The giant shoe display and other memories of a Marikina neighborhood
They inched their way along Sta. Mesa Boulevard as jeepneys and other vehicles crisscrossed their path in front as they took turns overtaking their “defensive Californiadriving
By Simeon G. Silverio, Jr.
Publisher & Editor
San Diego Asian Journal
The Original and First Asian Journal in America
Fourth in a series of articles
December 25, 1992
fter enjoying a delicious Christmas Day lunch at his parents house in Quezon City, he decided to take his family to his wifes relatives in Marikina Heights. His brother from California volunteered to drive them in the family van and no sooner had they gone out of their neighborhood, he started to regret his decision.
Although he had been driving in Manila many years before migrating to the U.S., it was very difficult for his brother to readjust his driving style in the crazy Metro-Manila traffic.
They inched their way along Sta. Mesa Boulevard as jeepneys and other vehicles crisscrossed their path in front as they took turns overtaking their “defensive Californiadriving. One big change that they noticed was the flyover across the Sta. Mesa Rotunda, which used to be a traffic bottleneck area. Flyovers were bridges patterned after those bridges that cut across the freeways in the United States, although the Philippine version was somewhat smaller, with only two lanes.
On the corner of Aurora Blvd. and Araneta Avenue in New Manila, a big SM Shoemart Mall had replaced the Sta. Mesa Market. What used to be the Broadway Centrum on the corner of Aurora Blvd. and Broadway was also replaced by a bigger mall. Araneta Blvd.had been widened and was now a major thoroughfare that cut across from Del Monte Avenue to San Juan.
As they reached the intersection of Aurora Blvd. and Epifanio delos Santos in Cubao, they encountered another bottleneck, which they managed to shrug off through sheer patience. Eventually, they reached the new Marcos Highway in Marikina but again were not spared from traffic congestion.
While the Marikina area had completely changed after ten years, Marikina still remained the countrys shoe capital. It was where many shoe factories were located, and in its museum, the famous shoe collection of the former First Lady, Imelda Marcos was displayed. A giant shoe was also part of the attraction. The Marcos Highway, which used to be a lonely, long stretch of highway with vacant lots on each side, was now a very busy thoroughfare, with commercial buildings mushrooming on each side. They were surprised to find out that his wife, who had lived in the Marikina Heights area for almost fifteen years, could not find the way to their house. His sister-in-law, who went to St. Scholastica School with her, suggested they ask people for the way towards the school. Once they found it, the area looked familiar to his wife who could now find the way to their old house.
His brother and his family dropped them off and proceeded to his in-laws house in Pasig. After ten years, he noticed that that Marikina Heightsneighborhood had hardly changed, except for a few new houses built in what used to be vacant lots. The house of the late movie actor Dindo Fernando was still on the corner, although it had a new owner and was being used as a retreat house. His wife, who used to tell stories about her growing up in the neighborhood to their daughters, could now make those stories more vivid by pointing out the things she mentioned in them.
“Michelle, she told her eldest daughter. “Remember the haunted house that I was telling you about? Well, thats the haunted house! She then pointed to the big green house across the street.
“Remember the second story of our house that was ripped by a tornado? she would tell another daughter, Ashley this time. “Well, she would say, pointing above the house, “Thats what remained of the second floor!
“Heres the papaya tree from where we get papaya fruit for breakfast, she would point to a tree in the yard. “Theres the guyabano fruit I was telling you about!
“Wheres the ghost you said only appeared before little kids in this house? the youngest daughter, Heather, asked.
Memories to recall
Inside the house, there were more memories to recall. Their kids eagerly opened dozens of old albums with questions filling the air.
“That was your grandpa when he was a young man, his wife would patiently explain.
“This was your grandma when she reigned as a beauty queen, she would proudly point out.
In a storage room under the stairs, his wife saw for the first time in ten years the wedding gifts they could not bring to the United States. They were still neatly piled on top of each other, and no one knew whether they would ever be used.
Outside, the rugged dirt road filled with potholes that had been causing misery to hundreds of residents in that area ten years ago was still causing misery; they remained rugged and filled with potholes. He wondered how the government could remain indifferent to the plight of the residents of that area during all those years.
After 30 minutes and a phone call, an uncle of his wife picked them up and brought them to a cousins house in the area where the clan reunion was being held that Christmas Day. An older man with white hair, his wifes uncle was still the same lively and joyful person.
He also noticed that there were now a lot of big three, sometimes four, story houses in the area with terraces on top, high fence, and iron grills on the windows. He learned these were the typical houses of the Chinese, many of whom were now very wealthy and living near the Filipinos, yet separated from them by high walls surrounding their houses. They got their privacy inside those high walls, isolated in their own private world, as they got fresh air on the terraces on top of their houses.
They were greeted by a lot of very loud shrieks and yelling as they entered the house as befitted long lost relatives. Many more hugs and kisses were exchanged and their kids, bewildered as they were, were pleasantly surprised. He later realized that the group of young men and women, loudly having fun as they played cards in one corner of the house, were the nephews and nieces of his wife. They had been much smaller ten years ago. Most of them were college graduates holding executive positions in big companies; several were pursuing graduate courses. They were very outgoing, intelligent and outspoken, unlike the young Filipinos of before who seemed to value being shy and timid. He honestly believed that Filipinos in their teens and twenties were now more qualified to hold responsible jobs than they would have been ten years ago, which explained why many of the company officers he met during their stay were so young. In fact, he had a feeling that they were more qualified than their American counterparts in holding high company positions.
As his children had observed, Filipinos, during a party, always asked them to eat and eat and eat. There were lots of fancy foods and cakes on the table, with the hostess being noted for the delicious cakes she always baked. After being satiated after half a day of eating, he began longing for a native chicken dish cooked in tamarind soup (sinampalukang nativena manok)
If he could not have it, he would settle for a plateful of rice filled with Carabaos milk sprinkled with salt. Or perhaps a plateful of rice mixed with raw eggs of native chickens sprinkled with salt. How about young oysters with their soft and sweet meat dipped in vinegar sauce mixed with salt and garlic? Or since he was dreaming anyway, why not Philippine crabs with their sweet white meats and fats (alige) dipped in the same vinegar sauce? He never thought he would realize these dreams in the next few days of his stay in the Philippinesthat Christmas season! AJ
(From the book, “Homecoming by Simeon G. Silverio, Jr. To order copy of the book, call: [619.474.0588 in the U.S. for $12]; [733.5455 in the Philippines for P300]