Ang Mag-anak na Nangangalakal sa Luneta

ANG MAG-ANAK NA NANGANGALAKAL SA LUNETA

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Nang dumaan ako sa Luneta mula sa Pandacan isang umaga ay napansin ko ang mag-asawa na nagpapasuso ng anak sa tsupon subalit ang laman ng bote ay malabnaw na gatas. Tumigil sila upang ayusin ang mga nakasabit na mga boteng plastic sa likod ng stroller kaya nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataong makausap sila. Bunso pala nila ang nasa stroller dahil ilang sandali pa ay may lumapit na tin-edyer sa amin na panganay pala nila. Nang malaman kong galing pa sila sa Tondo ay hindi na ako nagtanong pa kung kumain na silaa dahil mag-iikapito na noon ng umaga. Malamang, dahil wala pa silang naibebentang kalakal, kahit kape ay hindi man lang sila nakahigop.

 

Halata kong hindi naging maganda ang buhay ng mag-asawa dahil nakita ko ang mga braso ng misis na may mga gurlis o natuyong hiwa ng blade, na ginagawa ng mga bangag sa rugby o glue. Ang mister naman ay walang gurlis subalit may mga tattoo. Malinis ang ayos nila, at dahil malayo ang agwat ng panganay sa bunso, ay napagtanto kong matagal din siguro bago nila naisipang magbago, lalo na ngayong si Duterte na ang presidente. Tinanong ko kung kilala nila si Gerry o si Long Hair na na-blog ko na rin, yong gumagawa ng sirang payong sa Roxas Boulevard pero tumatambay din sa Luneta, at sinabi nilang kaibigan daw nila ito.

 

Ibinili ko sila ng “lugaw with egg” sa isang puwesto sa Luneta sa halagang 30pesos isa at tatlong pandesal para tig-isa sila. Tuwang-tuwa sila at noon nila inamin na hindi pa nga sila kumain nang umalis sila sa Tondo. Noon ko naisipang sa susunod naming pagkikita ay  sasamahan ko sila sa pag-uwi nila upang malaman kung malapit lang sila sa Baseco compound na madalas kong pasyalan. Pero nang sandaling yon ay hindi ko muna binaggit upang hindi sila maasiwa sa akin. Ni hindi ko tinanong ang pangalan nila. Pagkatapos mag-iwan ng kaunting cash  sa misis na galing sa  natirang bigay ni “Ms. Di” para pambayad sa paggamit ng CR sa Luneta, pambili ng tanghalian nila, at gatas para sa bunso, iniwan ko na sila, pero pinakiusapan kong doon sila uli tumambay sa bahagi ng Luneta kung saan ko sila nakita dahil may ibibigay pa ako sa kanila kinabukasan. Nag-iwan din ako sa kanila ng trapal at payong, at sa panganay naman ay libro na padala ni “Perla”…kaya biniro ko sila na dahil may payong sila at trapal, rain or shine magkikita kami. Bago ako tuluyang nakalayo ay narinig ko ang nanay na kumanta ng “happy birthday”, hindi ko lang alam kong sino ang tinutukoy niya….baka ang sanggol na kalong niya.

Ang Malaking Puso ni Baby Eugenio…may karinderya sa Fort Santiago (Intramuros, Manila)

Ang Malaking Puso ni Baby Eugenio

…may karinderya sa Fort Santiago (Intramuros)

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Sa unang tingin, aakalaing suplada si Baby dahil tisayin ang mukha at halos hindi ngumingiti, subalit kapag nakausap na ay saka pa lang makikita ang tunay niyang pagkatao – malumanay magsalita at hindi man ngumingiti ng todo ay madadama sa kanyang pananalita ang kababaan ng loob.

 

Nang umagang napasyal ako sa Fort Santiago, napadaan muna ako sa kanyang karinderya sa gate ng parking lot at habang nagkakape ako ay biglang napunta ang usapan namin tungkol sa buhay, lalo na ang kanyang mga karanasan sa pagpalipat-lipat ng puwesto. Ayon sa kanya, dati ay isa siyang typical na sidewalk vendor dahil nagtitinda siya sa mga maluluwag na puwesto tulad ng nasa likod ng Immigration Bureau, Ancar Building, gilid ng Jollibee at UPL Building, hanggang sa natiyempuhan niya ang puwesto sa gate ng parking lot ng Fort Santiago. Nalula ako nang sabihin niyang 46,000 pesos ang upa niya sa isang buwan sa puwesto. Upang makahabol sa bayarin, maliban sa pagluluto ng mga ulam, tsitserya, kape, soft drinks, at biscuit, ay pinangasiwaan na rin niya ang pag-asikaso sa parking lot.

 

Habang tinutulungan siya ng hipag niyang si Bing sa pagluluto at pagsisilbi sa mga customer, tumutulong naman si Arbi na anak ni Bing sa pag-asikaso sa parking lot. Pero kapag kasagsagan na ng pagsilbi ng pagkain at iba pang mga gawain sa karinderya ay saka naglalabasan ang iba pang umaalalay kay Baby.

 

Mabuti na lang at medyo nakuha ko ang kalooban at tiwala ni Baby kaya maluwag siyang nagkuwento tungkol sa buhay niya. Ang asawa na dati ay nagtatrabaho sa National Treasury, ngayon ay nagpapahinga na lang sa bahay dahil humina ang katawan at nagpapa-dialysis isang beses isang linggo. Sa kabuuhan, dalawampu’t apat ang nasa kalinga ni Baby – mga tinutulungan niya at bilang ganti ay tumutulong din sa kanya. Anim dati ang anak niya, subalit namatay ang panganay na kambal, kaya ang natira ay apat.

 

Labing-siyam na taong gulang si Baby ng mag-asawa. Tubong Masantol, Pampanga, siya ay nakipagsapalaran sa Maynila hanggang sa magkaroon ng pamilya. Ang nakakabilib ay ang ibinahagi niya sa aking kuwento tungkol sa mga taga-ibang probinsiyang nakipagsapalaran sa Maynila na ang iba ay mga seafarer na umistambay habang naghihintay ng tawag mula sa inaaplayang manning agency para sumakay sa barko, at kanyang kinalinga. Sa Intramuros ay marami ang ganitong mga nakikipagsapalaran sa Maynila dahil hindi kalayuan sa Fort Santiago ay ang opisina ng union nila. Marami ring mga manning agencies ng seafarers sa loob ng Intramuros. Upang makalibre sa tirahan at pagkain ay tumutulong-tulong sila sa karinderya, hanggang sa sila ay makasakay ng barko. Ang ibang seafarers na galing sa probinsiya ay napansin kong umiistambay naman sa Luneta o di kaya ay sa isang lugar na itinalaga sa kanila, sa labas ng National Library of the Philippines.

 

Ano pa nga ba at ang karinderya ni Baby ay mistulang “halfway home” o “bahay-kalinga” ng mga probinsiyanong seafarers. Hindi na maalala ni Baby kung ilan na ang kanyang natulungan na ang ibang nakakaalala sa kanyang kabutihan ay bumabalik upang magpasalamat, subalit ang iba naman ay tuluyang nakalimot sa minsan ay tinirhan nilang karinderya sa Fort Santiago. Nangyari ang ganitong pagkakawanggawa sa loob ng limang taon hanggang ngayon, sapul nang siya ay mapapuwesto sa bukana ng Fort Santiago.

 

Para kay Baby, na ngayon ay 58 taong gulang, pangkaraniwan na sa kanya ang pag-alalay sa kapwa o maging maluwag sa kanilang pangangailangan. Napatunayan ko ito nang biglang may lumapit sa kanya upang magtanong kung pwede silang kumain sa karinderya subalit hindi bibili ng pagkain dahil may baon sila. Walang patumpik-tumpik na pumayag si Baby, kahit pa sinabi ng nagpaalam na dalawampu sila. Ibig sabihin ay gagamitin nila lahat ng mesa at silya, kaya walang magagamit ang mga kostumer. Pero bale-wala kay Baby ang lahat…okey pa rin sa kanya. Mabuti na lang at napansin ng hipag niya na ang porma ng grupo ay parang sasali sa programa para kay Jose Rizal dahil nang araw na yon, December 30, ay paggunita ng kanyang kamatayan, kaya iminungkahi niya sa lider ng grupo na upang hindi sila mahirapan ay sa piknikan, sa loob na mismo ng Fort Santiago sila kumain dahil mas presko at marami ring mesa at upuan, at ang lalong mahalaga ay ilang hakbang na lang sila sa lugar na pagdadausan ng programa kung saan sila ay kasali.

 

Ibinahagi ni Baby na hindi man siya mayaman sa pera, ay mayaman naman siya sa pakisama. Natutuwa na siya sa sitwasyon niyang ganoon. Mahalaga sa kanya ang pagtulong sa kapwa bilang pasasalamat sa Diyos dahil sa ibinigay sa kanyang mga biyaya. Nakapagpundar na silang mag-asawa ng isang bahay na katamtaman lang ang laki sa Molino, Bacoor City (Cavite).

Herson Magtalas: High School Graduate pero Nakapagpatapos ng Dalawang Kapatid sa Two-Year Courses

Herson Magtalas: High School Graduate pero Nakapagpatapos

Ng Dalawang Kapatid sa Two-Year Courses

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Nang araw na nakita at nakausap ko si Jaime Mayor, ang matapat na kutsero sa Luneta na iginawa ko ng tula, may lumapit sa akin, si Herson Magtalas. Siya pala ang Checker/Operations Coordinaor nina G. Mayor. Mabuti na lang at nakipag-usap siya sa akin dahil hindi ko nakausap nang matagal si G. Mayor sa dami ng mga turistang gustong sumakay sa kanyang karetela dahil Linggo noon. Pinatunayan ni Herson ang mga nabasa ko noon sa diyaryo tungkol sa pagkatao ni G. Mayor.

 

Napahaba ang aming usapan hanggang nagtanong ako kung may pamilya na siya. Sinabi niyang binata pa siya sa gulang na 28 na taon. Hindi pa raw siya mag-aasawa hangga’t hindi nakatapos sa pag-aaral ang kanilang bunso. Sa sinabi niya, naging curious ako kaya tumuloy-tuloy ang tanong ko tungkol sa kanyang buhay. Napag-alaman ko na pagka-graduate niya sa high school, hindi na siya nagpatuloy sa pag-aaral, sa halip ay nagtrabaho siya upang makatulong sa kanyang mga magulang. Nang panahong yon ay kutsero na sa Luneta ang kanyang tatay at ang kanyang nanay ay nasa bahay lang. Apat silang magkapatid at siya ang panganay.

 

Lahat ng pagkakakitaan ay pinasok niya tulad ng pagtitinda ng barbecue sa bangketa, pagpapadyak ng traysikel. Sinuwerte siyang makapasok sa factory sa sahod na 150 pesos/araw. Sa pagawaang yon ng damit siya natutong manahi. Sa kahahanap niya ng kanyang kapalaran, napadayo siya sa Laguna, kung saan ay nagtrabaho naman siya bilang machine operator ng Asia Brewery na ang sahod ay 280 pesos/araw. Nang lumaon pa ay napasok naman siya sa isang restoran bilang kitchen helper na ang sahod ay 300 pesos/araw. Naging salesman din siya ng Shoemart (SM) sa sahod na 380 pesos/araw. Nang napasok siya bilang pahinante o helper ng delivery van ay saka pa lang siya nagkaroon ng minimum na sahod. Tumuloy- tuloy ang pagtanggap niya ng minimum na sahod hanggang sa paglipat siya sa isang printing shop bilang taga-limbag o printer ng mga nakasubo sa computer.

 

Ano pa nga ba at lahat ng kaya niyang pasukan ay sinusubukan ni Herson na ang hangad ay magkaroon ng maayos na sahod dahil sa ginagawa niyang pagtulong sa kanyang mga magulang upang matustusan ang pangangailangan ng kanyang nakakabatang tatlong kapatid. Nang makapasok siya sa Castillan Carriage and Tour Services bilang Checker/ Operations Coordinator ay pumirmi na siya dahil sa ahensiyang ito rin nagtagal ang kanyang tatay bilang “rig driver” o kutsero, at dahil na rin sa magandang sahod at kabaitan ng may-ari.

 

Unang napagtapos ni Herson ang nakababata sa kanya, si Herneἧa na ang linya ng trabaho ngayon ay Accounting. Sumunod naman si Heycilin na ngayon ay may magandang trabaho sa isang restaurant. Ang bunso nilang kapatid, si Homer, 16 na taong gulang ay nasa first year college at kumukuha ng Information Technology (IT). Sa pag-uusap nilang tatlong magkakapatid, napagkasunduan nilang four-year course na ipakuka kay Homer dahil kaya na nilang tustusan ito.

Sa pangunguna niya, napaayos na rin nila ang kanilang tinitirhan sa Caloocan na dati ay maliit kaya halos hindi sila magkasyang anim. Bilang panganay ay inuuna niya ang kapakanan ng kanyang mga kapatid bago ang sa kanya. Binalikat na niya ang ganitong tungkulin dahil nagkaka-edad na rin ang kanilang mga magulang. Subalit inamin niyang hanggang ngayon ay nagku-kutsero pa rin ang kanyang tatay upang hindi lang manghina dahil nasanay na sa pagbanat ng mga buto.

 

Ang paglalakbay ni Herson sa laot ng buhay ay pambihira dahil sa murang gulang ay napasabak na sa lahat ng mga pagsubok na angkop lamang sa mga nakakatanda. Sinabi niyang mula’t sapol ay wala na siyang inisip kundi ang kapakanan ng kanyang mga magulang at mga kapatid. Ni wala siyang pagsisisi o pagkalungkot kahit pa nilaktawan niya ang dapat sana ay panahon ng kanyang kabataan. Sa pag-uusap namin ay ilang beses niyang binanggit na ayaw niyang madanasan ng kanyang mga kapatid ang kanyang pinagdaanan kaya siya nagsikap. Mabuti na nga lang daw at ang bunso nila ay nakikipagtulungan naman kaya masikap sa kanyang pag-aaral. Ang ikinatutuwa pa niya, likas yata ang talino sa makabagong teknolohiya dahil kahit first year college pa lang ay nakakapagkumpuni na ng computer.

 

Larawan ng kasiyahan si Herson habang nag-uusap kami. Marami pa sana akong itatanong subalit dahil ayaw ko siyang masyadong maabala ay nagpaalam na ako subalit, nangakong mag-uusap pa kami tungkol sa operasyon ng kanilang opisina na ayon sa kanya ay marami na ring natulungan, at ang pinaiiral sa mga empleyado ay katapatan tulad ng ginawa ni Jaime Mayor na hindi nasilaw sa salaping naiwan ng turistang Pranses na naging pasahero niya.

Herson Magtalas 2

 

 

 

Jaime Mayor…honest “kutsero” of Luneta

Jaime Mayor

…honest kutsero of Luneta

By Apolinario B Villalobos

 

At dawn, from his humble home in Caloocan

He diligently pedals his way to Luneta

The same he does when he goes home at night

But all these he does with unpretentious delight.

 

In Luneta, for years, he worked as kutsero

Guiding his tame horse, he fondly calls Rapido

Both of them braving the rain and searing sun

Even  pangs of hunger as best as they can.

 

A typical Filipino, this guy – Jaime Mayor

For earning honestly, he could not ask for more

With perpetual smile on his sun-burned face

He and Rapido, in Luneta, strollers can’t miss.

 

One day, his honesty was put to a test

When a purse was left behind by a tourist

Whom he pursued just before she was gone

And who was amazed by such an honest man.

 

Tightly he was hugged and praised to heavens

In a language that sounded strange to him

But just the same, these he took in stride

Though, his appreciation, he could not hide.

 

He said, he is proud to be a Filipino

And proud that he lives in a beautiful country

His modest knowledge of English, then…

Is always ended with –

“It’s more fun to be in the Philippines”!

Jaime Mayor 1

 

(Jaime Mayor is a driver (kutsero) of a horse-driven rig (kalesa) in Luneta (Rizal Park) of Manila. His average daily earning is Php200.00. This is carefully budgeted to suffice for the needs of his wife and four children. One day he drove around the park, four French ladies, one of whom left her purse in the back seat of the rig. After finding it, he took time in looking for the group. The ladies were surprised as they were not aware that one of them left her purse in the rig. The amazed owner of the purse gave him a tight hug. On September 13, 2012, the Rizal Park administration gave him a plaque of appreciation.

 

After three years, I finally met Jaime Mayor. On December 27, 2015, a Sunday, while I was gathering materials for blogging, I happened to talk to a rig driver if he knew Mr. Mayor. He nonchalantly pointed to the rig that just passed by. I practically ran after the rig up to its unloading station where he obliged some photo opportunities.

 

Mr. Mayor is among the rig drivers of Castillan Carriage and Tour Sevices which is based at Fort Santiago. According to Mr. Herson Magtalas, Checker/Operations Coordinator of the said agency, despite the popularity of Mr. Mayor, he remained humble as the nationwide recognition given him did not affect him a bit. He is still the same guy whom they knew – unassuming, hardworking and a man of few words. Mr. Magtalas added that the former Department of Tourism, Mr. Gordon gave him profuse praises, and the same recognition was followed by other government officials. He was also given a spot in a commercial, the earning from which helped his family a lot.)

 

The Overzealous Devotion to the Black Nazarene

The Overzealous Devotion to the Black Nazarene

By Apolinario Villalobos

Every year, I partially witness the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from Luneta to Quiapo Church. Partial because I just stay along Taft Avenue and follow until the procession reaches the Jones Bridge, then I go the other way towards the direction of Quiapo Church where a multitude of devotees are waiting.

As during the previous years, the Quiapo church authorities try their best to rectify the belief of the devotees that the January 9 is the fiesta of Quiapo which is wrong. The fiesta of Quiapo is June 24, as the district’s patron saint is St. John the Baptist. January 9 is the commemoration of the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from Intramuros to Quiapo, and not a fiesta.

Observable as usual, is the overzealous praying to the image which the church authorities are trying to discourage by explaining that it is not Jesus, but just his representation, hence, an image, so that such act is idolatrous. Devotees are also advised not to bring their children to the occasion. Also, those living along the route of the procession should refrain from holding drinking sprees on the street, thinking that the occasion is a “fiesta”. And worse, they also hold piῆata games using earthen pots, resulting to the scattering of potsherds all over the streets which are along the route of the procession of barefooted devotees. Unfortunately, all those calls are unheeded.

The kissing ritual and wiping of the image with hand towels on which is printed the face of the Black Nazarene are also among the overzealous acts of the devotees. The kissing ritual is held at the Luneta Grandstand and the wiping of the image is done along the route of the procession during which many wonder how the towels can be thrown back to their owners afterwards by members of the Hijos de Nazareno who are protecting the image which is firmly perched on the “andas”.

This year, a “miracle” can eventually bolster the faith of the devotees to the Black Nazarene. A long- distressed mother is reunited with his mentally-handicapped son, after so many years of separation. It is as if her son is pushed to her side during the melee that ensued. The mother almost failed to recognize her son whose features are slightly changed. But her maternal instinct told her that it is her son. Radio field reporters eagerly picked up the story with eagerness, and which overshadowed the death of a member of the “Hijos” due to a stroke that resulted from over exhaustion.

The Black Nazarene is among the most popular images with millions of devotees in the Philippines, most of whom are concentrated in Manila and its suburbs. What distract the high-strung devotion are those who act as if possessed if they notice cameras focused to them, as well as, the Jesus personifiers, complete with crown of “thorns”, and who meld themselves in the sea of ardent devotees.

Before I left the procession, I asked one “devotee” whose breath strongly smells of liquor, the reason for his devotion. To my question, he answered that he is asking the Black Nazarene to give him a chance in winning the lottery, even just for once….

The Funs in the Philippines

The “Funs” in the Philippines

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

With more than 7,000 islands and islets, the archipelagic Philippines, known for singers and international beauty title holders, birthplace of the “People Power”, thousand shoes of Imelda Marcos , and of course, Manny Pacquiao, to name a few, has many more to offer – the “funs” to make visitors wish for longer stay or future plans while yet, on their first day of arrival.

 

The Filipinos, known for their resilience savored the first major crunch in their life during the Martial Law which, ironically, saw the country enjoying the peak of tourist arrival. It was during the time that touristic structures, such as hotels, resorts, dive camps and casinos mushroomed in major cities of the country. Assured of a safe sojourn, foreign tourists flocked to the country. During the years that followed, local tourists were also encouraged to move around and enjoy their own beautiful country – its pristine white beaches, coastal waves, rivers, caves, coral reefs, islands, mountains, flora and fauna.

 

Not only are the natural endowments of the country reasons for being fun in the Philippines but its people, historical landmarks and indigenous products, too. The culture of the Filipinos is a fusion of the east and the west, making it rich and somewhat fascinating. This fusion is seen in the foods, dialects, religions and colorful ways of life.

 

Local airlines are now crisscrossing the Philippine skies to ferry both local and foreign tourists to the different islands. They are augmented by reliable ferries and cruise ships that offer irresistible fares and tour packages. Comparably, travelling around the country is much cheaper than other countries of Southeast Asia. The most compelling advantage yet, is the ease in communication because English is considered as the second language of the people. Even cigarette vendors and tricycle drivers speak English. A foreigner will never be lost while travelling around the country.

 

What is most remarkable too, is the honesty of the Filipinos. Several stories about returned bags, cameras, wallets and many more would find their way in pages of dailies or the internet. One is about the bag of a tourist left in a rig after her group finished going around the Rizal Park. The rig driver took pains in locating them which he successfully by his sheer patience. The bag was returned to the surprised tourist who lost no time in hugging the driver to show her profuse gratitude. In another story, a bag was turned over by a taxi driver to a radio station so that the broadcasters could call the attention of the owner over the airwaves. It was claimed by a tourist from Europe. These are just two of remarkable stories of honesty of Filipinos who wanted to show the world that showing such trait can be fun, too.

 

In a way, not only tourists are having fun while enjoying their stay in the country, but also the Filipinos, who by just being themselves – ever-smiling, approachable and most especially, honest, can be fun, too!

 

 

Touristic Manila

Touristic Manila

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When I came to Manila during the early 80’s, the city was just gaining a momentum toward its recognition as a prime tourist destination in Asia. The most popular district then was Ermita which would come alive just when the sun was about to set beyond the horizon of Manila Bay. From its daytime drabness the district would undergo an instant transformation into the gaudiness made heady by the loud music that emanated from the hole-in-the-wall beer joints. The jolly racket lasted until just before sunup. A night was never complete without a brawl. And when the sun finally warmed its sidewalks, giddy girls with still rouged faces lined the sidewalks for cheap jeepney ride home.

 

Today, Ermita has been transformed into a safe tourist haven. Roxas Boulevard is dotted with five-star hotels, and side by side with the Children’s Museum is the United States Embassy complex at the western end of the boulevard. M.H. del Pilar and A. Mabini Streets previously known for their raucous beer joints are now assuming a wholesome façade with rows of restaurants, affordable hotels, and a casino housed in five-star Hyatt Hotel that provides a highlight. The newly-renovated National Library of the Philippines breaks the monotony of T.M. Kalaw St., and a few meters from the imposing structure is the office of the National Historical Institute. A big shopping mall stands out among the condo buildings being built along the  United Nations Avenue where the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters are also located. Manila Pavilion that adds splendor to this particular section of Ermita was once the popular Manila Hilton.

 

Avenida, the main thoroughfare of the Sta. Cruz district, is still alive with sidewalk bazaars that overflow to the adjacent Quiapo district. Both districts have historic churches that serve as their centerpiece, and which are popular among pilgrims during Lenten season. Quiapo Church is the shrine of the Black Nazarene, the festivity of which draws millions of devotees every year. On the other side of Quezon Boulevard is the Islamic district, in the midst of which is the Golden Mosque. Though differing in faith, the residents of the two districts live in harmony.

 

Another shopping district of Manila is Divisoria where malls have mushroomed during the past years. It is still the most popular shoppers’ mecca of Manila where one can find practically everything – from school supply to the latest electronic gadgets. It is, however, more popular as showcase for latest fashions.  Late in the afternoon, a portion of the Recto Avenue is closed to give way to stalls of vegetable wholesalers who come from different provinces. Practically, the whole area is alive the whole night until six in the morning of the following day during which the merchants begin to pack up whatever are left of their goods. It is also at this time that the sanitary teams of the city begin to haul out piles of garbage and mop up the street for daytime shoppers.

 

The Chinatown of Manila, known more among the locals as Ongpin, referring to the main street, is the oldest in the world. It went through different historic transformations – from its being made as a segregated Chinese settlement or “parian” during the Spanish regime, into becoming a hideaway of urban Filipino guerillas during the WWII, until finally blossoming into an elegant enclave of oriental culture today with its towering condo buildings and restaurants where one could partake of exotic cuisine, though, the reliable steadfast apothecaries are still around with their different aromatic concoctions.

 

The Pasig River cuts across the landscape of Manila. The Manila City Hall is found on its west bank which is lately enhanced by a newly-built shopping mall, while the Malacaῆan Palace occupies a well-shaded north bank. The so-called “university belt” because of the several educational institutions within this particular section, is located several street corners from the palace.

 

The Liwasang Bonifacio (Bonifacio Park) near the Manila City Hall is dominated by the Post Office building and across from it is the idle Metropolitan Theater, still trying to stand proud despite years of neglect. The structure, though, could still gain attention because of its classical architecture. The theater was once the principal venue of both local and international plays, aside from concerts which launched several singers, actors and actresses to stardom.

 

Across the street from Liwasang Bonifacio, the Old Intramuros beckons to those with a desire to quench their thirst for history. Within the walls of Intramuros are the centuries- old Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church. On foot, going around the Walled City, including leisurely stops for refreshing drinks or snacks, takes only about three hours. However, if the Fort Santiago is included in the itinerary, one should add another hour to their stroll. Inside the fort, one can find cells where prisoners were confined during the Spanish regime and the WWII. Local horse-driven coaches or rigs are available for leisurely ride that can be contracted for a jaunt up to Rizal Park or Luneta.

 

Rizal Park  was known in history as Bagumbayan where Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero was shot for purportedly instigating rebellion against the Spaniards. Behind the grandstand, one can find the H20 Hotel and Ocean Park which are just a few steps from the historic Manila Hotel. Lately, the park has undergone facelifts that made it more alluring to regular visitors. The park’s administration is not daunted by the small area of the park, instead, defied this limitation by using resourcefulness and creativity. The park’s crowning glory today is the cluster of renovated fountains that “dance” with the music and lights. The imposing Department of Tourism building is located on the T.M. Kalaw side of the park with its façade facing the giant bronze statue of Lapu-lapu that stands at what was once the skating rink, and a few meters from them is the National Parks Development office that manages Luneta. The Philippine map lagoon has been made more stroller-friendly with the floating lane that diagonally cuts across it.

 

The mentioned landmarks of Manila are accessible via the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system, jeepneys, buses, and aircon vans. 

Jaime Mayor…honest kutsero of Luneta By Apolinario B Villalobos At

Jaime Mayor

…honest kutsero of Luneta

 

By Apolinario B Villalobos

 

 

At dawn, from his humble home in Caloocan

He diligently pedals his way to Luneta

The same he does when he goes home at night

But all these he does with unpretentious delight.

 

In Luneta, for years, he worked as kutsero

Guiding his tame horse, he fondly calls Rapido

Both of them braving the rain and searing sun

Even  pangs of hunger as best as they can.

 

A typical Filipino, this guy – Jaime Mayor

For earning honestly, he could not ask for more

With perpetual smile on his sun-burned face

He and Rapido, in Luneta, strollers can’t miss.

 

One day, his honesty was put to a test

When a purse was left behind by a tourist

Whom he pursued just before she was gone

And who was amazed by such an honest man.

 

Tightly he was hugged and praised to heavens

In a language that sounded strange to him

But just the same, these he took in stride

Though, his appreciation, he could not hide.

 

He said, he is proud to be a Filipino

And proud that he lives in a beautiful country

His modest knowledge of English, then…

Is always ended with –

“It’s more fun to be in the Philippines”!

 

 

(Jaime Mayor is a driver (kutsero) of a horse-driven rig (kalesa) in Luneta (Rizal Park) of Manila. His average daily earning is Php200.00. This is carefully budgeted to suffice for the needs of his wife and four children. One day he drove around the park four French ladies, one of whom left her purse in the back seat of the rig. After noticing it, he practically ran after the group. The ladies were amazed. The owner of the purse gave him a tight hug. On September 13, 2012, the Rizal Park administration gave him a plaque of appreciation.)