“Bicol Express”

Vintage Sign: Remnant of the “Bicol Express” Train (Circa 1960s), Daraga, Albay, Philippines


(Train: Bane of Bicolandia)

the train leaves daily at dusk.
majestic Mt. Mayon looms colossal
amidst vibrant rice fields,
quickly receding in the distance.
the trip (for 29 pesos), is exciting.
you arrive, the big city still snoring.
metro Manila is ten hours away.

the mighty train shudders
carrying hopes, dreams and ideals
in the tumult of the ‘70s –
when life was a lot simpler;
when dissent was muffled by Martial Law;
when a wave of rage raved, thunderous
like the steel wheels grating against the rails;
and reform radicals waged war from the hills
(cauldrons erupting like Mt. Mayon)…

today, three decades later,
the train strains, snail-paced, howling and wailing;
hauling woes, wants and wanton wishes.

wheeling wheels wane when willing wills weaken!

prosperity and progress remain elusive –
the exclusive and inclusive enclave of imperial Manila,
(now 383 pesos* and) sixteen hours away!

“bicol express”, it was!

(c) 2003 Chito L. Aguilar

* train fare per passenger (Legazpi City to Manila) as of July 2003


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