The nostalgia that surrounds the ruins of the Panay Railways in Dao, Capiz is a testament to the rich history and culture it represents.
Despite being in poor condition, the allure and personality of these structures continue to capture the imagination of those who visit it.
The Panay Railways Inc. (PRI) was established in 1906 and it linked various towns in Iloilo and Capiz.
The original route covered 117 kilometers and had nineteen permanent and ten flag stations. However, it ceased its operations in 1985, leaving behind a trail of ruins that offer a glimpse into the bygone era.
Through the years, the old route of the Panay Railways has sheltered many informal settlers. One of them is 60-year-old resident Marjorie Tampipi of Brgy. Duyoc, Dao, who, together with her family lived along the tracks for more than 20 years.
The Tampipi family has transferred and opted the "home along da riles" to keep away from floodwaters affecting their abode in a nearby Sigma town.
Despite their long stay in the place, they signified their willingness to relocate once the government will proceed in reviving the old PRI.
“Okay lang sa amon kay syempre lugar man di sang railway, kag iya sang gobyerno. Okay lang basta may halinan"
(It is okay with us because this land belongs to the railway and is owned by the government. It is okay (for us) as long as we can be relocated),” noted Tampipi.
The viewed revival of PRI is adherent to the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. last July 25, 2022, citing this as one of his administration’s thrusts.
“It is clear in my mind that the railway offers great potential as it continues to be the cheapest way of transporting goods and passengers,” said Marcos whose first SONA was centered on rebuilding the country’s economy.
With a budget of P1.9 trillion pesos, the president is committed to finishing the approved railway projects by modernizing the old railway system and building up existing lines in the country.
“Beyond NCR, larger scale railway systems like the 102-kilometer Mindanao Railway project, Panay Railways project, and Cebu Railway System will be integrated as a vital part of our transport and communication system,” added Marcos.
Meanwhile, PRI Chief Operations Officer Cesar Capellan, is pleased about the railway system's impending return as it has already got a green light from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
According to Capellan, the state-owned PRI plans to restore the old railway road from Iloilo City to Roxas City in Phase One, while new railway lines will be built from Roxas City to Kalibo, Aklan that will extend to Caticlan in the town of Malay, Aklan in Phase Two.
Phase Three will cover the new railway route from Caticlan, Malay, Aklan to San Jose, Antique while the Phase Four will encompass the route from San Jose, Antique to Iloilo City via the towns of San Joaquin and Miagao.
The revival of the railway system in Panay Island is seen to bring many benefits to the transportation and economic sectors of Western Visayas. It could enhance interactions among various provinces and encourage inter-provincial travels, ease the transportation of commodities, reduce congestion during times of heavy traffic, and improve the standard of living while promoting sustainable development.
Overall, more than representing a rich history and culture that is meant to be preserved and celebrated, the Panay Railways ruins serve as a conjunction of the past to the future. This is mainly among the crucial steps devised by the present administration to achieve our country’s goals geared towards holistic development. (AGP/PLF/PIA Capiz)