As Lizl and I wandered around her hometown’s “poblacion” last month, she kept repeating, like a mantra: “This street used to be so long. Why does it look shorter now? That house used to be so enormous, but not anymore.”
I teased her about streets getting shorter as you get older, which earned me a good-natured pinch. But I have to admit, it’s a sensation you get whenever you revisit places you spent your childhood in. I remember the house in Makati where I grew up. It was in a compound with four apartment units with a common parking lot. When I was seven years old or so, my cousins and playmates would run around the parking lot as if it was the car park of Makro.
It was big enough for us to play “patintero” too. But as an adult, I would always be surprised whenever I make a visit to the old place and realize how small the car lot really is.
I had a somewhat similar sensation while I was walking around Pacita Complex when Lizl and the kids and I went home for a visit last month. It’s not spatial though. The streets were of the same length as I remember them (Ouch! There goes another pinch!). But the sensation was more about the atmosphere of the place.
My family moved to San Pedro, Laguna in 1984. Compared to my old playground in Makati, San Pedro was a backwater. A hicktown. But that’s San Pedro, the town.
We settled in a government-built subdivision called Rosario Complex, adjacent to its more popular cousin, Pacita Complex. It had pre-fabricated houses; no doors, windows or ceilings, though; you have to improve them yourself. And yes, there were no fences. No trees either. There was good water supply and electricity was not a problem. Nevertheless, Rosario Complex was suburbia. One lingering image I have of Rosario Complex is of a summer day, the sky so blue, unmarred by tall trees or buildings, with some of houses bereft of greenery but for dottings of green to mark plants and saplings struggling to become trees. The streets are straight and clean of both trash and stand-bys. The entire place smelled of fresh paint. I would forever be indebted to my parents for bringing us there during our adolescence. Somehow, Rosario Complex sheltered us in its suburban cocoon.
Fast-forward to 2006, shortly before my family left for Thailand. At the time, we had been living in a nearby subdivision called Juana Complex (let me digress, the original developer, so the story goes, had several daughters after whom he named the subdivisions, so there’s Pacita, Rosario, Adelina and Juana). Pacita Complex is now a far cry from its modest beginnings. Aside from the two bus terminals that service both Manila- and provincial-bound passengers, several fastfood chains are now well-established and the main road looks like the main thoroughfare of BF Homes Sucat, that is, lined up with small business establishments.
December 2008. I spent a lot of time going around the place, visiting places I used to hang out in. Somehow, I felt a tinge of melancholy; the place has changed, I thought to myself, not without a trace of regret. I don’t know if its residents see these new things as progress but somehow, despite the stores and other businesses, Pacita looked…shabbier. There are more stores now, yes, but it seems they were built in a haphazard way, their materials makeshift. Houses with neatly-trimmed lawns have given way to multi-door apartment units crowded with tenants. Tricycles with their oily fumes have taken over. …their drivers complete strangers. Twenty five years ago, we were on first-name basis with the tricycle drivers. It seemed everyone knew everyone else. Sure, Pacita is not as sleepy as Chrysanthemum Village, another government housing nearby which had been built in the early 70s. Chrysanthemum has apparently turned into a retirement community, as if the youth of that place has fled to other places, leaving only their aging parents to sit under the trees and dream of their past glories.
Pacita is vibrant, but in a different kind of way. It’s in a cusp…It is serene suburbia giving way to inner city chaos. It’s simply not the same Pacita Complex I grew up in. It’s not my place anymore…