Saturday, December 06, 2008

Living in Legazpi

I was born in Legazpi City.
The “gateway” boundary that the Lion’s Club erected is misleading – if not wrong. It should have been built about many meters more to the west, or it should have been made horizontally. Because not all of the ground that the “gateway” borders exactly divides where Legazpi City starts and Daraga ends, or vice versa, depends on how you look at it. Southward from the “gateway” is part of Daraga, thus dividing the Bicol University main campus into two, and the barangays behind that are Daraga’s. However, the north from the gateway is still Legazpi’s, including the provincial hospital (now a regional hospital) I was born in and the barangays behind it. The Lion’s Club gateway separates west and east, not north and south, because the main road that connects the “centros” of the city and the town (which is too close, only four or six kilometers away from each other) is horizontal in the perspective of a compass. Thus, if you follow the ruling of that Lion’s Club boundary, the hospital I was born in is in the Daraga side – which is wrong. I was born in Legazpi City, and resides in it, so far, for the rest of my life.
Well, there were a few months that I had lived in Daraga since my parents was renting there initially before and sometime after I was born. But that was only a brief time. I insist. But I had “gained my consciousness” or had my memories started in Brgy. Banadero. The Naridos rented a house deep into the barangay, almost near to the boondocks (Legazpi City has a stretch of boondocks in the south – and behind it is the municipality of Manito) since Banadero is one of those barangays south where the boondocks start.
I had not much interesting memories there. No real friends since I forgot all the names of all my playmates there of my toddler years. The best thing I remembered there is the river – I love the river. And I used to give out my toys to kids there (much to the regret and horror of the teen Bernel years later). I also remember my mother and I selling ice candies to those playing basketball in the local court. We sold them all. Well, half of them anyway. The other half was eaten by me. I also remember the barangay captain was a “manghihilot”, and fixed my broken bones in some times; my parents said she studied the science of it. Later in life, I discovered that not all “manghihilots” know what they are doing at all, and up to now I do not trust any of them and put them in categories of witch doctors and “albularyos” – a lot of them here in the Philippines.
I say that Banadero was not a healthy environment to grow up. It was not a slum. But Filipinos who tend to live near the boondocks seem to forget that civilizations is just a hundred meter walk away (in the case of Banadero). Banaderos had rapists, thieves, and escaped convicts. And also snakes are not rare. One story was while I was staring up the roof (the rented house had no ceiling, so the nipa roof is visible from the inside), I saw a “sawa” (the local phyton or boa… I am not sure, probably the former) curled. I pointed at it calmly for my parents to look. Suddenly, the house was crowded with neighbors. This is typical about Filipino communities – especially in the rural parts- where neighbors have the interest for gossip and show and just walk in your house when they feel like it in times there is an interesting event there – whether it’s death, snakes, and more importantly, occasions when food is serve. Well, I was suddenly pushed out of the house and pushed back the stairs (the house was located on a high ground and had stairs to enter it). Miraculously, I made a 360 degree back tumbling unexpectedly and landed on my feet. I don’t know if it was my imagination back then, but that was how I remember it. Really. When the neighbors dispersed, the “sawa” was dead. Good thing not all of them are worthless spectators who just went there to see a snake. Some had the sense of killing it. But then again, they probably just saw an opportunity to get a free “sawa” for pollutant. Yum.
I think I was four or five when we transferred to our new house in Legazpi Palm Village in Barangay Gogon. Ours was the first house in the village, and for some time the house was surrounded with empty grassy lot and lots of cows. Years later, the cows disappeared and the village is filled wall-to-wall with houses. Gogon is a healthy barangay to grow up into. And better neighbors. Also better thieves and snakes.
Brgy. Gogon was given the award of the cleanest barangay in the province (or was it the region? I forgot) years back. I had wondered that if that is the case, the other barangays must be like city dumps for Gogon to win the award. Gogon was littered most of the time. Thank God for the green dumpsters recently scattered around the city. The city became cleaner.
I always voice out my negativity that Legazpi City has poor zoning, has lack of establishments, and no factories at all. The good thing about the city not being too much a city is its lack of pollution. And I am proud of the lights of Legazpi at night – brilliant lampposts.
The “Centro” of Legazpi is not very noisy or crowded compared to other cities. And during the night, street food stalls suddenly cover the city. The streets became food haven. I like street food – christened “hepa” foods by a friend of mine – full of cholesterol, fat, smoke, sugar, oil, and MSG (yum). BBQ products, chicken surpluses, rice porridges, noodles, and many more. Very exotic.
Legazpi has two main malls (and another one coming up) along with several commercial stores, department stores, groceries, and other shops. But most of the people hang out at these two malls. Half of those that hang out at the malls just came there for the sake of the air conditioning, and are not really there to buy anything. I am part of that half of mall-goers. What I do when I go to these malls is wave at the hidden cameras around the mall (I knew what they look like and where they are located, thanks to movies like “Enemy of the State”). The security is almost worthless anyway, I saw one time a man stealing a bar of soap, tuck it inside his shorts, and walk out the door.
Legazpi has its own dangerous parts, the slums and other barangays. There are those who feel they rule their respective barangays at night – “sangganos” we call them. They beat up or bully or steal or all three those who walks along their “territories”. I had one experience with them back in high school. It was late at night and I was with friends walking to one of this dark parts. We were approached with these “sangganos” – who look a cross between snakes and thieves – and picked for a fight. No big deal. We beat them up. We were better fighters. There were more of us. And we were faster runners.
There is also this part of Legazpi where the cheap beerhouses, whorehouses, and such are located. In that area too are residential, a police outpost, a Born-again church, and one of the best hotels in the city (like I said, the city has poor zoning). The road that pass through this area is one of the two routes one can pass to go to Gogon from the “centro”. A friend of mine who lives in the area tells of a place there where you can watch, through peepholes, the GROs taking their baths. When I once passed there, I saw some GROs that are younger than me – probably only fifteen or sixteen and pretty, too. I feel a certain sadness because such girls are exposed to environment, and have to go along with perverted foreigners, DOMs, and such. What kind of society have factors that would lead such girls to such situations? Other older GROs – around late twenties to forty – are there, too, but I don’t feel a kind of sympathy at them, but then again, they probably started young and deserve sympathy, too.
Legazpi also have decent restaurants, where wearing slippers are not allowed. That does not prevent me, who often wear slippers, from entering them. One time, during the Xmas season, I saw some crooked cops asking the owners of the restaurant for some “Xmas” – money “gifts” – from the plain site of customers! Such nerve!
Legazpi has its own share of crooked cops. I saw once three cops who asked for free newspapers from a news delivery truck. The nerve, they stop the truck just to ask for free newspapers! Legazpi has a “no smoking” policy but that does not stop the cops. I saw many smoking in plain site in public places. Some cops I know ask for stack of fireworks and firecrackers from vendors during the Xmas-New Year season. I also encounter some cops who are bullies. But, in the bright side, Legazpi also has good policemen.
Legazpi is a smoke-free zone. No smoking in the public places. Heavy fines and short prison terms are applied to violators (except cops). The only public smoking zone in Legazpi, that I am aware of, is atop Lignon Hill.
I like Lignon Hill. It’s hard climbing the top, but fun when you have others to talk to while walking up. The hill has a stunning view of the city, especially at night. The hill is a favorite spot for exercise-junkies, lovers, and tipplers (beer shops and sari-sari stores are located on top along with souvenir stores). At the foot of the hill are imprisoned living things. The wildlife zoo, the provincial jail, and the city jail are just side by side by side with each other. Also around that area is a military outpost and the city airport runway.
I can name three main parks in Legazpi, aside from the zoo. All of them have good lighting. The Rizal park is the smallest but with good fountain in the middle (Rizal really made it big with all these parks named after him) and a life-size statue of our national hero (no, Rizal, not Pacquiao). Couples love to hang out in that park. Back when I was a toddler, my parents took me there often and made me believe that Rizal was my “lolo”. For some years, I thougt that Jose Rizal was an ancestor of mine, heightening up my awe and admiration of Rizal. I am a Rizal fan. I was already looking up at Rizal even when I was a toddler. Literally, since his statue is located several feet above a pedestal. The second park is Kalayaan Park – used to be Imelda Park back in Marcos’ days – and located very near where I live in. The playground there is fairy tale themed and has dwarves, gnomes, dwarf and fairy tale houses, giant toadstools, and such. And there is also a pond with a map of the Bicol Region on it – complete with a mini-Mayon Volcano. I used to pretend I was a giant when I leap on those islands. Another work of art there is a giant statue of a naked man and woman, er, “embracing” – they appear to be Adam and Eve. The park also has a volleyball net and a basketball court. But “sangganos” also hang out here during the night. There were also news of someone being killed here. Still, no report of thieves and snakes roaming the premises. The third is Penaranda Park, with the Capitol and the City Hall around it. It’s also a neat park. The park is a favorite rendezvous and sites for events – cultural shows, beer plazas, parade starting points, rallies, concerts, etc. A few walks from this park is where Albay Astrodome is located, the place where sports events, important conventions, and concerts are hosted.
Legazpi has its own of festivals. I can name four prominent fiestas that are significant enough to erect beer plazas, bazaars, fairs, and such. They are the Ibalong Festival, the Magayon Festival, the Legazpi Port Fiesta, and the Old Albay Fiesta. The best thing I like about these fiestas are the fireworks, the bands, the art shows, and the street parades or presentations.
The best thing I like about Legazpi is its great view of the Mayon Volcano. And its people, and its food, and the weather, and the culture, and its great way of saying thank you that goes: “Dios Mabalos!” (God repay you), and the beautiful Legazpenas, and many smart people, etceteta etcera. Legazpi has not much pollution. It is near the sea. It has a port. It has many good hangouts. It is not devoid of the Internet. It has the best Bicol dialect. I am a proud Legazpeno. Legazpi City is a very good place to live in. Though it has thieves and snakes.

No comments: