Friday, February 02, 2007

A Post About Tracy - finally..

Our transition has finally become more or less complete. The old house in San Mateo County has been sold a little over two weeks ago, which in itself was quite a miracle given the scary downward spiral of prices in the country’s housing markets. But in all the tense waiting, our collective optimism never flagged, as we initially expressed in this post.

So now this family of two can focus on life in the new domicile – in Tracy, of San Joaquin Valley. Close to a married daughter, who also lives in Tracy some 5 miles and 10 minutes away.

Since we had started to live here a little over a year ago, we could say that we had laid the necessary spadework to get us intimately acquainted with the new place. Coming in, we were fully aware that Tracy has been exponentially growing, with new residents coming in droves. And in this respect, Tracy may rightfully claim that it is now part of the greater Bay Area, given that a good number of its residents commute to the San Francisco area for work.

Toward this end, we have had our frequent little excursion trips in and around the city, soaking in the sites and landmarks and appropriately marking them in our memory. We also regularly pore over our community paper, Tracy Press, which has been very helpful providing details about places and events around town, including its seedier side which we know is part and parcel of any growing town, or any town for that matter. This would be the at times extensive litany of police blotter items and arrests. And in less frequent intervals, we also get to glow over the glossy San Joaquin Magazine which lands inside our mailbox and gives the reader a broad situationer for the entire county. A regular column by Sam Matthews in the pages of Tracy Press also provides historical depth beyond the physical appearances of places, landmarks, and even people, of the town; which feature is a welcome sight for any eager student of history eager to delve into the “soul” of a place.

And coming from a first generation immigrant perspective, one would be remiss not to admit that one invariably tries to search out ethnic roots, as part of initial attempts to get comfortable in a new and unfamiliar place. And our general and cursory look-over of the place amply provided us with the depth of its diversity. And indeed in 2005, a report points to about 45% of the population belonging to minorities, out of a population of about 70,000. It is good to note also that in 2000 the city’s population was pegged by the census bureau at only about 57,000, leading one to conclude that the last half decade has seen the rapid growth of the city. This is further attested to by the new housing developments in and around the city.

St. Bernard's 2Our initial visits to the only Catholic Church in the city, St. Bernard’s along Eaton Street, brought us into conversation with one of its pastors, Fr. Edwin Musico, a transplanted Filipino. From him we learned that parish hierarchy estimates as many as 4,500 ethnic Filipinos calling this place home. Coming from an old homeland which is predominantly Catholic, as much as 85% of the population, it would logically follow that these immigrants would be seeking the same church in their new adopted country. And indeed, we find them in considerable numbers at various services of this church.

And finally, leisurely tripping around town, we discovered the following sights.

Boyong's Outside Use thisBoyong Inside
Along Byron Road, in the considerably huge complex that counts WalMart and Home Depot among its prominent occupants, we find tucked in one commercial door the Filipino restaurant, exotically named Boyong’s, with its usual menu fare of ethnic food served in what the natives back home call turo-turo style. In the Tagalog dialect, the word turo means “to point”, thus to order one simply points at the selection of prepared dishes for either take-out or to be eaten inside. Some grocery items are also available, typically items one would find in a grocery store back in the old country. And not surprisingly, it also accepts orders for entire roast pigs, called lechon, a perennial center dish for those huge gatherings during special occasions.

Manila ParadiseGoing southward, one ends up in a location close to the intersection of 11th Street with Tracy Boulevard and hemmed in a rather awkward area the location of what used to be Manila Paradise, another Filipino restaurant and grocery, which unfortunately has been boarded up and is reportedly being sold. In the past, some family members had tried their equally ethnic selection but were unfortunately not impressed with the offerings.

Video LandDriving southward further along 11th Street is another FilAm business. This time engaged in video rentals, named Video Land, essentially of movies coming from the old homeland, but surprisingly it also offers a meager selection of other merchandise.

Islaxnd Gourmet 2Island Gourmet 1
Finally, going the other way, northward, still along 11th St, situated along a strip mall opposite the well-patronized 99 Cents store are the twin businesses owned by the same family but separated from each other by two other commercial doors. Both named Island Gourmet, one engages in selling grocery items and wet market stuff and the other as a restaurant.

These then are the visible signs to tell the general public that there is sufficient ethnic Filipino presence in the area to warrant their existence. One can surmise that the coming years will see an upsurge not only in the number of such businesses but maybe the expansion of existing businesses.