What old Manila looks like from the LRT 1

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A photographer captures images of old Manila through the perspective of the LRT 1. In photos: Pedro Gil station (left) and street scene in Carriedo (right). Photos by MARCO UGOY

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Metro Manila’s train system traces its origins from Leon Monssour’s vision of a five-line streetcar network in 1878, with a central station located just outside Intramuros. Monssour, then-official of the Department of Public Works, proposed the network to the government, which came into fruition with the Manila-Malabon line (then the only steam line), constructed in 1888, with the first horse-drawn omnibuses being called the tranvia.

It was in 1902 — writes Gary L. Satre in his article tracing the history of the Metro Manila LRT system — when the Philippine Commission opened bids for the construction of electric power and transportation networks, which was awarded to Charles M. Swift of Detroit. Around this time, the Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company (now Meralco) was also established, which constructed nine of 12 lines mandated by an ordinance. But it was in only in 1981 when the construction of LRT 1 was first begun, followed by the commencement of LRT 3 (now the MRT) construction in 1996.

Following the tracks and history of the Metro Manila train system — specifically the LRT 1, the first of the train lines — reveals not only a timeline of its economic and technological progress, but also its role in shaping its physical landscape. The line traverses through some of our most illustrious local landmarks, including the National Museum and Manila City Hall, some well-preserved but others badly in need of maintenance and repair.

Barring overcrowding and defective trains, a hop through the LRT 1 and a cursory walk around its stations can also be an educational experience, providing the ordinary commuter a welcome respite from his or her routine.

We asked photographer Marco Ugoy to document his experience of riding the LRT 1, capturing how the train line has been witness to old Manila’s history.

“I chose to photograph it in a different, overlooked perspective,” he says. “Things we see everyday but don't pay attention to because of a passive consciousness when we go home from work or school. Both beauty and absurdness which we only remember by memory, and never deemed interesting enough to think about or put into a discussion.”

LRT1.jpg Traffic lights along Pedro Gil station. Photo by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg (Left) Quirino station platform. (Right) A statue in front of Manila City Hall. Photos by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg People asleep at Luneta Park. Photo by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg The National Museum of Anthropology. Photo by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg (Left) Carriedo station platform. (Right) Street scene near the National Museum. Photos by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg (Left) A statue in Luneta Park. (Right) Street scene near Carriedo station. Photos by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg The Torre de Manila building near UN Ave. Station. Photo by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg (Left) GSIS building (to be occupied by Manila's Hall of Justice) and Boy Scout of the Philippines building (also the Baden-Powell International Hotel). (Right) Carriedo station platform. Photos by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg Manila City Hall. Photo by MARCO UGOY

LRT1.jpg (Left) A man reclines in a bench at Luneta Park, fronting the Torre de Manila. (Right) The Bonifacio Monument near Central station. Photos by MARCO UGOY