27 January 2007


i spent my boyhood years playing with children whose families lived around the university of santo tomas (u.s.t.), in sampaloc, manila. throughout the late 1960s and the 1970s, my playground was dapitan, a two-way street where jeepneys and calesas moved freely. it was a magical place where i played hide-and-seek with children from the perpendicular streets. and even then, dapitan was a tributary of stores and dormitories catering mostly to u.s.t. students and teachers.

u.s.t. students frequently purchased their school supplies at college inn. my yaya and i had merienda in a panciteria beside it. other times, we visited the newly opened, barrio fiesta-owned handaang pilipino because it dished up crispy pata and kare-kare. when i was in grade four, i opened my first bank account at the neighboring university savings and loan association

my yaya bought pandesal for breakfast at fame bakery at the corner of dapitan and don quijote. between governor forbes and algeciras, students huddled themselves together inside endless rows of tailoring and beauty shops as well as sari-sari stores with take-home counters loaded with pork barbecue and fried peanuts. one notable landmark was aling mameng's carinderia and sari-sari store at the corner of dapitan and carola streets. the owner frequently remarked to their regular patrons that their previous clients included budding u.s.t. students who became luminaries in philippine politics, cinema, art, journalism, and literature. these students turned out to be writers cirilo f. bautista, francisco tatad, wilfrido nolledo, cesar leyco aguila, albert casuga, rita gadi, recah trinidad, jullie yap daza, cristina pantoja hidalgo, and norma miraflor; actor bernardo bernardo; fashion designers steve de leon and gino fernando; artists danny dalena and manuel baldemor.

just above aling mameng's sari-sari store, fast-rising hairdresser jun encarnacion endowed matrons and their minions with his fabled beauty tricks. one of jun encarnacion’s good friends was a young mananahi from the nearby dress shop owned by sonia aquino, also along dapitan. the mananahi later became a popular couturier named renee salud. along don quijote street, between dapitan and p. margal, another small beauty salon was being managed by leslie reyes, also a friend of encarnacion and salud. but the more formidable persona in the beauty business during those days was freddie reyes, whose beauty salon occupied an imposing brick edifice near the corner of governor forbes and espaňa. in sharp contrast, some five doors away from aling mameng, mang nary managed a barbershop where i had my first haircut when i was about a year old. at the corner of dapitan and trabajo, i had my first photograph taken at a studio beside another beauty shop—that of grace lagman's.

beyond dapitan, however, i learned about poverty, bitterness, and disillusionment from my playmates living in squatter communities along the railroad tracks. at a very young age, i had a consciousness of martial law and its repercussions. many of my playmates’ immediate family members and relatives had been “salvaged” or incarcerated as political prisoners. a number of these immediate family members and relatives became “fall guys” for crimes they did not commit. among the underfed, many performed sleazy jobs (prostitution and drug dealing, most especially) out of desperation. growing up as a “marcos baby” during martial law in the 1970s offered me a clear-sighted awareness about the so-called new society and how it had been employed by a newly emerged bourgeoisie to consolidate their power and privilege.

for many years, i did not have memory of sampaloc because i lived overseas. when i returned to the country, i could not find time to revisit sampaloc. my family moved to a dream house overlooking the city. elsewhere, matters that compelled immediate attention kept me busy.

i finally explored dapitan again sometime during the late 1990s. to my astonishment, greenwich, shakey's pizza, and dunkin donuts had replaced the old college inn. chowking's occupied the spot where handaang pilipino used to be. jollibee and mcdonald's branches stood close to each other.

and yet, a number of the old places refused to die: university savings, aling mameng's, and grace lagman. fame bakery also stayed alive. but it had been renamed tinapayan. jun encarnacion passed on and his children moved his beauty shop to a new location along laon laan, a street parallel to dapitan. aling ising's uniform center occupied the space jun encarnacion had previously vacated.

but aling mameng has gone to america with a retired u.s. navy serviceman. a distant relative is said to be running her once-reputable carinderia. mang nary is gone but his children are operating a small canteen beside the old barbershop.

all of a sudden, reputable banking institutions have sprouted all over dapitan and nearby laong laan-bank of the philippine islands, metrobank, equitable-pci bank, banco filipino, prudential bank and allied nank. old dormitories and turo-turo canteens have been knocked down to give way to condominium units, wendy's hamburger, max's fried chicken, cravings bake house and the coffee beanery. traffic barely moved along dapitan when the short-lived coby's music café got inaugurated by celebrities led by pops fernandez, side a, gary valenciano, along with abs-cbn broadcasting network's stable of stars and starlets.

the moon has sailed across the milky way with dapitan's changing landscape. the city street’s elemental sadness can never be surmounted.

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m. de la fuente (trabajo) corner pi y margal street
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dapitan near vicente cruz (economia) street
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pi y margal corner pepin
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maria clara corner constancia street
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pi y margal corner a. maceda (washington)
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don quijote near dapitan street
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don quijote near pi y margal street
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dapitan between carola and don quijote
(former location of aling mameng's sari sari store, mang nary and mang romy''s barber shop and jun encarnacion's house of beauty)
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arsenio lacson street (governor forbes) corner dapitan
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p. florentino corner a. lacson street (governor forbes)

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blumentritt corner pi y margal / mariano cuenco
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pi y margal near carola and dos castillas streets

11 January 2007

in nostalgia manila

a few days before christmas, the moderator behind nostalgia manila (a friend of mine and a fellow iskolar ng bayan from u.p. diliman) asked me a few questions about my childhood and adolescence in manila during the 1970s and 1980s. the online interview finally appeared this week. maraming salamat nostalgia manila for the great feature!

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my mom took this shot when i was a few months old
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after coffee with some uni house friends in civic