November 2, 2018

Weekend Getaway: San Fernando Pampanga Old Train Station and Heritage Tour

Pampanga is a province in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines. The name La Pampanga was given by the Spaniards, who encountered natives living along the banks or “pampang” in Tagalog of the Pampanga River. Its creation in 1571 makes it the first Spanish province on Luzon Island (Cebu in Visayas is older as it was founded by the Spaniards in 1565).

The town of Villa de Bacolor in the province briefly served as the Spanish colonial capital when Great Britain invaded Manila as part of the Seven Years' War. At the eve of the Philippine Revolution of 1896, Pampanga was one of eight provinces placed under martial law for rebellion against the Spanish Empire; it is thus represented on the Philippine national flag as one of the eight rays of the sun.

Pampanga is not only known for being a culinary destination in the Philippines, it is also rich in history and traditions. Pampanga also produced many notable personalities in all aspects of life that contributed to the shaping of the Philippines to what it is today. Examples are Diosdado Macapagal, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, José Abad Santos, Pedro Abad Santos; Luis Taruc; Chef Sau Del Rosario, Chef Claude Tayag, Larry J. Cruz, Brillante Mendoza, Allan Pineda Lindo, aka Apl.De.Ap of The Black Eyed Peas, Lea Salonga, Efren "Bata" Reyes.

Part of the Giant Lantern Festival Bloggers Tour which was organized by the City Government of San Fernando (Tourism Promotion and Caravan Sub Committee) together with the Giant Lantern Festival Foundation Inc., and Yalla Book of Coupons, that I participated last weekend is a calesa (horse-drawn carriage) tour around San Fernando's historical sites. 

The tour started at the Heroes Hall which used to be municipal office but now serves as offices for other government sectors of the province and as a function/conference hall. This place is also called as such because here stands statues of eight local and national heroes which includes Ninoy Aquino, Dr. Jose Rizal, Don Tiburcio Hilario, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos and Nicolasa Dayrit-Panlilio. After which we explored around town to check out the heritage houses and structures. 

Included here is the San Fernando City Hall, Metropolitan Cathedral, Hizon-Paras House, Henson-Hizon House, Lazatin House, Consunji House, Tabacalera House, Hizon-Ocampo House, Hizon-Singian House, Augusto P.  Hizon House, Pampanga Hotel and Baluyut Bridge. Unfortunately tourists can’t go inside these houses because they are still private properties, some have people still living in it and some are already in fragile states. But then again, it still fascinates me to see these beautiful houses standing through the tests of time.

This calesa tour ended at the restored but now defunct Old San Fernando Railway Station. Standing amidst the residences in Bgy. Sto Nino are the ruins of what was once a busy and historic train station of the Manila-Dagupan Railway. It was designed by Tomas Arguellez and a British Architect . Unknown to many, it was a silent witness to every turning point of the town's history, from its inauguration in 1892, up to the infamous Bataan Death March. It most definitely played an essential role in making the town boom into a great city, one that is rooted in its rich heritage and culture.

However, many say that the train station has outlived its purpose. Some who pass by this structure do not even notice and realize the deep history which makes up every brick of this neglected station. Responding to this predicament, the City Government is making efforts to preserve this heritage structure and acknowledge its historical significance.

The San Fernando Train Station was opened on February 23. 1892 as part of the Bagbag-Mabalacat stretch of the Manila-Dagupan Railway System and was inaugurated by Governor-General Eulogio Despujol and Archbishop Bernardino Nozaleda. This event signaled the beginning of the exponential growth of the town brought about by the sugar boom in Pampanga province.

The train station is also part of our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s colorful life. There’s a connection between Rizal and the Kapampangans because on June 27 1892, he stopped over in San Fernando to recruit members of the La Liga Filipina and to visit his friends Antonio Consunji, Tiburcio brothers and Cecilio Hilario as was mentioned in his book: “Reminiscences and Travels”. Rizal’s bronze statue inside the train station museum depicting him holding a book and a rose. Because it was believed that Rizal would go to Pampanga to court or visit a girl named Rosario Joven. A letter is placed in between the pages of the book symbolizing that he was there also for another personal agenda.

This train station is also a witness to the tragedies and heroism of the Filipino and American soldiers who participated in the Bataan Death March during World War II. Here you can find a marker symbolizing this place as their last stop from Bataan where they were then stuffed liked sardines into box carts and transported to Capas Tarlac to be prisoners of war during the WWII Pacific Theatre of Operations.

Inside the train station you will find a display of the San Fernando Train Station Historic Timeline, Word War II Exhibit pieces and the Death March Diorama created by award winning sculptor Juan Sajid Imao. These life size figures of the Filipino-American POWs celebrates the valor, undying hope and the bayanihan spirit of these brave men. This part of the tour was on my top 3 because it is something close to my heart since I'm a self-proclaimed history buff and I have a great affinity about anything WWII and military stories.

The San Fernando Train Station (and the other heritage sites) served as a witness to the sacrifices and heroic deeds of the Filipino people. It is a structure that despite weathered by time, continuously connects us with our valuable past and constantly reminds us of the city’s contribution in the rich historical milieu of the Filipino nation. 

For more info you can contact the City Tourism Office of San Fernando Pampanga through:
Address: GF City Hall Building, A. Consunji St., Bgy. Sto Rosario San Fernando, Pampanga
Contact Nos: 9615684 09229526442

Pampanga 2018 Travel Diary:
Everyone’s Invited! Come and Celebrate San Fernando Pampanga’s 110th Giant Lantern Festival this December 15!
Epic Pampanga Food Crawl: 7 Places to Fill Your Tummy When in San Fernando
San Fernando Old Train Station and Heritage Tour

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  1. Wow! Pampanga is really great in keeping their architectures and tradition :)

  2. wala ba kuwento o article about rizal alleged first love, Rosario Joven. Is Rosario Joven is the daughter of the civil governor, Don Ceferino Joven?


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