The Manila Metro Rail Transit (MRT) system began operations in 1999 stretching between North Avenue in Quezon City and Buendia Avenue in Makati City. Metrostar Express, as it was nicknamed, traversed the length of the Philippines’ busiest highway EDSA in a curved north-to-south direction. This rail line was the first to make use of the Automated Fare Collection System (AFCS) among all the train systems in Manila. This first generation design, the Erap Series magnetic tickets, started off with the card bearing former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s face on the front.
“EDSA Para sa Masa”
In the 1998 Philippine presidential elections, former President Estrada ran under the slogan “Erap para sa mahirap” to connect and identify with the masses who had less in life. The MRT 3 was under construction at that time. Thus, when he won the elections, the magnetic tickets issued bore his name and face. Relating to his campaign slogan, the “EDSA para sa Masa” (EDSA for the masses) line was introduced to show that the Blue Line (the line’s dominant color) is something the masses can use for daily public transport.
Usage of the magnetic ticket was new to the riding public. The LRT 1 was still using metal tokens as a way to enter station turnstiles. It will be a couple more years before AFCS will be implemented in that line.
The ticket prices at the MRT 3 were quite expensive at the start though. Taking a ride from Quezon Avenue to Santolan-Annapolis Station (a mere three stations away!) cost P 25 at that time! Unsurprisingly, only a few people availed of the MRT 3 services since the prices were too steep.
Eventually, the MRT Corporation (MRTC) brought down prices of ticket fares so there will be more train ridership. People soon saw the value of riding these fast trains, with comfortable seating and cool air conditioning, despite the searing heat of Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue!
Bonus Rides with Stored Value Tickets
The concept of Stored Value Tickets (SVT) was still new to people — public transport options like buses, jeepneys, and taxis only accepted cash. Most people lined up to just purchase those Single Journey Tickets (SJT) above.
The 200-peso SVT
The MRT 3 offered a multiple-ride ticket variant in a different color. Where the single-journey variant had a green color on its side, the stored value ticket had red. People buying this had to shell out P 200.
As the ticket fares were still quite expensive, this 200-peso value card would not last long. If you used it daily for a back-and-forth trip between North Avenue and Buendia, you probably need to buy two of these in a week. The remainder will amount to a bonus ride though, so that was quite a nifty feature that enticed some to buy these cards.
The 500-peso SVT
This was the most expensive of the three Erap Series magnetic tickets. The 500-peso SVT sported a yellow color on its side. At the time the MRT 3 was operating, I did not even know that there was this ticket design so I never really got to see nor purchase it! This card made sense for those frequenting the train line so they don’t have to keep buying a lot of SJTs every single time.
All three cards had a bare black for its reverse side. Inserting the card into the turnstiles required that the front (obverse) side was facing up.
Despite the relatively more expensive fares, people found the new MRT 3 to be a speedier alternative to the limited public transport options of the day. The original MRT 3 magnetic tickets came in three variants: One for single journey and two for stored value tickets. It was a convenient way of accessing the train line when it operated for the first time.