Thursday, 23 January 2014

Feature: The “Y Junction” of Mambulao

                                The Loveria canvas 'Y Junction' circa 1960s


A FRAGMENT of Mambulao’s post-ancient history has popped on Facebook.

It’s a painting circa 1960s of that particular spot in the old Mambulao town – the street junction at North Poblacion called “Y” – where the main asphalt road forked in front of the old, nostalgic Fred Theater, with the left fork leading to the old municipal hall, while the right branch stretched up past Calogcog’s rocky road on its way to an ancient community cemetery by the bay.

Done in enamel, the canvas was a creation of Mambulaoan Jun “Boy” Loveria, a practicing architect based in California.

During the 1950s-60s, Jun and his brothers Bimbo and Wincy were the town’s newsboys delivering daily newspapers, komiks and magazines his family’s magazine business sourced from Daet, which in turn sourced them out from Manila.

As a young child in the 50s, my looking at the canvas now downloaded huge megabytes of stories that have been hibernating in my brain for almost 60 years.

Now, the area depicted in Loveria’s canvas, I can clearly recall, was the remnant of a massive fire that inundated a huge block encompassing the sections where the municipal building, parish church, Alatco terminal, two movie houses, lots of commercial establishments and homes on both sides of the two forking streets, used to stand proud and tall.

That conflagration one fateful evening in the early 1950s left a big block of the north poblacion in ashes.

And from where we lived in barrio Parang, we could see a bright red sky pulsating above where a third of the poblacion razed in a massive blaze.

Watching from the beach of Parang the bright red flames as they swept across that unfortunate section of the town, my little body trembled in sheer fear but never told mother and cousins who were with me about what had taken over me that moment.

I just can’t forget how my six-year-old frame shook every few seconds as the elderly in our neighborhood who rushed to the fire scene, described on the same night upon their return to the village the inferno they just saw.

The next day, a big crowed that included myself trooped to the fire zone and witness the desolate picture that gripped the place – rubbles of burned down structures still smoldered, as furious grayish smokes billowed.

While fire victims tried to figure out how they could rise again and get on with their lives, scavengers scanned the whole place for whatever valuable items that could be retrieved -- for money; others concentrated on the spots where store cash boxes sat during the fire.

The night before, it was an inferno no other blaze could superimpose, according to townsfolk who later surged to the place to offer fire victims some help.

The rebuild took more than five years. Mambulao’s resurrection took much greater efforts and pain from both the local government and those who lost homes and businesses.

AND NOW, Loveria’s canvas has become a happy reminiscence of that by-gone era.

And of late, it has been drawing out excited and nostalgic comments and reactions from Mambulaoan Facebookers from across the globe.

Indeed, Loveria was kind enough to tag some well-known spots depicted in his canvas to guide every Facebooker, who sent a flurry of postings, describing their personal recollections triggered by the painting.

For me, it had been a happy occasion.

For a start, I was very much familiar with the Alatco terminal.

It’s where I and my older first cousin Kuya Cesar Aragon eked out a so-so living cleaning the shoes of those who bummed around the “istasyon”

Opposite the bus terminal was one landmark that became a temporary hangout for many high school students, especially during summer.

It’s here where they – and that included me - learned how to bang an Underwood or Adler typewriter. Remember the Premier Secretarial School? It was operated by the inspiring secretarial instructor Tony Ante, a native of Legaspi City, who, in later years, became my friend.

An alumni of Premier Secretarial (1960-61), I graduated salutatorian – my typing score at the final rating period of 120 words per minute and 180-200wpm in shorthand (steno) earned me that honor.

Nobody would miss the Nick Studio on his/her way to the church. Family photography was a flourishing business for Nick with many families waiting in queue to sit in front of his camera.

One of my frequently-visited shops along the town street was the shoe repair stand owned by the Dioneda family.

My poor pair of shoes had always had a sole problem that needed some fixing once in a while to keep it on the road.

My parents had a hard time buying me a new pair, so I had to settle for the recon footwear, or else I would go to school barefooted.

During those years before the great fire, there were two movie houses across the Alatco terminal, showing the usual staple of worn-out movies.

Nevertheless, they were at full house always. I remember watching a movie standing all throughout the screening and would opt to repeat the watch as soon as I could snatch a seat.

I can’t remember the names of these two sinehan. Likewise, I couldn’t recall if Fred Theater existed those days already.

Maybe it did not, and surfaced only at the Y junction after the great fire, where it operated till its gradual demise in the 80s.

It did not survive the onslaught of movies in tapes, courtesy of OFWs who sent them home in Mambulao.

I don’t remember Calpi’s ice cream. What I can recall was that of a shop next to the Evangelista tailoring shop at the bend of the main street, which sold ice in blocks, and next to it was the mixing parlor for dirty ice cream sold around town every day.

During my elementary days, I made friends with Mang Joe – the ice drop-scramble-hotcake man, who stationed his pushcart right across the street in front of a two-classroom building where Grade 1 teacher Mrs Lilia Manalo – my teacher – taught.

In fact, I struck a deal with Mang Joe: he would give me a small glass of his scramble and a slice of hotcake every recess time in the morning and afternoon, in exchange for my picking up the ice drop sticks around his pushcart.

Armed with a dust pan and walis-tingting, I happily rid the area of ice drop sticks and other rubbish, to his delight.

I learned later that the Custodio family, owners of that corner store where Mang Joe had anchored his pushcart, warned him he would be expelled from his spot if he couldn’t keep the store front clear of his rubbish.

Across the Custodio Variety Store, was the variety shop owned by the Orbe family (remember Bobby Orbe, hubby of Shirley Catimbang?).

Then next to the Orbe’s lair was another variety store, then another shop – a popular halo-halo parlor operated by Mang Tibo, a big man whom I thought was a white foreigner who grew up in Mambulao.

Would you believe that the Evangelista Tailoring was my favorite during my UE-Manila days (1965-70)?

Every summer vacation, I would pop at the shop to show-off some latest designs for polo shirts and pants that I picked up in Manila.

The shop owners had always been happy to see me, knowing that I had the latest news on Manila’s latest “fashion” trend, which they could use in their business.

And the tailor would cut me the designs using the fabric that I also bought in Manila.

I had noticed that every time I did that, the clothes that they sewed for me would land on the display case until I picked them up.

There were other tailors along the town’s major street and I think Kramirton Tailoring could lay claim as the oldest in town. It came years before the likes of Leb’s Tailoring and Sarto’s gained prominence.

Remember T’yong Ontoy Abina? He was well-known for owning the town’s only orchestra Mambulao Orchestra, who covered the songs of Glen Miller such as In the Mood, Chatanooga Choochoo, Serenade in Blue, Moonlight Serenade, Little Brown Jug and the like.

The Fred Theater is the most-remembered landmark/icon in Mambulao.

All high school students went through its door – either as paying customers, or the palusot, who were very common those days.

I was one of them.

I would pretend to be just browsing the still pics on the board next to the old spinster takilyera, who had that unfortunate habit of closing her eyes tightly for a few seconds.

In nanoseconds, I would casually walk past her on my way inside the sinehan and get myself lost in the darkened hall.

During our high school days, the school would raise fund with help from the management of the theater. This meant that all students would have to watch the movie (usually those corny Greek-themed movies such as Hercules and its genre).

But for us young ones, we couldn’t care less whether such movies were lousy, corny or what have you.

What’s important was that we were spared of unwelcome quizzes and other class bothers on the day the fundraising movie was to be screened.

Which brings me to this question: Why are we, seniors and seniors-to-be are always quick to have a tour of the past – the heavier, happier chunk of our youth -- every time an ancient part of our lives in an equally-ancient place of a home like Mambulao are brought to the fore?

Loveria’s “Y Junction” canvas just sent me to the innermost enclave of my being, rebooting my brain system and downloading high-pixel memories of all that I had cherished in my youth.

How many times in your life did you travel back in time?

What can send you for a spin?

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