family Verbenaceae), Dama de Noche (Cestrum nocturnum), Ilang-ilang (Cananga odorata),and Acacia.
Rising about the tree-line of Rasario Drive (Rosary Drive) is a Chinese pagoda-like structure. This is the St. Columban’s House of Studies, which is run by Saint Columban Mission Society. The religious organization was established in 1912, and named after Irish missionary Saint Columbanus (543-615 AD).
The fifth LRT station is the Betty Go-Belmonte Station, which is named after journalist Billie Mary “Betty” Go-Belmonte (1933-1994), who had established the Philippine Star newspaper and the STAR Group Publications.
Moving along Aurora Boulevard into the New Manila district, one notices the emerald and mint Modern-Gothic structures of the St. Paul University Quezon City (SPUQC) rising above its dark citadel like walls. Established in 1931 as the Novitiate and Provincial House of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, the sisters opened its doors to form the all-girls school in 1946. In the campus of the SPUQC are sculptures by Jose “Joe” Barcena Jr., Julie Lluch (born 1946), and Ben-Hur Gorospe Villanueva (1938), as well as visionary murals by the artist and scientist Dr. Abercio Valdez Rotor.
The SPUQC is at the edge of the sixth LRT station, the Gilmore Station. The intersecting street and station are named after the American Governor-General Eugene Allen Gilmore (1871-1953), who was serving in the Philippines during the time Doña Magdalena Hashim Ysmael-Hemady was developing the wealthy away-from-Manila subdivision that would be later known as New Manila. At the northwest corner of Aurora Boulevard and Gilmore Avenue is the abandoned Goethe-Institut, which was the German Cultural Center that was established in the 1960s. Being overshadowed by the LRT station and building traffic congestion from the many computer sales and repair stores popping up in the area, the Goethe-Institut closed its doors in the 2000s, and moved to Makati City.
The names of the three main roads of New Manila call back to the American Occupation, and the 1930s when New Manila was being developed. Gilmore Avenue was named after a former governor-general, Pacific Avenue (now Doña Hemady Avenue) tells of the American takeover of Pacific Rim islands of Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines from the Spanish, after the victory in the Spanish-American War of 1898. And Broadway Avenue was named to show the growing fascination with American entertainment and Hollywood films, which in turn also reflected the establishment of the nearby LVN (established 1936) and Sampaguita studios (established 1937), which also saw many film stars and directors moving into the neighborhood. Although the glitz and glamour of New Manila has long passed, and the film studios have all closed, there are still many old mansions in the area, as well as newer ones. And many of these residents look towards the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and Archdiocesan Shrine, completed along Broadway Avenue in 1960.
Also noticeable from the LRT-2 is the golden Stupa of Dege of the Buddhist Wisdom Park, which is also on Broadway Avenue. The temple was opened in 2012, with a tree grown from branches of the actual Bodhi tree in which Siddhārtha Gautama (563-400 BC) had founded Buddhism.
A couple of hundred meters from the Gilmore station is events venue called The Oasis Garden and the Ermitaño Creek, which is the portion of Aurora Boulevard that enters San Juan City. The Ermitaño Creek was once called Salapán Creek, but an old folk tale of a hermit (ermitaño) living nearby brought about this change of name.
The seventh LRT-2 station is the José Ruiz Station in San Juan City. There is little data who the real José Ruiz is, except that people say that he was a soldier in the revolution against Spain. One possibility would be Judge José Ruiz de Luzuriaga (1843-1921), the Negros revolutionary and later President of the Philippine Constitutional Assembly. Other streets in the area also have no data on which they were named after, so it is most likely these were the names local wealthy residents of San Juan City, when these streets were being developed.
The LRT-2 crosses the San Juan River (Saint John, The Baptist River) and enters the City of Manila. The San Juan is one of the major tributaries of the Pasig River, and starts in the Novaliches district of Quezon City as the San Francisco del Monte River. The tributaries of the San Juan River are Buhangin (sandy) Creek, the Maytunas Creek, the Ermitaño Creek, the Dilimán (a willow, Pleieina tetrasperma) Creek, and the Mariblo Creek.
The Santa Mesa district of Manila is at the western terminus of Aurora Boulevard, with several high education institutions along the route, with the Central Colleges of the Philippines (established 1954) and the University of the East, Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center (UERM, established 1956). The University of the East was established along Rector Avenue in Manila in 1946, and its extension medical school a year later, and was dedicated to the very popular President Ramón del Fierro Magsaysay Sr. (1907-1957), who had died in a plane crash.
The next major intersection that the LRT-2 crosses is Araneta Avenue, which was named after the patriot Gregorio Soriano Araneta (1869-1930), who was a supporter of the Katipunan revolution against Spain, member of the Malolos Constitutional Assembly, and a Supreme Court Justice during the American Occupation. At Araneta Avenue’s intersection with Aurora Boulevard is the SM Santa Mesa mall, which the rest of the road is filled with businesses, including many funeral parlors. After the Araneta Avenue intersection is the eighth LRT station, which is the V. Mapa Station that was renamed after the American period Chief Justice Victorino Montano Mapa (1855-1927), as it was once called Calle Buenavista (Good View).
Aurora Boulevard ends at the Araneta Avenue intersection and continues as the Magsaysay Boulevard, which was named after the 7th Philippine President. The route of Magsaysay Boulevard is filled with several non-Catholic Christian churches, starting with the Calvary Foursquare Church (established 1949), the Sambahan sa Banal na Hapag (church completed in 1982) of the Iglesia Evangélica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF, established 1909), the Grace Gospel Church (established 1952) at the corner of Piña (pineapple) Avenue, and the Living Water Baptist Church (established 1911) along Pureza Street.
After the passing the churches, one can spy the P. Burgos Elementary School, which was established in 1918. The school was named after the martyr, Fr. José Apolonio García Burgos (1837-1872), who was executed by garrote with fellow priests Jacinto Zamora and Mariano Gómez, after being implicated as co-conspirators in the failed Cavite Mutiny of 1872.
After the P. Burgos School, travelers see the old Philippine National Railways tracks that traverse the Sampáloc district of Manila, which was named after the many Sampáloc (Tamarindus indica) trees growing in the area. At the distance, you can also spot the Iglesia ni Cristo Lokal ng Sampáloc temple.
The some side streets of along the Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard route are named after ideal personal characteristics in Tagalog and in Spanish. There is Alegria Street (joy), Altura Street (“height” pertaining to uprightness), Fortuna Street (fortune), Kasama Street (companionship), Ligaya Street (joy), Mithi (idealism), and Pureza Street (purity); where the tenth LRT station is located.
The next streets tell the historic trivia about Manila during the American occupation. Once called Calle Economía, Vicente Cruz Street was named after the then prominent lawyer and local politician, Vicente G. Cruz, who is also the father of Justice Isagani A. Cruz. Formerly called Calle Pepín, J. Marzan Street was named after Jesús Marzan, who was local resident and one of the basketball players in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where the Philippines ranked 5th in the games. Marzan’s teammates were Antonio Carillo, Jacinto Ciria Cruz, Charles Borck, Primitivo Martinez, Franco Marquicias, Amador Obordo, Ambrosio Padilla, Miguel Pardo, Bibiano Quano, John Worrell and Fortunato Yambao. The next road is M. de la Fuente Street that was once named Calle Trabajo, and was renamed after the former Police Chief and Manila Mayor Manuel de la Fuente (1890-1968).
The Nagtahan Interchange is located at the crossroads of Magsaysay Boulevard, Lacson Avenue, Legarda Street, J.P. Laurel Street, and the Mabini Bridge that leads to Quirino Avenue. Once called the Rotonda de Sampaloc, the intersection was beautified with the Fuente Carriedo (Carriedo Fountain) that was constructed in 1884. The fountain was later moved to Quezon City and then to Santa Cruz, Manila, after the 1976 road widening of the intersection. The area is called Nagtahan (to stop), after the road blocks set up during construction of the Mabini Bridge in the 1960s. The over passing bridges of the Nagtahan Interchange were completed in 1992, to ease traffic congestion in the area.
Lacson Avenue was formerly called Governor William Cameron Forbes Street, and later renamed after the Manila Mayor Arsenio Hilario Sison Lacson (1912-1962). Legarda Street was once named Calle Alix after the 1860s magistrate José María Alix y Bonache, and was later renamed after the Resident Commissioner from the Philippine Islands to the United States Congress Benito Tuason Legarda (1853-1915). J.P. Laurel Street has several old names from Calzada de San Miguel (after the nearby San Miguel Parish), Calzada de Malacañan (after the presidential palace down the road), and Calle Áviles (after José Vicente de Áviles who funded the extension of the road to the Rotonda de Sampaloc); and it was finally named after the local resident President José García Paciano Laurel (1891-1959). The Mabini Bridge was once called the Nagtahan Bridge, and was later named after the revolutionary Apolinario Maranan Mabini (1864-1903), who born in the area. Finally there is Quirino Avenue, which was formerly named Calle Luengo and then renamed after the Philippine President Elpidio Rivera Quirino (1890-1956).
Just at the base of the Nagtahan Interchange that enters into Legarda Street is the Pasig River tributary Estero de Sampaloc, followed by Sta. Teresita Street, with the Florida Transport, Inc. bus station (established 1970) at the corner. The Sta. Teresita Street was formerly named Calle Guipit after the many barber shops that once lined the street. The road was later renamed after the Spanish Saint Teresa of Ávila (Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada, 1515-1582), where there is a chapel once dedicated to her on that street, but was later changed to the Our Lady of Manaoag Chapel.
Once called Calle Lipa, M. F. Jhocson Street is named after Mariano Fortunato Jhocson (1876-1928), who founded the National University (NU) in 1900. Located at the end of Jhocson Street, the NU has undergone many name changes, from the Colegio Filipino (1900–1905), the Colegio Mercantil (1905-1916), the National Academy (1916–1921), and finally to the National University in 1921.
The eleventh LRT-2 is the Legarda Station, at the corner of Legarda and Figueras Streets. Once called Calle Bustillos, after the ill-fated Spanish Governor General Fernando Manuel de Bustillos Bustamante y Rueda (died 1719), the street was later renamed José Figueras, a local resident and the Secretary of Labor under President Quirino (1948–53). Down Figueras Street are the Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Loreto (established 1613) and the St. Anthony Shrine (established 1794).
From the Legarda Station, the LRT-2 turns past Roces Avenue (formerly Calle Mendiola) and into Recto Avenue, where there are many pre-war Art Deco buildings, still in use. One of these is the Laperal Building, built in the 1930s, and now used as Youniversity Suites residences for students in the nearby colleges and universities. Among these schools are Arellano University (established 1938), the Centro Escolar University (established 1907), the College of the Holy Spirit Manila (established 1913), the Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (established 1945), the FEATI University (1946), the La Consolación College Manila (1902), the Mary Chiles College (established 1913), the National Teachers College (1928), the Philippine College of Health Sciences (established 1993), the Philippine School of Business Administration (established 1963), the St. Jude College (established 1968), the San Beda University (1901), the San Sebastian College – Recoletos de Manila (established 1941), the Technological Institute of the Philippines (established 1962), and the University of Manila (established 1913), which are located in the Sampaloc and San Miguel districts of Manila.
The area covering the Santa Mesa, Sampaloc, San Miguel, Santa Cruz and Quiapo districts of Manila is the University Belt, due to the high concentration of educational institutions in the 6 kilometer radius. One of these schools is the University of the East (UE) along Recto Avenue, which was established in 1946. Although much of the campus cannot be easily seen from the LRT-2, due to its very close proximity to the campus walls, what can be seen is the UE’s Tan Yan Kee Garden, which was built in honor of the father of the Chinese businessman, Lucio C. Tan, Sr.(born 1934). Tan put up a foundation named after his father, and the foundation has invested in several educational institutions throughout the country, with UE as one of the beneficiaries.
The University of the East is located at the corner of Recto Avenue and S.H. Loyola Street. Named after the 1950s Congressman Sergio H. Loyola, the road was first called Calle Lepanto, after the 1571 Battle of Lepanto where the Venetian Republic and Spanish Empire won a miraculous and decisive victory in a naval battle against the Ottoman Empire. Along Loyola Street is the historical Gota de Leche Building, which was designed and completed in 1915 by the brothers Arch. Arcadio de Guzmán Arellano (1872-1920) and Juan Marcos de Guzmán Arellano (1888-1960). The Gota de Leche (A Drop of Milk) is a foundation that started in 1906 by the Asosación Feminista Filipina of Trinidad Rizal (sister of Philippine National Hero, Dr. José Rizal) and Concepción Felix Roque (1884-1967) to provide nutritional and medical aid for the local indigent mothers and their children, through the La Protección de la Infancia Inc.
The next intersection along Recto Avenue is Nicanor Reyes Street, which was once called Calle Morayta after the Spanish politician and educator Miguel Morayta Sagrario (1834-1917), who had been a benefactor of Dr. José Rizal through the Masonic Grande Oriente Español, and his teacher at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Morayta also supported the Propagandists, who sought reforms in the Spanish Occupation of the Philippines, by joining the La Solidaridad movement. Nicanor Icasiano y Reyes Sr. (1894-1945) is the founder and first president of the Far Eastern University (FEU, established 1928), which is located between Morayta Avenue and Quezon Boulevard. Several of the Art Deco buildings in the FEU campus were awarded Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Cultural Heritage, in 2005. Designed by Arch. Pablo Sebero Antonio, Sr. (1901-1975), these buildings also house a wealth of artworks by Graciano T. Nepomuceno (1881-1974), Francesco Riccardo Clementi Monti (1888-1958), Fernando Cueto Amorsolo (1892-1972), Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981), Antonio Gonzales Dumlao (1912-1983), Carlos “Botong” Villaluz Francisco (1914-1969), Simon Saulog (1916-1995), Napoleón Isabelo “Billy” Veloso Abueva (1930-2018), Rosario “Charito” de Lara Bitanga-Peralta (born 1934), and Peter Tiamzon de Guzman (born 1962).
Beside the FEU are the Doña Narcisa Building and the Holy Nazarene Dorm, along Quezón Boulevard. The Doña Narcisa Building was named after the film producer, Narcisa Buencamino-de León (1877-1966), whose family owned the LVN film studios. The building was derelict for a long period of time, until the Philippine College of Health Sciences took over in 1993). The Holy Nazarene Dorm is named after the miraculous 1606 icon of the Black Narzarene, which is housed in the Saint John the Baptist Parish or Quiapo Church.
The LRT-2 ends at the Recto Station, which is near the corner of Recto Avenue and Quezón Boulevard, which is named after President Manuel Luis Molina Quezón (1878-1944). Although the present road was constructed in 1939, there were two roads already in existence, during the Spanish colonial period. The southbound Calle Santa Rosa lead to the Quiapo District, and was later renamed as Calle Regidor in the American occupation, after the propagandist Antonio Maria Regidor (1845-1910). The northbound Calle Concepcion lead to the Santa Cruz District, and was rechristened as Calle Martin after the American period nationalist journalist Martin Ocampo (died 1927).
Riding the LRT-2 every day from Aurora Boulevard to Recto Avenue, most commuters fail to realize the wealth of culture and history that passes before their eyes. This article has detailed the landmarks to be seen, while taking the westbound route from Aurora Boulevard to recto Avenue, and looking at all the sights on the northern side of the tracks. There is more to discover about Philippine history, as the next article will explore in the landmarks that can be seen on the eastbound route of the LRT-2, from Recto Avenue back to Katipunan Avenue.
I am adding some drawings that I made in 2015, detailing experiences of commuters during the rush to and back from work and school at the LRT 1 and 2, as well as the MRT-3. These harassing situations are some of the reasons why people fail to see what is beautiful around them, including taking time to know the history of the the landmarks and street that they pass by everyday. In these artworks, I have compared the people’s hassled states to that of religious iconography, noting how the Filipino takes their daily struggles as a means to emulate the sufferings of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints.