Ronda LB: PNR maiden trip from IRRI/UPLB to Tutuban

Editor’s note: Filipino astrophysicist Rogel Mari Sese shares his experience as he took the inaugural run of the Philippine National Railway’s (PNR) Metro South Commuter Train this morning. The PNR conducted a series of test runs and clearing operations in September 2019, before launching the new route this weekend. 

This morning, I took a landmark trip from my hometown in Los Baños, Laguna to Manila onboard the PNR train! This was the first ever trip coming from the south and I was one of the first passengers on this trip (there were five of us who came from UPLB Station). Last night, my colleague JM Lit rode the maiden voyage from Tutuban to UPLB which made me envious, but gave me a preview as well on what to expect.

There is only one trip that leaves at 5:26 a.m. so I had to wake very early to catch the train. Having just arrived from Japan, I wanted to see how the train would measure up to Japanese standards. Also, a couple of weeks back, I got stuck driving for four hours from LB to MOA, so I was looking for a better alternative. Having seen some pre-announcements last week, I knew had to be part of this milestone trip, by hook or by crook! So I went!

The PNR Train at IRRI/UPLB Station.

The PNR Train at IRRI/UPLB Station. Makeshift platform pa lang for now pero ang ganda ng itsura ng train! Photo and caption by Rogel Mari Sese

I arrived at the IRRI Station around 5 a.m. Still covered in darkness, one can barely see the steel steps beside the rails near the IRRI Gate. There’s a big tarp showing the trip schedule and the arrival time at each station. The schedule is very helpful since it helps you plan your activities accordingly. But just like the trip the night before, the train was late since it had to slow down whenever there are obstructions along the rail. I think this will improve later on when people are more aware that this is now a regular daily service. The PNR train arrived around 5:39 a.m. (25 minutes late) much to our excitement, the five  pioneer passengers. The train is a refurbished Kiha 59 Series train from Japan which was then known as the Kogane train serving the Sendai area. The train is composed of three cars, each one with a capacity of 27 passengers for a total of 81 seats.

Inside the train, I was surprised to see comfortable reclining seats complete with stowable leg rest. The air-conditioning was also quite cold, so make sure to bring a light jacket just in case. The seats are three per row and can be rotated, so if you are a barkada of six, you can sit facing each other. There is also a stowable table in each seat, so you can place food/drinks or even try to work on your laptop. Each car also has a sink and toilet, so no worries in case nature calls (YES MAY TOILET SA LOOB NG TRAIN!). I didn’t get to try it though so I have no idea if there is a septic tank or it just drops direct on the tracks like some trains I have seen in Europe. The interior of the car seems dated but still okay. A bit of wiping and air freshener would greatly spruce things up.

After Sta. Rosa Station, halos puno na yung train! Daming sumakay for a maiden trip! Photo and caption by Rogel Mari Sese

Around 5:45, we left UPLB Station at a slow pace, mainly due to the things that sometimes block the train. There are still a lot of “home along the riles” and because there has been no train service in this route for a long time, people are not yet used to it. Hopefully the speed will be faster in the future when our kababayans already know that this is now a regular service. It was quite unnerving to see how small the gap is between the train and the houses/trees. At one point, the train snagged a wire somewhere in Pansol, but it was removed when we reached Calamba Station. There are multiple stops along the way (see the schedule) so make sure you arrive early enough since each stop is less than two minutes. By the time we left Sta. Rosa Station, the train was almost full! Not bad for a maiden trip!

There is a conductor that goes through the train collecting the fare. From UPLB to EDSA/Magallanes, the fare is only 120 pesos. If going all the way to Tutuban, the fare is 150 pesos. According to the conductor, the train departs from Tutuban only on Sunday. From Monday to Saturday, the first station is Dela Rosa Station in Makati, so make sure you go to the correct station. Check the schedule as well to make sure you get to the station in time to take the train.

Timetable ng northbound and southbound trains. Plan accordingly. Photo and caption by Rogel Mari Sese

The trip was very nice and comfortable, though a bit shaky at some points due to the conditions of the rail. Having lived in Japan for six years, it had the nostalgic feeling of rural Japanese trains. Along the way, you get a very varied landscape, from rice fields to malls to homes along the riles. It was an eye-opener on how varied our society is and how much we need to do to improve our country. I was deep in thought about these things when suddenly the conductor said the next station is already EDSA Station. I gathered up my stuff and headed to the exit (force of habit from riding Japanese trains). I arrived at EDSA station around 7:59 a.m., around 30 minutes behind schedule. But given that it is a Monday today, a 2.5 hour trip from LB is considered fast!

Bumaba na ko sa EDSA Station pero tutuloy pa to Tutuban Station. See you later pag pauwi! Photo and caption by Rogel Mari Sese

Overall, the train is highly recommended for commuters coming from Laguna. It is a comfortable and cost-efficient ride that we now have. For someone like me who takes a car going to Manila, this is a very welcome and cheaper alternative! Seems like I now have a much better option whenever I go to the capital. Hopefully more and more of our kababayans would patronize this service and lead to higher train frequency in the future. Kudos to DOTr, Sec. Art Tugade, PNR and PNR Chief Junn Magno for making this dream come true for us southern commuters! A very great job from our DOTr! Now I am looking forward to taking this train on the way back later today.

#TrainToLB #PNRForTheWin #NewCommutingOption

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