Community, Speak

Revisiting and Reorienting: A Tutuban Train Trip

Written by: Melany Heger

I took my kids on a trip last Sunday. We took two train rides, the PNR and the LRT-1, and we did a bit of a walk-about around the area I grew up in. 

My first intention was to open their eyes about our country’s commuter train system, and how it compares to the commuter train system of advanced countries. My second intention was to physically narrate the story of a childhood spent as a Chinoy girl in a Chinoy community.

First, we took the train from PNR Paco station to PNR Tutuban station. My kids are well travelled, and have seen other countries’ train systems. So, I asked them what their impression was of the Philippines’ PNR, and they said, “It was not as fast.” There was no other judgement—kids can be bare naked in their truths, I realized. Mostly, they enjoyed sightseeing, after being cooped up indoors mostly since the pandemic began. (Two years!)

For the walk around my old block, I unconsciously started narrating the story of how my father “trained” me. When I was nine, he gave me an LRT coin (it was a coin back then, not a ticket, and there is no LRT 2, just “LRT”, one train system for the whole of Manila). My dad instructed me to use the coin from Bambang station, ride the train, then meet me in Vito Cruz station. By the time he gave me that coin, I’ve already taken that route several times—it was our usual commuter route from our home near Bambang to our retail store near Vito Cruz station.


But still, I was nine. There’s also the fact that I had to walk around 200 meters to the station from our home, then ride the train, and then finally walk 300 meters to our store, unaccompanied. 

This was the narration I hung on to while giving my kids the tour. I showed them our old apartment complex (when condos were not a thing yet). I showed them the McDonald’s where my mom would frequently “prepare” our dinner. I showed them St. Stephen’s High School, where I studied, and where my mom worked as a Chinese ed faculty.

In hindsight, I realize now that when I was doing the story telling to my kids, I was also doing something for myself. Now that I am in my 40’s, I need to re-orient, reflect. What part of me has changed and how much, since the time I lived in my old neighborhood? Looking up your old neighborhood online is not the same as physically walking down memory lane.

When we walked past Chang Kai Shek College, for instance, I told my kids (and me) about my ex-boyfriend, “the one that came before dad”. It only occurred to me then, when we walked past the place. 

My daughter was very curious about the ex-boyfriend topic—she asked me why we broke up and etc. Meanwhile, when we walked past our old apartment in Benavidez Street, my 13-year-old son was very much piqued about the father-daughter dynamics between me and my dad. My kids’ questions and inputs made me reexamine my perspective. Because I was with them down that particular path, it made me see clearer, deeper. I see things differently now, as a mom of two adolescents.

After giving my kids the tour of the area, we walked towards the LRT station. My firstborn acted the way he usually does around trains—checking the station names, wanting to see every part of the train. I did not probe any further than their surface impression of Philippine trains. I guess their insights will emerge much later. For now, my first goal was accomplished.

It has been so long since the three of us have taken the LRT that we almost missed our stop. We got out of the train in a rush when we reached Vito Cruz. The way home was easy after that, since we visit the area often when we visit Nay Nay (my mom, and the kids’ grandma).

Did I accomplish my second goal as well? I think I did, and I didn’t do it just for them. It was for my emotional nourishment too. 

ABOUT Melany Heger
Melany is a Chinoy work-at-home home mom. Trained as a psychologist and Human Resource professional, she chose to work full-time as a writer. (It was a midlife career thing.) She lives with her two kids and husband in Manila. Her maiden surname is Chua.
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