Gagalangin is in Tondo — as in Gagalangin, Tondo, Manila. But its residents behave as though it is not. It is thinly separated by the unimposing Pritil bridge from the more trouble-prone Tondo of Bangkusay, Vitas, and Moriones, but the residents pretend it is a world away.
Ask a Gagalangin lass where she lives, and she is unlikely to mention Tondo, lest it scare away prospective suitors less fearless and fist-happy than Fernando Poe, Jr.
Kaming mga taga Gagalangin, the old guards say proudly, are respectful and respected.
Taga-rito si Dolphy, King of Comedy, they would tell the uninformed, and proceed to point to where his old house once stood in Sunog Apog. If you had more time to listen, they would probably whisper that Dolphy wanted sorely to marry the mother of his first batch of children, except the family of the woman thought he’d be good for nothing. “Big mistake, huge,” they’d probably interject, with a “tsk, tsk.”
Ganun din si Tirso Cruz, great band leader, and his famous offsprings. Same with Perla Bautista, Tony Santos, Ricky Belmonte, Gina Pareno. Award-winning movie stars.
Pitoy and Virgie Moreno. Renato Constantino. Atang de la Rama and Amado Hernandez. Armando Malay. Rolando Tinio. Teodoro Agoncillo. Francisco Buencamino, Jr. Vicente del Fierro. Icons of letters and the arts.
They all grew up there, these gentle and genteel people.
It was where I was born and grew up, too. I’d call it the “Gagalangin of my affections,” except it is already taken.