A virtual train ride on the LRT-1 captures why there is simply no place like Manila

On the right track to Manila

Explore Manila through the LRT-1. Illustration by Ralph Justin Ulep and cover design by Jules Vivas

Among the most utilized in the public transport system of the National Capital Region (NCR) is the Light Rail Transit (LRT), particularly line one, which stretches from Roosevelt to Baclaran.

Manila is a cultural hotspot, with heritage sites, world-class museums, must-try holes-in-the-walls and restaurants, and art galleries, which is why some regard Manila as Asia’s gem.

Sure, the LRT may not be an Orient Express, but it is the fastest, most convenient way around town. In Metro Manila, where the roads are always congested, point A to point B travel in 10 to 30 minutes or less is rare. Luckily, there’s the LRT-1.

Thanks to COVID-19, the new normal setup has Manileños working and studying from home. Hardly anyone goes out anymore. To cap off the just-concluded National Tourism Week, the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) recently released a train ride video that spotlights the points of interest within the vicinity of the line one stations.

LRT-1 ikotMNL Virtual Train Ride Tour was brought to life by Gilbert Roy Alva, a content producer who specializes in animating the bustle of the metro. He created the visuals through the video game Cities: Skylines. Those familiar with LRT-1 can easily relate to the catalog of places while the online trip is a perfect beginners-guide to touring Manila for those who aren’t from the NCR.

The tour begins at Roosevelt, the northernmost end of line one. Here SM North Edsa, the first SM supermall and largest shopping mall in the country in terms of gross floor area, can be found. Dubbed as a sanctuary of retail and relaxation, Ayala Malls TriNoma is also here. Then there’s the famous palengke, the Muñoz Market. For those into buying by the bulk, the S&R Congressional branch is located here too. Last, near the Quezon Memorial Circle, is the Ninoy Aquino Wildlife Park, a 22.7-hectare legislated protected area and wildlife center.

Invigorating the historical site that is Balintawak is the Ayala Malls Cloverleaf inside the Clover Leaf estate of Quezon City. Here one can opt to do more by-the-bulk shopping at Landers Superstore, or visit another flea market, Balintawak Market.

Entering Caloocan (south), you are welcomed by the Yamaha Monumento. Close to the station is the Malabon Zoo, replete with exotic animals, an aquarium, and a botanical garden. The Andres Bonifacio National Monument, otherwise known as the “Cry of Pugad Lawin” monument designed by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino, is also nearby, as well as the upcoming SM City Grand Central.

Not much to do near Fifth Avenue Station, but it’s worth noting that there’s a Jollibee directly under it. You can never go wrong with one of the biggest homegrown fast-food restaurants in the country, which has also become a Filipino landmark in more than 270 locations outside the Philippines, such as in Bahrain, Canada, Hong Kong, Italy, Malaysia, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.

Approaching the very heart of the City of Manila are unique food establishments, classics that have stood the test of time for good reasons. Near the R. Papa Station is the D’Original Palabokan sa Obrero, where one can get authentic palabok.

One need not go to Cebu for great-tasting lechon. Disembark at Abad Santos Station to make your way to Lechon La Loma ni Aling Nelia, Munchies Lechon, Mila’s Lechon, among others. A little walk from here and you’ll reach the Manila Chinese Cemetery, though you can also get off at R. Papa Station to find a way into the cemetery. A little further along Rizal Avenue Extension from Abad Santos Station is a row of affordable furniture stores.

GATEWAY TO FRIENDSHIP New Binondo Chinatown Arch (Daryll One)

Another railroad terminal is situated at Blumentritt Station, namely the Philippine National Railways or PNR. If you’re planning to go to the provinces, this is where you switch tracks.

Pressing forward, in the vicinity of Tayuman Station are the Dapitan Market, where you can score the best deals on home decors and ornaments, Dangwa Flower Market for your floral needs, and the Department of Health (DOH) main office.

The oldest university in the country, the University of Santo Tomas (UST), can be reached from Bambang Station. This is also where you can buy medical supplies at a bargain.

From Doroteo Jose Station, you’re a few steps away from Manila’s shopping haven, the Divisoria Mall. The University Belt or U-Belt is also here along with the interchange to line two, which spans from Recto to Santolan.

STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS Dangwa, the flower hub of Manila

Or stay one station longer and get off at Carriedo to visit Chinatown in Binondo, the center of commerce and trade in Manila, where the Filipino-Chinese thrive. Let your Chinese cravings take you to specialty stores and restaurants, such as the original Ma Mon Luk, Sincerity Restaurant, David’s Tea House, Wai Ying, and the Eng Bee Tin flagship store.

As for historical landmarks, the Minor Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz aka the Binondo Church, Plaza Lacson, and the New Chinatown Arch, famous as the largest Chinatown arch in the world, are accessible through Carriedo. SM Quiapo, the first SM store, is close to the station as well.

A highlight of the tour, the heart of Manila, Intramuros, is a stone’s throw away from the Central Terminal. The walled city is Manila’s most historic and visited area. You have Fort Santiago, the San Agustin Church, the Minor Basilica and Manila Cathedral, Casa Manila, Baluarte de San Diego, Bahay Tsinoy, Plaza Roma, Aduana Building, and so much more. Opposite of Intramuros, closer to the LRT-1, is the Manila City Hall with historic clock tower, Liwasang Bonifacio, and the newly-refurbished Metropolitan Theater (MET).

CONFINES OF HISTORY Fort Santiago facade in Intramuros

Off to United Nations Avenue or the UN station, one can find Technological University of the Philippines (TUP) and Philippine Normal University (PNU). From here, the Rizal Park, National Museum Complex, and National Planetarium are just at a walking distance. Take a stroll down Finance Avenue and find yourself awed by the graffiti works on the street walls stretching from Taft Avenue to San Marcelino. Speaking of graffiti, you must check out the 20-meter-high, street art-clad underpass columns of Nagtahan Bridge, which you can see on another LRT system, the LRT-2, between Pureza and Legarda stations.

‘Through this video, we want to promote the value of LRT-1’s network, how it is connecting people to life-relevant destinations and delivering them to these places in comfort.’

Pedro Gil, Malate, meanwhile, is home to the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila, the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), and a couple of bars. Not far-off the busy, down-to-earth area is Manila Bay where one can view Manila's world-famous sunset.

PICTURESQUE DAYBREAK Sunset at Manila Bay (Manny Llanes)

Drop by Manila Zoo or the public square Plaza Rajah Sulayman, or the center of Manila’sbohemian nightlife, Remedios Circle, Nakpil Street, Adriatico Street in Malate, from Quirino Station.

Vito Cruz Station overlooks De La Salle University (DLSU). It’s near College of Saint Benilde (CSB), the Rizal Memorial Stadium, where major local football tournaments are held, the ground zero of theater and arts, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas overlooking Manila Bay, the Manila Yacht Club, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Coconut Palace.

Gil Puyat Station gets you near the Upside Down Museum, the Buendia Food Court, the World Trade Center, and various bus terminals for provincial trips.

SPORTS UNLIMITED Rizal Memorial Stadium

The market of many wonders, Cartimar Shopping Center, is right below Libertad Station, which is also close to Dampa sa Pasay, the Cuneta Astrodome, and the Pasay City Hall.

A short ride away from EDSA Station are the Mall of Asia Complex, Conrad Manila, Solaire Resort and Solaire Theater, and the Philippine Senate. MRT line three is here as well.

The final stop, the southernmost end of LRT-1, is Baclaran. The Baclaran Shopping Center and the Baclaran Church are a few blocks away. On the other hand, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is one ride from here. This station will soon connect to the new stations being added in the Cavite Extension Project.

“Our ikotMNL tourism campaign aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 8–Decent Work and Economic Growth, showing the importance of building back better, especially after this pandemic. Through this video, we want to promote the value of LRT-1’s network, how it is connecting people to life-relevant destinations and delivering them to these places in comfort,” said Jacqueline Gorospe, LRMC head of corporate communications and customer relations.  “We have our mobile app, also called ikotMNL, to equip our commuters with better information about the train rides, destinations, and LRT-1 operations.”

With the strict implementation of health and safety protocols, LRMC assures that LRT-1 passengers can have peace of mind on the train.

Follow LRMC on Facebook at facebook.com/officialLRT1, Twitter at @officialLRT1, or download the ikotMNL mobile app for free on Google Play and App Store.