QUIRINO DISTRICT IN THE 60S
It was the beginning of counter culture, the flower people, the hippies and blaring on radio were songs of Petula Clark “Downtown”, Matt Monroe’s “Born Free”, Beach Boys, Monkees, Dave Clark 5, Beatles. The beat goes on!
Quirino District (in Quezon City, then referred to as the Capital of the Philippines) is composed of several housing subdivisions partitioned according to project. Hence, there was Project 2, Project 3 and Project 4. Project 2 is separated from Project 3 by Victoria Creek. It was in that rivulet where I learned the rudiments of fishing. Project 3 is separated from Project 4 by Aurora Boulevard. Project 1 is several kilometers away and situated in the far end of Quezon City, referred to as Roxas District.
Streets in Project 2 were named after local fruits. I know, I live in Naranjita Street and my boyhood playmates including the girls we wishfully admire and imaginatively court were residing in said street, also in Marang, Lanzones, Pajo, Chico, Sineguelas, Durian, Kubili, Anonas, Bignay ,Tampoy, etc. Celebrity personalities used to reside in the place, the likes of rock star Mike Hanopol (he who coined Jeproks—inverse of Project) , academician F. Landa Jocano, basketball greats Freddie Hubalde and Larry Mumar, Chess great Ruben Rodriguez, Stella Suarez (famous actress and mother of Richard Gomez), opinion writer Art Borjal, former Manila Vice Mayor and former PNP Deputy Chief, General James Barbers and comedienne Nova Villa.
There were also the tough guys, Boy Gely, Monking, Boy Baranda, Boy Bringas, Taruc (whom I met in prison years back while I was conducting rounds as a prison officer), Rey Matias,Jessie Esteban, among others. Much as I wanted to follow their footsteps, their audacity for dealing with trouble was too much for me.
Streets in Project 3 were named after hardwood trees—Narra, Apitong, Molave, Palosapis, Tindalo, Yakal, Ipil, Almon, etc. It was in this area where once government officials and tinsel town denizen used to be street kids—-the likes of former Senator Francisco Tatad, former Post Office head Roilo Golez, actor Jay Ilagan and First Quarter Storm activist Ka Pandong Tayag.
It has been said that this renaming -of-street tradition was initiated by then President Elpidio Quirino who took note that in those areas referred to as Projects were once a plantation zone and after his term, it was subsequently followed through by President Ramon Magsaysay. In Project 2, fruits of varying species were planted. Over in Project 3, hardwood trees of varying varieties were likewise planted. Until it was planned and proposed by a housing agency, Homesite, to make it as a low cost mass housing area mostly for qualified government personnel.
Streets in Project 4 were named after heroes—-Rizal, Kalantiaw, Aguinaldo, A. Luna, Kalantiaw, De los Reyes, etc. It was also in this area where the great economic divide can be seen—Escopa for informal settlers and Blue Ridge for the economically successful. The king of Tour of Luzon, Cornelio Padilla, a resident in the area, used to deliver newspapers in his racer bike every morning in this place. Padilla eventually became a lawyer and has an office in the town. This is likewise where International Chess Grandmaster Eugene Torre resides.
There were landmarks where we ogled and passed through with our rented bikes when we were still in our juvenile period. There was Ortanez Hospital which became Ortanez University and recently evolved into several business establishments, after latter was declared by the Department of Education as a diploma mill. Only a few know that the first Jolibee outlet was established across Ortanez Hospital in a garage. We used to mill around the stall because the hamburger was outstanding. It would later become one giant food chain that would rival multinational food chains years later. Of course, the main shrine is Qurino Elementary School and Quirino High School. On its fringes, there was Durian elementary school and along Aurora Boulevard, Roosevel Memorial High School.
My father was a government worker (Bureau of Posts) and a professor (Philippine College of Criminology) and was a proud breadwinner. His combined monthly income was P300! At that time, the minimum fare was 10 centavos. And I would feel guilty then whenever I would ask mother to add 5 cents to my daily allowance!
There was the spiritual beacon of the area, the St. Joseph Parish Church. I was a long time acolyte in the convent and one of its top chess players too. I get my daily baon from the extra tithe bag we acolytes often pass around during the Mass. While all other parish priests in Quezon City stayed long, it was in St. Joseph where the turnover of parish priest was noticeably high. This may be attributed to the diminishing contribution of offering by mass goers. Actually, we, the acolytes were skimming the bigger amounts and leaving only loose change for the kura paroko.
Cubao was the mecca of those from Quirino District. It was sparklingly and relatively modern. The Araneta Coliseum then the biggest arena in the country was our Mount Olympus. The New Frontier theater along its fringes was the first cinema that boasted of high-end qualities. There was Farmers’ Market and Ali Mall. It was in Cubao where the famous ice skating rink was introduced. It was, in a sentimental recall, here in one corridor that my brand new Rado watch was also snatched!
There were movie houses for those who wanted to be entertained cheaply with two movies at a time. There was Marrick, Homesite, Peoples theaters. Cockroaches in these establishments were as big as birds! I had a number of encounters here inside the movie houses since management then was very liberal and highly tolerant if not neglectful. I learned to smoke while my feet were rested on the back of the chair in front of me like a thug and pull my batangas knife whenever a bully would approach.
The market place in Kubili was the commercial hub of Homesite housekeepers. Vegetables were cheaper than the newly organized Nepa-Q-Mart along Edsa. This was a result of high yielding productivity of students in gardening at Qurino Elementary School where the best vegetable plots were a model of agricultural tenderness by the likes of Elmo Abad, Alfredo Tabayoyong, Oscar Careon, Elmer Gloria, Edgar Javier or those teachers supervising the orchard, the likes of Mr. Silvestre or Mr. Agustin . It is still anonymous up to this day, who was the one transacting with market vendors on the cheap vegetables which my mother used to bring home after her weekly marketing.
While there were Projects 1,2,3 and 4, there was no Project 5 or Project 7 to speak of. There were Projects 6 and 8 though. That time, these areas were virtually covered with tall grasses, highly forested and considered the lung of the Metro polis. These housing projects flanked educational institutions which were considered sometime past the nests of the country’s best and brightest. There was UP, Ateneo, Maryknoll (now Miriam), Stella Maris, St. Mary, etc.
That is right, now, those were the days my friend and they were slipping and some had gone by. For a time, they were full of memories, each corner a monument of youthful condescension and each bend a tapestry for criminal mysteries as well!
The unforgettable 60s.