Sunday, August 03, 2003

The Childhood Family Hangouts

My childhood memories are suffused with images of many family excursions, all happening on glorious Sunday mornings. We'd pile into the family car, and Pop would drive us to his destinations of choice.

1. We'd wind up along Ongpin, in the Manila Chinatown. We would frequent a restaurant there--la Manoza, I think it was called-- and feast (like aswang) on fried liver and greens in a thick, highly caramelized starch-based sauce. Side note: I'm an idiot for not remembering the name of the dish; I'm an even bigger idiot for not acquiring the recipe! If we had the time, after liver-lunch, we'd visit the Manila Zoo and get on the boats. No splashing about though-- the water reeked of petrol-based machine excrement.

2. We'd be in Cubao, at the Fiesta Carnival at the Araneta Center, which was the place to be in, before the populace was subject to the siren call of the super-Mall. We'd eat our American junkfood and sample all the rides my parents could afford. Local actress Nora Aunor, still big in those days, had pranced about in a clown suit with cutesy little children for one of her movie-musicals-- the name escapes me; otherwise I'd provide a link. During Christmas break, we'd be at the C.O.D., where scenes from the Nativity would play out, with mechanized puppets, large as life above the shop's entrance. I'm told that show still exists today.

3. If we did not feel like Ongpin or Cubao, we'd be at the Parks and Wildlife along Quezon Avenue, where we'd gawk at the animals and get injured trying the monkeybars and those big, big slides. I rememeber wanting to lose myself among the trees and the picnicking families. I also sustained a back injury there after trying a really dumbass-- really male-- stunt with the slide. I couldn't walk without wincing, couldn't run at all for the pain; upshot was my posture improved for the three whole days I nursed my back.

4. We would go to the Hotel Danara, next to the Camelot Hotel (whose much-touted Dungeon Bar was the playground of local missing-in-action singer and actress, Lilet), for a swim. We had to run to the car to eat though, as the guards were ordered to sniff for "contraband"-- packed lunches. I learned how to swim at Danara, much to the relief of my mom. She did not like Pop's method-- step one: attach flotation device to child's arms; step two: throw child in the middle of a Batangas lake.

Childhood's End

I feel sad that we don't frequent these places as much as we used to. And apparently, my family was not the only one who quit going to them.

I look at these places now, a full twenty years later, and see signs of decrepitude. Hardly anyone I know in the middle-class brackets have been to the Manila Zoo since 1983. When I stopped by the Parks and Wildlife in 1994, it was on academic --Philippine Institutions 100-- business: some branch of the National Historical Institute in the vicinity of the park! Cubao is now the inspiration for my sleazy jokes, what with seedy places with names like Kulasisi(Mistress), Bang-Bang Ali I and II, Gagamba(Spider)-- formerly Golden Gagamba-- and Halimuyak(Fragrance). Nobody in my circle of friends has admitted to buying anything from C.O.D., or Farmer's Plaza, or even Farmer's Market.

It bothers me that we have left those old haunts behind for the airconditioning, the crowds, the high prices, the pretentions, the high-strung monotony of the superMall.

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