Commuting in the Philippines has always been a struggle, especially within Metro Manila. Urban commuters have long considered the daily pilgrimage to work and back home as an agonizing hell. Despite the existence of different modes of transportation like buses, jeeps, and trains in the Philippines, Filipinos can’t help but compare how vastly different the commuting experience is here and in other countries.
But did you know that one of our rail systems was meant to be even more commuter-friendly? Designed by the National Artist for Architecture and Allied Arts Architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa in the 1980s, the Light Rail Transit 1 (LRT-1) was originally envisioned to be as comfortable yet as efficient as possible for all passengers, said the Mañosa Company.
What LRT-1 has now: Mobility
The LRT-1 runs from Roosevelt in QC through Taft Avenue to Baclaran in Parañaque (though construction is currently underway for an extension on both ends). Last year, the route served an average of 121,506 commuters per day, which means even more have relied on LRT-1 in the pre-pandemic times. According to the Department of Transportation, the LRT-1 historically had the highest number of passengers since 2019.
What LRT-1 has now: Architecture
As the LRT-1 is an elevated railway, Architect Mañosa believed it best to design stations that look like a Bahay na Bato, a type of structure inspired by the traditional bahay kubo and dating from the Spanish period.
“The vision was to create a station that was tropical, climatically responsive, and truly spoke to our local culture through an architecture that is uniquely Filipino,” shared the Mañosa Company in a Facebook post. “The use of terracotta tiled roof, long roof lines, use of wooden beams and local clay tile floorings all took shape in the initial design solutions.”
That’s why you might notice that all existing stations of LRT-1 all have a raised terracotta tiled roofing as opposed to the more modern designs found in the other train lines.
But apart from these existing structures and services, there was a grander vision for the LRT-1. The late National Artist envisioned a more passenger-friendly train line, and these are what he included in his original design:
What LRT-1 could’ve been: Alternative energy sources
In his design, Architect Mañosa planned to include alternative energy sources within each station. The Mañosa Company said the stations were designed to accept solar panels and rainwater collection, which could’ve been used to run the stations. Architect Mañosa also planned to make use of local indigenous materials in the stations’ architecture “to bring a uniquely Filipino experience to both local and foreign commuters.”
What LRT-1 could’ve been: Accessible platform
Accessibility was something important to the architect as well. He designed the LRT-1 stations to integrate escalators and elevators, even during a time when only private developments had such features.
What LRT-1 could’ve been: Pedestrian-friendly spaces
Beyond taking commuters from point A to B, Architect Mañosa also understood the importance of giving passengers an enjoyable experience as they traverse the stations. That’s why the National Artist wanted to create public spaces around the station and integrate “pedestrianization” underneath each station. He envisioned a station surrounded by various shops, art galleries, outdoor cafes, book stores, and more, allowing local businesses to thrive as the train system takes commuters to and fro their destinations.
“The stations were envisioned to be pleasant places, efficient for all passengers, comfortable, enjoyable and hassle-free journey,” the Mañosa Company wrote.
However, these could’ve-beens didn’t come to fruition due to the lack of support from the then-Ministry of Public Works and Highways (now known as the Department of Public Works and Highways or DPWH). The government was most likely unwilling to close major roads to create the space needed to accommodate the architect’s vision.
Unfortunately, no matter how much commuters wish for this vision to become a reality, it may be difficult to make such changes in the existing structures. Even if it happens, it would take years. So here’s to hoping the expansion project currently underway for the local train lines would go the extra mile to make the city more commuter-friendly.