Paco Railroad Station Soon to Become Historic Landmark Special

The National Historical Institute (NHI) has recommended in principle the declaration of historic Paco railroad station in Manila as historical landmark, subject to the endorsements from two government agencies and the submission plan for its restoration.

Award-winning historian Ambeth Ocampo, who chairs the NHI, said in his January 19, 2010 letter to the Railway and Industrial Heritage Society of the Philippines, Inc. (RIHSPI), that the declaration would only be completed if the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and its sub-agency, the Philippine National Railways, have submitted their endorsements.
The NHI head also said the RIHSPI headed by local historian Jaime Tiongson, DOTC and PNR must submit a management plan to restore the historic railway hub.
The receipt of NHI letter was followed by an advice from the PNR that the government budget for the restoration of the railroad station had already been released by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
No mention, though, was made how much exactly was the amount released for the restoration.
Tiongson said the NHI support to declare Paco station as a historic site came as a result of the initiative the RIHSPI made last year, like meeting the PNR bigwigs, visiting old railway hubs, and getting the support of various agencies interested in railway history.
“The endeavor was worth the time and effort, although we did not expect the NHI to come out so soon with a recommendation to make the railroad station into a historical area,” he said.
Actually, the NHI recommendation came out three months after the institute representatives and RIHSPI officers visited the historic site.
In 1565, Paco was actually a Japanese community, an enclave known as Dilao, Tagalog for ‘yellow’ (dilaw), which refers to the amarillo plants that were plentiful in the district and, some say, on account of the physiognomy of the Japanese migrants.
The original site of the village is now part of what is known as Paco Park.
Over the centuries, it was transformed into a bustling community that would eventually become an important residential and commercial center of Manila.
In the bid to reclaim Manila from the Japanese during World War II, Paco became a bloody battleground for hundreds of lives.
On Feb. 7, 1945, the US 149th Infantry Regiment crossed Pasig River and landed in the suburbs of Pandacan and Paco, where an epic battle took place around the railway station with some 300 Japanese defending it; it was the “first of the urban strong points” the Allied forces encountered.
According to an account, “Japanese [fighters] had machine gun posts all around the [railroad] station, and foxholes with riflemen surrounded each machine gun post. Inside at each corner were sandbag forts with 20mm guns. One large concrete pillbox in the building housed a 37mm gun.”
Over a two-day period, the friendly forces won the encounter but it cost 335 American lives before the resistance was finally smashed and the enemies annihilated.
The battle of Paco produced two Medal of Honor awardees, both members of the U.S. Company B, 148th Infantry, 37th Infantry Division which, along with the 149th Infantry Regiment, had the primary mission to attack Pandacan and Paco.
The heroes of Paco were Technical Sergeant Cleto L. Rodriguez, of Mexican descent, and Private First Class John N. Reese, Jr., an American Indian.