Tutuban Train Station: A Piece Of History In A Shopping Complex

January 20, 2023

Explore Tutuban Center Mall and take an unexpected walk back into Philippine history.

Tutuban Center holds a special place in Philippine history because it was formerly the core of the local railway transport system. By observing the actual Tutuban Mall, one would notice the evidence of its glorious past. 

Façade of Tutuban Center Mall, a former train station
The facade of Tutuban Mall, a former train station

Tutuban Train Station: A Piece Of History In A Shopping Complex

    Stumbling upon a piece of history in Tutuban Center

    One does not exactly go to a chaotic place like Tutuban Center and expect to uncover a piece of history. People go there primarily to shop for budget finds and other merchandise. 

    Old brick walls inside Tutuban Center Mall
    Old brick walls

    However, an ordinary weekend shopping trip for us turned out to be a moment of discovery; a trip back into the distinguished past of the Philippines, a long-ago time when steam locomotives ruled the highways and the concept of heavy traffic was unknown in Philippine streets.

    When we arrived at Tutuban Center Mall, I could not help but admire the beauty of its architecture, with its arched entrances that frame old wooden doors. 

    Old post inside Tutuban Center Mall
    Antique post

    Its antique brick walls and cast-iron posts were embellished with lovely details that may be a little hard to immediately spot but are visible upon closer inspection. 

    Never mind the endless row of stalls inside the mall, the building stood grand, as if it knows that it once played a pivotal role in Philippine transport history.

    Tutuban Train Station: the once focal point of Philippine transport

    Ask anybody nowadays about what Tutuban is and they will surely tell you about bargain finds, the night market, and endless shopping spree especially during the holiday season. Who can blame them, Tutuban has been well-known as a shopping Mecca since the 1990s. 

    Train tracks outside Tutuban Center Mall
    Train tracks

    Little do people know that it was once a bustling train station known as the Tutuban Train Station that connected Manila to most parts of Northern Luzon. It was part of the Ferrocarril de Manila-Dagupan or the Manila-Dagupan Line, the first railway system in the Philippines. 

    Before passenger buses and the existence of the North Luzon Expressway, trains were the primary mode of long-distance transport from the late 18th century to most part of the 19th century, bringing people as well as goods from Dagupan, Pangasinan to Manila and vice-versa. 

    If you think about it well, Tutuban has always been a conduit of trade since time immemorial. 

    Construction of the North Luzon train lines began in the late 1800s during the Spanish colonial period. The route traversed the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, and Pangasinan, just to name some.

    The South Luzon train lines, meanwhile, were added during the American colonial period and plied Manila to Bicol. Steam locomotives were the norm in terms of long-distance travel in the olden days.

    At its peak, the Philippine railway system had lines that provide transport services in Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Cagayan, Sta. Mesa, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Marikina, Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, and Pasay, to mention a few. 

    Unfortunately, financial difficulties, natural calamities, and the destruction brought by the Second World War caused the closure of most of the train lines. 

    However, during the term of then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the South Luzon lines were rehabilitated allowing the Philippine National Railways, the government agency that operated the tracks, to revive its route to Bicol.

    Conversion of Tutuban Train Station to a shopping complex

    The old pre-war building of Tutuban Train Station was unused for years but it was eventually converted to a shopping mall that was opened to the public during the early 1990s.

    Shops inside Tutuban Center Mall
    Shops inside the mall

    The whole shopping complex is composed of seven buildings that house thousands of wholesalers, high-end shops, a department store, and parking spaces. Foot traffic is very high, around 200,000 on weekdays, and doubles during weekends and holidays.


    The sheer number of shoppers inside the shopping center can be overwhelming and walking around this huge shopping complex could be quite tiring. 

    So take a break from your shopping routine, look around you, and admire the beauty of the antique architecture of the main mall. 

    Satisfy your love for shopping and kindle your knowledge of Philippine history the next time you set foot in Tutuban.

    Tutuban Center is located in Tondo, Manila. You can also shop online via the Tutuban Center's website (also called "Tutubuy").

    History of Tutuban Center Mall

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    1. Very nice. I've always wanted to travel to the Luzon area. I have to put this on the itinerary for the next Phillipines trip.

      1. Thank you! Yes, there are a lot of beautiful things to see in Luzon.

    2. Yet another well-writen blog post. Kudos to you.

    3. very good to learn that Philippines offers a reat travel opportunity. you are amazingly true in your explanation. would try to travel down.

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      1. Thank you for dropping by! I'll check out your blog, too.

    4. Now, if they only did the same to that old Paco station built during the American period...

      1. Oh, yeah. Beautiful architecture, even the ones in San Fernando, Pampanga and Damortis, La Union.