Saturday, April 25, 2009

Old Town Look Meets Urbanization

A little tale on the physical metamorphosis of an old town inexorably pushed into congested urbanization. A form of uglified gentrification or maybe urban blight, one might confusedly muse.

Circling around the narrow streets of the old hometown neighborhood where we spent our childhood, these telltale pictures clearly reveal clear insights of the effects, mostly deleterious. Granted in a third-world country setting where necessary financial resources are scarce resulting in haphazard development, or make-do measures to generate some revenue for the real estate owners.

This first one sits one lot from the corner of Victoria and Pabayo Sts. Can’t recall the owners, though the lot next to it at the corner used to be the one-storey residence of the Vuelvans.

One can readily tell that the exterior of the upper floor has been essentially untouched, still revealing the old original design, characterized by a multi-layered roofing, and painted-over traces of window panes studded with capiz shells. The ground floor of course has been extended street-ward, to the legal limits (or maybe even beyond), to accommodate an air-conditioned business establishment. It looks like a beauty salon, and a number are located in this area.

Next house sits at the opposite corner, virtually untouched and unchanged in usage. Owned by the family of the once university dentist of Xavier University, Dr. Ricardo Borja Sr. XU is located on the next block going east. One of the children who is also a dentist hangs his shingles where his father’s used to be. Except that on the ground floor we see traces of an eating place offering barbecue and other foodstuff. Remarkably, even the paint color is how I remember it as a kid, though maybe now a little lighter or faded. Notice how the old tree has been incorporated in the eaves.

At the third corner is the then huge and imposing timber building of the Rodriguezes, now recognizable only by its upper floor with the uniquely styled roofing system. The entire building now punctured with air-conditioning holes and all windows shuttered. During our childhood windows were opened during the daytime and air-conditioning was almost non-existent. One of the current congressmen of the city is a member of the family who owns this and spent part of his youth domiciled in this building.

Further down Victoria St., a few houses away are the unmistakable outer walls of what used to be the residence and office of now Mindanao Senator, Nene Pimentel. The dark walls are the results of years of exposure on surfaces not painted. But the ground floor looks okay, with a lone almost dead palm tree standing sentinel on one side of the gate. A bleak sign of the times?

The next two pictures are those of the old residence of then Gov. A. Dadole, which lot sits at the corner of Victoria and Corrales Avenue. It fronts the 9-ha campus of Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan). Again the upper floor is virtually untouched exteriorly, down to the signature paint job giving a faux brick-wall look.

In a catty-corner direction from the Dadole residence is what remains of the residence and clinic of the Montenegro family. This time plastered with several big signs as to be unrecognizable.

But understandably even in this little cozy neighborhood, some houseowners have resisted the onslaught and continue to maintain the old hometown look in their houses. . The first three are of the old dela Camara house and lot, which lot nestles snugly and roundedly at the corner of Del Mar and Carmen Streets. The old house located away a little in the back continues to be shrouded in privacy by the old trees and brushes around the entire property. Bamboo slats fence the entire frontage of the lot. The fourth one, situated next to it, is that of the Pet Hong family, old copra traders of the city, and built sometime in the early 50’s. Nothing much has changed of the original structure, and the children continue the business of copra trading and selling motor and lube oils.

The house above mentioned as that owned by the Pimentels is or was actually owned by the Buals. Recently, the dela Camara house went through a thorough exterior renovation and because of its unique design, it now looks like what one could find in a foreign country.