When Rico J. Puno recorded his own version of Barbra Streisand’s “The way we were”, our batch readily embraced the song as our own. The line “Namamasyal pa sa Luneta nang walang pera” that he incorporated into the lyrics succeeded in capturing the simple life we were leading during our growing-up years.
Coming from poor or lower middle class families, most of us did not have the means to indulge in luxuries our peers in private schools might even have taken for granted. And this simplicity was best reflected by the places we loved hanging out in.
1. Campus. Of course, most of our time was spent inside the campus. During breaks we would just find our corners in that small school ground to trade stories, to sing or to play. When Ventura annex was acquired, it was heaven for all of us because we got more space to move around. Remember those habulan when we would force George and Ariel to finally talk to each other and end their “silent war”?
2. North Bay Mall. We also remember this sprawling shopping center on the corner of Juan Luna St. and Honorio Lopez Boulevard. This was built before the advent of the “mall culture” (menace?) that would later sweep Metro Manila and the whole Philippines. Our favorite stall there was this ice cream parlor that sold Magnolia ice cream. The mall went bankrupt, though, for failing to attract both tenants and shoppers. Only a few stores and business establishments remain there now.
3. Church penthouse. What’s the name of this Protestant Church building near the North Bay Mall? Its penthouse was open to the public and many peps frequented this place to have their moments of solitude(?!).
4. Restaurants in Pampanga St. There was a row of restaurants here where we would have our lunch. We had our baon with us (Jun Vigo’s favorite then was adobong pugo, straight from their poultry business) and the owner would just require us to buy softdrinks or rice to be allowed to use the tables. Sometimes we would enter some narrow alleys in the area where some households were also selling cheap but delicious food.
5. Luneta. Outside of Tondo, this park was also a favorite destination, particularly the skating rink where Keith dela Cruz taught us how to skate.
6. YMCA in Arroceros, Manila. This was where we spent time learning how to swim. For just 2 pesos (or less?) we could already swim the whole day. The compound does not exist anymore and has been replaced by another one of those humongous SM malls.
7. Good Earth Emporium. This shopping center along Avenida was also a favorite because of its entertainment center on the rooftop. As with many establishments in the Avenida-Recto area, Good Earth also went bankrupt following the mushrooming of malls in other parts of Metro Manila.
8. Galaxy Theater. Now closed and seems to be a condemned building already, this was our favorite cinema house at that time.
Nothing else? Could it be that it was all so simple then that this list can’t be longer?