CUBAO: MEMORIES LINGER
Cubao in Quezon City is Quiapo and Divisoria combined. It was almost a sibling if not heir to older watering holes in the greater Manila area. It is also the site of the biggest (once upon a time) coliseum (Araneta Coliseum) in Asia. Its development began in the ‘60s and would continue up to the present.
Before Makati’s skyscrapers and Taguig’s Global City became a business hub, Cubao had introduced a development plan that would serve as template for the future of its counterparts. The predecessors of state of the art (at that time) cinemas were lifted from that New Frontier Theater. Adjacent the coliseum is the Farmers’ Market where the best haul in marine, fruits and vegetables, not to mention anything found in any market can be found. Every outstanding product of every province in the whole archipelago was featured and found abundantly cheap in the area. The Cubao area was the center of every grand pursuit and talent Filipinos can project from foot wear to garment, jewelleries to handicraft, visual arts to haberdashers, culinary arts to real estate, any conceivable commerce known to every Juan, Pedro and Pilar.
(Cubao is an important commercial area in Quezon City, Philippines. At its heart is the Araneta Center, along EDSA (C-4) and Aurora Boulevard (R-6). It houses a number of shopping malls catering to the middle-class Filipinos, such as the Ali Mall (named after the boxing legend Mohammad Ali), TheFarmers Plaza, and the modern Gateway Mall. Department stores and retail centers can also be found here, such as Plaza Fair, Rustan’s, Shopwise Supercenter, and Makro. At the center is Araneta Coliseum, often called the Big Dome. Many musical concerts, religious crusades, wrestling, cock-fighting and basketball games are held in this 50,000-capacity coliseum.
North from Araneta Center along EDSA (C-4) are numerous bus terminals, a place where one can take a bus ride to almost any point in Luzon as well as in the Visayas especially in Samar, Leyte, and Iloilo. It is also an intersection point for two of city’s commuter trains (The EDSA MRT which travels from North to South, and the LRT-2 which runs from East to West).
It was just a 10 minute jeepney ride from our house in Project 2, Quezon City and I could vividly recall how I would cut classes just to skate on ice in a nearby facility adjacent Ali Mall. It was not skating that made my juvenile years memorable though but the lesson I learned when I was nearly held up after my skating trip. That was a baptism of fire sort of, to be stripped of my only jewellery at that time: my silver wrist watch. It was a gift from my uncle on the maternal side. It was a kid watch but boy, I clean it daily with my toothbrush until it shines like a brand new jewel. It stayed with me for a semester until it was taken out. Well, it was an embarrassing incident actually because the gleaming thing was not forcibly snatched from my wrist but I was duped to give it up.
That time, there were more scammers milling in the area than snatchers. These scammers can give one a run for his money. They had the ability to convince anyone. They can literally make anyone, even the smartest fellow on the street, vulnerable to their wiles. They were the best in the field of brain washing and sales talking. They could drain your pocket using your very volition. And Cubao was their home base. Worst, I happen to be on the spot where they congregate. And once a person was on the spot, then the sting begins.
I had this belief in me that I was smart and it was in the field of arts and science that I would grow smarter. After I was duped, I dropped the idea. Thereafter, I wanted to be a psychologist to understand how to cloud the mind of man and pursue letters so that one day I could share my thoughts on these matters. After completing my college course on Psychology, I went through the marketing field and used the very skill of convincing people —the same skill used on me by those in the business of stinging people— and persuading my clientele to buy my products. (For a while, I was a medrep of Mead Johnson, Philippines where I was one of its prized salesmen).
For a while it served me well, until I realized that using my skill on those uninitiated was tantamount to duping people. I must be in the area where the worst and the meanest converge. Not in Cubao anymore but in prison. And so, I filed my application for employment in then Bureau of Prisons (now Bureau of Corrections). In 1977, I became a prison psychologist. Ten years later, I rose from the ranks as prison superintendent. The rest is history.