NARANGJITA STREET: IN OUR COLLECTIVE MIND
80 Naranjita Street, Project 2, Quezon City. The third house from the main road Anonas, left side, where all numbers are even. Like all lots in the neighborhood, ours is also a 200 square meter parcel of land. In the 60s, when I was then in the primary grades, my parents built an annex. The original house was retained and another was built adjacent to it. My father gave it a name—80-A. The Homesite facility was rented out to relatives and the new spanking house became our new residential dwelling place. The air is the same, the memories are still linked.
As a child, I was never given to loafing. It was a house-to-school affair during my toddler years up to juvenile. I never had a chance to explore the entire neighborhood, save for some information that most of my classmates, the beautiful and the brilliant ones, happen to live a number of houses away from ours. There was Belen Maglalang, the class valedictorian and Lorna Diaz, a talented honor student. I forgot the beautiful others though. Although it was an advantage to live within and a stone’s throw from these top of the line girls, there was no significance for me since they might be intellectually snubs anyway. And so, like most of those in Naranjita street, especially those near the main road Anonas, I was drawn to other streets where my classmates are residing. It was there, well, mostly in Marang Street, a street adjacent to Naranghita, across Anonas road, where I devoted most of my time. Actually, there were more beautiful girls in that side of Marang that drew me in the first place.
Over in Narangjita Street, of course, the neighborhood where I learned to interact, I found my neighbors, even my childhood playmates as “burgis” already. The Morenos, our neighbor where I had Elmer and Butch as playmates, had a big Ford car already. Across, where the Gatelas live, I have an elder playmate, Lando, who was christened by the local barkada as “Barok” on the way he handles the ball during a half court basketball game on the street. We have a fledging basketball court, half court, in front of the Cariaso house. There were a series of residents in that house and mostly it is vacant, hence we built the basketball hoop on that side.
The basketball court is another story. Actually, it is a separate story for those who literally grew up in that area, where the canal was referred to as “sangre et misterio.” Somebody from the Cariaso family, I think it was Mang Fred who made a placard and placed Latin words to scare the kids playing basketball because whenever their balls would drop into the area and would roll down the creek, their household was felled with lots of request to retrieve the ball from the murky canal. The kids were allowed to get the ball, the gates were opened and a scary announcement written in horrific red paint would greet them.
Going back to the neighborhood, I could only remember households from two to three houses from our place. My mother never would leave the house except when going to the market place. We never had a “katulong.” I oftentimes play with my kid sister and a couple of kids from the neighbor (usually the Morenos). Other kids in the neighborhood, my age, were somewhere busy in their respective lawns. I could only ogle at the Velascos, where Bert, the elder, a tall guy, would oftentimes come out but would rather spend so much inside their house. His sister, Juliet, Army and Liberty. All of them very beautiful girls. Grace, the youngest and the fairest was sideswept in a street accident while going home from school. She succumbed and for the Velascos, it would signal a period and life for them would never be the same. They had a small store in front of their house where the mother, Aling Rosa would tender. Their father, Mang Tibo, was a Presidential Security Guard. His service motorcycle, as “hagad” was a monster. It was a Harley Davidson. The sound of the engine was like base drums, nice sounding, blasting sound with melodic consistency. I would spend all sunlit morning beside their house just to hear the sound of a warming up Harley.
My circle of friends in the area was also limited. I could only gaze at my senior in the neighborhood, they who have established territoriality. There was Sergio Andaya (a big stout guy), Ador (a musical talented guy, who was into arts and architecture. He was a go-to guy, one who can transform a dreary day into an amusing one. His presence sparkled every interaction. He was actually my template for seeing something incongruous in what could have been an ordinary scene.) There was Rene Cambal, who was “Ite” to us because he was hyper when playing basketball. He was like a “kiti-kiti” the mosquito larvae in water. He would never bog down even if he had scores of bruises. He was the warrior kind of player. His bulk could take down any tall guy if he really wanted to bring the ball to the hoop. He barges through even if it means a broken rib or skull for him and playmates. A really tough guy.
And the Escobars. The brother Escobars span the whole generation of street guys in Naranjita. Name the group and they have a representative for each. The father is a statuesque fellow straight from the Military, erect, walks with calibrated space, chin up and the way he carried his dress. Even if it was in his civies, one could see at a distance that the wearer is a military. Just look at the shadows. The kids however never reflected any of the gait father had but what they lack militarily they compensated with their amiable personality. They never had any air of arrogance despite their higher economic status compared with us. They had a brand new Volks when the car was just a dream for all of us in the area then.
After them, I had no more recollection of Naranjita big boys except my playmates, my age, in the area. There was Elmer and Butch Moreno. They were my bicycle partners when we were toddlers. There was Bobot and brother Olitog Salazar, there was Jun Dy (anak ni Intsik, with a small grocer. He died of cardiac failure some 6 years ago.) There was Porong, a newly transferred kid renting a house of the Ella family along with him Rati, whose name got mixed up and was given a street label “Tarat.” And there was Boy Santos, who later became an architect. He was trained as violinist by his father. A very savvy kind of guy, cool and calculating. As for the girls, it was my sister Doris who is more familiar. And a lot more, but mostly, the kids were from other areas who transferred and whose family rented a house in the street.
I had small memories of kids from the farther side of Naranjita. There were the Sarmiento’s. They were the good looking guys but a bit snobbish and arrogant. Probably because they are tisoys and tisoys are a bit higher in the estimation of the looks department. There were also the Borja’s, led by Philippine Star Project 2, where Naranghita street is, was a composite of the best and the brightest among the post war generation. They were the yuppies then. The kids, us, would just be a reflection. We were the baby boomers. The rock and roll fodders. The flower people. The hippie culture.
There was a time when all of us would rock around hippie like with long hair. We were all aping long haired musicians and taking all experimental drugs at the same time. None however among our ranks came out as addicts or law violators.
But to a certain extent, there were violators who were haunted by law enforcers. They were not the felon kind but the activists. Ka Nards Rodriguez, brother of International Chess Master Ruben Rodriquez, was a politburo member of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines. Ka Nards was for a time incarcerated in Bicutan jail. This was during the tumultuous Martial Law years. Project 2 at that time was a radical hotbed considering its proximity to UP Diliman. Much more so, there were a number of UP students in the neighborhood, one of them happens to be Doris, my sister.
Naranjita Street however was cool every since. All our mothers literally were ruling the lifestyle of their children. They were constantly everywhere and most of them, well except my mother, were always interacting. There was Mrs. Ella, Mrs. Andaya, Mrs. Corpuz, Mrs. Umadhay, Mrs. Rodriguez, Mrs. Godinez, Mrs. Escobar, Mrs. Gulla, Mrs. Velasco, Mrs Gatela, Mrs. Belisario, Mrs. Cariaso, Mrs. Berces, Mrs. Cerdenia, Mrs. Diaz, Mrs. Maglalang, Mrs. Quinones, Mrs. Sarmiento, they were the real queens of Naranjita. As Poet William Ross Wallace wrote “the hand that rocks the cradle, is the hand that rules the world.” And from their children would rise a new generation which today are already in their twilight and has been the root of the succeeding generation.
That street called Naranjita for residents is also a memory lane.