Monday, October 27, 2008


I am a Pasayeno. 216 Villaruel Street was the address of the family for the longest time. In there was the family compound composed of four houses. Right next to our house stood an imposing tree visible miles away. It probably served as a landmark for travelling pilgrims looking for a place to stay for the night. It was also perhaps a humble abode of a local capre smoking his favorite Churchills. The gate was often manned by Mang Paeng, a stolid yet kind-hearted man who would intercept any one entering the compound - including stray cats attracted with the aroma of tuyo in the frying pan. Our neighbors were good families, to name a few, the Roxas family who lived in front, the Lopez family next door, the Pardo family, the Alfonso family, the Zuluaga family, the Campos family, the Rufino family, and the Gamalinda family who would later on rent our house soon after we left. At the corner of Villaruel and Luna streets stood the beautiful Monterey Apartments, a sprawling coterie of quaint and cozy units for the buena familias. Down the road along Luna was the Nawasa office with a water fountain in the middle. Nearby was the Swanky Motel that had a short-cut passage leading to Taft Avenue. Further down the road towards Manila was the Manila Sanitarium Hospital run by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The street corner on the other side too was Leveriza where Aling Tinay's sari-sari store stood. Trips to her store were always a treat for me for it meant I would be enjoying her Choco-Vim, Choc-Nut, Canada Dry Uva drinks, Bayani, Sunta and Sarsi. Further down the road along Leveriza stood a big house owned by Tomas Cloma, an explorer of sorts who would discover the Spratly Islands years before any foreign soul would set foot on it. Could he have named it Tomas' Site instead? He would go on to establish the Philippine Merchant Marine School (PMMS). SM malls were still a thing of the future, and we didn't care at all for we had the Cartimar Shopping Complex. There, one would find the latest PX goods. Cartimar had it all - Munsingwear, Grand Slam, Bally shoes and not the (Marikina) valley shoes, and the flashiest Banlon shirts, a must wear to be hip in those days. Across the PX department was the Cartimar pet shops where one would find exotic animals like the musang or wild cat, the giant bayawak or monitor lizard, and occasionally, one would see a pilandok or mouse-deer native only to Palawan. Today, those animals are either endangered or extinct. I must admit that I somehow contributed to the animal trade for I frequented the pet shops to buy my favorite turtles and ulupong to make them as house pets. The Pasay I knew then is not the Pasay I know now. It has now evolved into a haven of Karaoke fanatics belting out their favorite OPMs. The streets are now slowly disappearing to give way to the tricycle terminals and the carinderias, and also sometimes if unchecked, video kareras on the bangketas. But whatever the city has now become, Pasay will always be what it is to me, a place of my childhood memories.

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