Roamer's Roundup

Roundup Tidbits: Torre de Manila Postmortem, Remembering Mariano Que, and Line 1’s New Look

So many things have been going on around the metropolis this past few weeks. At the same time, we have not seen a Roamer’s Roundup so far this year so why not have this entry be the first Roamer’s Roundup for 2017, no?


The Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of those splendid folks at DMCI and allowed for the construction of the photobombing Terror Torre De Manila. It was frustrating for the High Court to make such a decision. But as much as it invites outrage, looking at it a legal perspective, the Supreme Court has valid points with regards to the legality of this issue.

Ultimately, the decision exposed a serious flaw in our laws regarding heritage, a flaw that scrupulous entities such as DMCI are allowed to take advantage of. In any case, the Urban Roamer agrees with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines that our Legislature should take this opportunity to reexamine our existing laws on historical and cultural heritage and enact appropriate amendments so this does not happen again.

As for the DMCI, well here’s something for them for building such an ugly building to “photobomb” the Rizal Monument.


Last Good Friday (April 14) marked the passing of the notable businessman Mariano Que. His name may not be as known as others like his Filipino-Chinese taipan contemporaries Henry Sy and Lucio Tan, in part due to his lowkey nature. But this lowkey figure has made quite a mark in the country’s pharmaceutical industry as the founder of the leading drugstore chain in the Philippines: Mercury Drug.

Reading up on the history of Mercury Drug and how Que started on this venture is a story in itself. One thing to bear in mind is that when he started Mercury Drug on March 1, 1945, it was barely a month since the Battle of Manila so much of the city was in ruins and its economy in shambles as the battle was still raging on. It was a bad time to start business as conventional wisdom would have it. But Que saw opportunity still. That opportunity came in the need for a “wonder drug” called Sulfiathiazole, which used to cure many diseases and illnesses. Since pharmacies that time hardly sold it, a situation exacerbated by the fighting in the city, Que then decided to invest his P100 to buy the drug and sell these in single doses so people can have them at a lower price. He then proceeded to open his own drugstore where he can market the drug. Right in Bambang Street in Manila’s Santa Cruz district where it was, and still is, known to be the haven of sorts where people can buy medical supplies and equipment. Thus, Mercury Drug was born.

Mercury Drug’s massive main office complex located in Quezon City, just beside Eastwood City

In honor of the man, the Urban Roamer decided to go to the Bambang area in the hopes of finding that first Mercury Drug Store where it all began. Unfortunately, there is no documentation as to where exactly in Bambang the first Mercury Drug store was located, other than it was near the corner of Rizal Avenue. At present, there is a Mercury Drug Store in Bambang which may or may not be at the site where the original once stood. And no documentation saying so exists as well.


In case you did not know, since 2014, the operations of the Line 1 mass transit line is being handled by the Light Rail Manila Corporation (LRMC) a joint venture company of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation’s Metro Pacific Light Rail Corporation (MPLRC), Ayala Corporation’s AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation (AC Infra), and the Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure’s Macquarie Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) PTE Ltd. (MIHPL).

While it took quite a while, it seems 2017 is the year the LRMC is starting to go all out in improving Line 1. The first step of which was a redesign of the Line 1 stations. The first to benefit from this is the Doroteo Jose station, one of the line’s busiest stations owing to its connection to Line 2 through the Recto Station.

The redesign aims to make all of Line 1’s old stations (save perhaps for the newer ones such as Roosevelt and Balintawak) be more equipped to handle passenger volume efficiently with upgraded and new facilities in place for passenger convenience. This would mean improved security, better passenger handling, and facilities such as kiosks available on each station.

One interesting section in the Doroteo Jose station is the mini exhibit which featured the work of Architect Francisco Mañosa who originally designed the Line 1 stations. He intended the stations to have a uniquely Filipino vibe, thus, for one,  the design of the roofs mimicked the roofing of native Filipino houses.

With the unfortunate mess Line 3 is having and Line 2 gearing up for upgrades as well, as a sometimes Line 1 passenger, it is hoped that these upgrades will turn out to be good at least and will lead to a better experience.

Speaking of, it is good to hear that LRMC and the Department of Transportation are FINALLY getting to have the Line 1 South Extension built. In fact, groundbreaking will be on May 4. After 20-some years and a failed attempt to have a former president and his incompetent transportation secretary get run over by a train, it is happening. We can only hope that this is for real and it stays the course until the end.

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