Streets & dreams
- Juaniyo Arcellana () - May 26, 2003 - 12:00am
There are streets and there are dreams, and rarely do the two intersect. When they do, the occurrence transcends nostalgia and sentimientos de patatas and confronts the reader with archetypes automatically unbounded by time and space.

Of the streets of our childhood a couple or so easily stand out. Maginhawa Street in UP Village in Diliman remains today the widest in that residential section, and serves as the main artery connecting Masaya Street that opens to Philcoa leading to UP, and to the other side winding up on Anonas with the Glo-Ri supermarket if it’s still there, on the peripheral road to Cubao.

Time was when Maginhawa, sloping and already asphalted, ran through virtual hillocks, and the vacant lots as far as the eye could see housed assorted nuno sa punso of the imagination.

There was a sari-sari store a few meters away, as is the custom in any developing residential division meant for teachers from UP, and its owner was first named Hizon and then it changed to Labit, and where we could buy señorita candies for one centavo, good for everlasting tooth decay.

Labit also had a daughter who was quite a looker, who was named Noah-noah and once entered a beauty contest.

We dreamt up scenarios wherein the old Labit would scheme on how his daughter would win the contest, and the hypothetical accomplices would remark rubbing hands together, "I labit, Labit!"

The poor fellow wasn’t the only victim of our impromptu puns, though he never did get to know about it. There was another neighbor across a vacant lot, surnamed Lukban, and sometimes in our wild revelry before bathtime we would flash our underwear by the open window, saying, "Lukban, look!"

The nearest corner street to our place was Mahusay, and a block down corner Malinis was the undying Junior’s Sari-Sari Store. Here was where the first drinking sessions of an aimless adolescence took place, and where we developed a taste for beer which we never really outgrew, where the first cigarettes were lighted, and where we once saw our high school classmate Pep Manalang with her boyfriend, also a former schoolmate with German ancestry.

Of course at the time we didn’t know that Pep would become a visual artist, and who in fact has an ongoing show at Finale Art File Megamall called Dualities.

Of the countless writers who visited the old homestead on Maginhawa, easily a standout would be the reclusive poet AZ Jolicco de Cuadra, him dogstar and varied esoterica fame.

Sometimes Jolicco would walk straight in through the gate unmindful of the dog Igor, but on the natural power of alcohol which is better than San Roque.

It was from Jolicco that we learned that the posture of the Virgin Mary – arms closed across the chest – was better than that of Jesus Christ, with the open, all-encompassing hands.

Some days ago Jolicco called up the office, inquiring if the newspaper had a health reporter, because there was a guy in San Pedro, Laguna who claimed to have a cure for SARS.

"His name is Ruben Apocalipsis. Don’t laugh. For all we know what can save mankind is in his hands. He said he is willing to try it on a monkey, and I told him spare the monkey and try a congressman instead. He didn’t get the joke," Jolicco said.

Apocalipsis, the old Maginhawa visitor relayed to me, lived in a tiny apartment beside a sari-sari store without a name, "you know, like something out of Kafka."

Other neighbors in that street of dreams included the Romulos, who lived directly across from us. They would later move to swankier environs, but many childhood hours were spent playing with Guadalupe – who for some reason said "bever mind!" instead of "never mind!" – Monserrat, Roman and the baby Bernadette. Erwin was not yet around during those years, but whenever I chance upon him in Port Area I feel like telling him, "Bever mind!"

After Maginhawa, the street where I have spent the most years of my life would be Conchu, off Vito Cruz in Manila – the years of early adulthood and young parenthood.

It was on Conchu where the firstborn took her first steps with the aid of a balloon for balance, and where the bunso accompanied his ate to the Salome Tan Pre-school at the end of the street to play on the slide while the slightly older kids indulged in serious business inside the classrooms.

At the other end of Conchu was Zobel Roxas, where a block away corner Dian was the enduring Sosing’s with its affordable tasty food, in fact if you asked me now which I missed more when I’m no longer in that vicinity, Sosing’s or Becky’s, I’d be hard put to choose between Sosing’s with its kare-kare Thursday and its reliable hegado and menudo, or Becky’s with its butter rum cake, crinkles, and walnut prune cake, the last one of which was given as a going away present by co-proprietor Celso Villegas.

The problem with Conchu and most other side streets off Vito Cruz is that they always got flooded particularly during the rainy season, so that the main road that is now Pablo Ocampo would be like an island surrounded by the ever shifting rivulets that were Arellano, Bautista, Consuelo, Conchu, Don Pedro, Dian, C. Ayala, Espiritu, Alejo Aquino, and so on.

Around three times – twice during one monsoon season – did the floodwaters enter the apartment, giving off strange smells and the eventual invasion of termites and sewer rats. But for all the attendant miseries where we lived for 14 years, there was something distinct about living on ground level.

Today I live on the sixth floor off Boni on Sacrepante Street, far from the floods though we still deal with cockroaches and stray cats. When I give directions to those looking for the place and ask me to spell Sacrepante, I hesitate and just say, simple, the sacred thing that you’re wearing underneath. "Di ko talaga malimutan yan."

AFTER MAGINHAWA ALEJO AQUINO BECKY CELSO VILLEGAS CONCHU JOLICCO LABIT MAGINHAWA SOSING VITO CRUZ
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