Do you remember Berg’s, Banlon and Coco Banana?

LIVING ALIVE - LIVING ALIVE By Dero Pedero () - November 10, 2002 - 12:00am
Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes. – Anonymous

It was a time of growing up, a time of pleasant discoveries. Of innocent mirth and unpremeditated folly, when the hours were magical and leisurely. A time when we did not have a care in the world. When all we wanted was to live with gentle joy and achieve our simple dreams and youthful desires. Those enchanting, easy, halcyon days of yore. Where have they all gone?

Now boxed in the hazy memory files of our youth, they resurface once in a while to paint a smile in our minds as we picture memories of years gone by. I remember when the hour seemed much, much longer than it is today. When sunrises were earlier and sunsets were brighter.

Back in the dark recesses of my mind, I still see patina-washed images of the Manila I used to know:

Shopping meant going to Berg’s and Botica Boie on fashionable Escolta or the sprawling Aguinaldo’s in Quezon City (their display windows were always spectacular!). Or spending a whole afternoon in the enchanting little shops in Sta. Mesa Market. There was a heavenly record shop there that had the latest foreign vinyl releases, Broadway musicales, and movie soundtracks. My monthly allowance always ended up there!

Eating out meant going to the Bulakeña Family Rendezvous, Selecta or the Aristocrat on Dewey Boulevard or the Sulo Restaurant in pre-boom Makati. In Quezon City, the top restaurants were D&E on Quezon Boulevard and La Pacita in Cubao which was famous for its flaming chicken. Savory and Max’s chicken were special meals then, but who could ever forget the mouthwatering aroma and taste of the barbecued honey-chicken of The Hill on the corner of Quezon Boulevard and Timog? How I wish someone with the original recipe would revive that sumptuous feast!

The yummiest treats on the University of the Philippines campus were Little Quiapo’s pancit palabok and its famed halo-halo. And the newest and freshest beverage then was the Butterfly iced tea which went perfectly well with the Peter, Paul & Mary folksongs.
Movies And Outings
All the movie houses during those days were spic ’n’ span and shiny, and had the exhilarating scent of air-conditioning which was a new technology at that time. Galaxy, Odeon, Avenue, Lyric and Capitol were top favorites. Of course there was the Rojas’ Super Cinerama on Azcarraga (remember How the West Was Won and It’s a Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild World?) and the Nation Cinerama in Cubao. My best-loved movie house was where my dad used to take me on weekends – the small and exclusive Gaiety Theater on M. H. del Pilar which showed art films patronized by expats and old Spanish families. Much later, the Rizal Theater on Ayala became the in-cinema.

The ultimate weekend meant a trip to Balara Filtration Plant in Diliman, an excursion to Los Baños, a stroll down Luneta or shopping at Maranaw Shopping Center in Makati. Christmas was always futuristic and marvelous at the space rocket rides on the grounds of Ysmael Steel. And everyone had to go and view the mechanized displays at C.O.D. in Cubao. Of course, there was the almost yearly "Holiday on Ice" at the Araneta Coliseum or if not, they always had foreign artists like Neil Sedaka or Patti Page performing live!
Winter Garden And Old Spice
The most looked-forward-to parties, debut celebrations, and junior-senior proms were the ones held at the Manila Hotel’s Winter Garden. The girls couldn’t wait to sport their pony tails and balloon skirts and the guys, their one-and-a-half-inch narrow neckties and pencil-cut pants! The hot hotels then, aside from the Manila Hotel, were the Shellbourne and the Bay View near the American Embassy.

I remember my barber splashing Bay Rhum cologne on me after every haircut. Everyone’s father wore Old Spice cologne and after-shave which were later overshadowed (or should I say, "out-scented") when Brut conquered the market. I don’t quite remember what scents were popular with the women but my mom loved Joy by Jean Patou. To be in, you had to have a Banlon shirt if you were male (I remember its luxurious feel and wonderful colors!) or a Vonnel (Yeh-yeh! Remember that fun TV ad?) blouse if you were female.

On the city streets glided gleaming Impalas (with those Batman wings), Fairlanes, Corvairs, Corvettes, Mercedeses and Lincoln Continentals. My dream car then was a Chevelle but my folks got me a Volks (sigh!). Manila’s jeepneys still ruled the streets, of course, with the calesas not far behind.
Golden Age Of Ermita And Coco Banana
Having grown up in the Ermita area, my favorite shops were the Acme Supermarket on Padre Faura and Ronnie’s Flower Shop on A. Mabini which always had the most opulent and breathtaking show windows the whole year through but most especially at Christmastime! Of course, you wouldn’t miss the heady smell of oil paint and turpentine as you strolled through the rows and rows of Mabini art shops. (Just because of that intoxicating scent, I vowed to become a painter!) And the antique shops brimming with polychrome santoses, retablos, heirloom jewelry, and colonial furniture were virtual treasure troves!

New Europe on Isaac Peral Avenue with its ivy-covered walls and continental windows was one of the most exclusive restaurants. The hottest watering holes were Taboy’s and later, When It is a Grey November in Your Soul, Los Indios Bravos, and Black Angel on Shaw Boulevard near Kalentong in Mandaluyong. (Those were what I call the Ishmael Bernal, Virgie Moreno, Jim Turner and Lee Aguinaldo magical mystery days.)

Then came what I believe was the most colorful of all Manila eras – the reign of Ernest Santiago’s Coco Banana Disco in the late Seventies. I had just come back from New York and was still infested with the Studio 54 fever. I sported the first Ralph Lauren Clark Kent eyeglasses in these parts and sprayed Polo cologne (yes, the one with the red cubic bottle and gold cap, the first official unisex scent in New York!) on my friends who went wild over its invigorating, fresh, flowery scent. Marijuana smoking hit an all-time high and Manila was a big party every night! Everybody swung to the Bee Gees and things happened nightly (including the brawls) at the Velvet Slum, the Circuit, and Where Else.
Early Television And University Stage Shows
Television meant lunch time Student Canteen with the original TV deans Leila Benitez, Eddie Ilarde and Bobby Ledesma, followed by Darigold Jamboree at 1 p.m. PMC’s Tawag ng Tanghalan was the most popular singing contest hosted by Patsy and Lopito. Of course, Channel 7’s Uncle Bob was a daily staple and the blockbuster series were Father Knows Best, Ozzie and Harriet, Combat, and The Fugitive.

All of the TV shows were shown in black and white. In fact, when Gloria Diaz won the Miss Universe Pageant in 1969, the contest was still telecast in black and white. The most popular shows were The Insiders, Nineteeners, Dance-O-Rama, An Evening with Pilita, Dancetime with Chito, Nelda at the Hilton, Elvira Manahan’s Two for the Road, and Ariel con Tina.

Well-known in the university scene were Maricris Tabora, the cast of Sta. Zita & Mary Rose, the Father Reuter Broadway adaptations shown at St. Paul College Manila, folk singer Alice Zerrudo, the Looney Larks, Joe Mari Chan, Becca Godinez, The U.P. CAFA Singers, the Lads and Lasses, and the Ambivalent Crowd. Most awaited events were U. P.’s annual Hayride and Lantern Parade. Hot tickets were to Conching Sunico’s Best of Broadway series, Alice Reyes’ fabulous ballet spectaculars at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the lunchtime fashion shows at the Hyatt and the Hilton (not to mention those risqué Girard-Peter executive shows).
The Good, Simple Life
Life was so much simpler then. There were no malls, no fast-food chains, no cell phones, and lesser bills to pay. Bomb threats were a rarity, and there were absolutely no security guards pestering you to open the trunk of your car for inspection.

Nowadays, there is not much you can do in 24 hours. Between sending texts and reading your e-mail, there is hardly any space to catch your breath. The days are always short and life can get frustrating. Time seems to be in a hurry and there is still so much to be done.

I remember when Christmas was a long way from New Year’s Eve. Do you? Congratulations! You are golden!
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Enhance your life with the author’s exclusive one-day seminars: "Money, Money! Secret Principles of Money & Prosperity" on November 16 and "Make Your Impossible Dreams Come True!" on November 23. Increase your money IQ and learn how to achieve your fondest dreams! For more information, e-mail DeroSeminar@yahoo.com or text/call 0920-4053233.

I’d love to hear from you! E-mail deeperdoor@yahoo.com (no attachments and chain letters, please!). Should you want to forward this article, be sure to mention the author Dero Pedero and acknowledge The Philippine STAR. The reprinting, recording or publishing of this article in any form including the Web requires copyright permission from the author.
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