Monday, February 22, 2010

Street Names As Memorials

Life is replete with humanity’s overt manifestations of its innate longings, or maybe dread, to honor and perpetuate it heroes, its renowned forebears, or simply its dead. For example, statues are cast and installed in publicly prominent places precisely to make known and remind the viewers or passersby of the dead and gone real person behind the stiff and drab image sitting or standing out there in the rain and exposed to all other elements. Gilded books are written laboriously tracing the extraordinary lives of people and/or relatives admired and expressing desires to emulate. Buildings, places, even nature, etc. are not spared from our ardent aspirations to perpetuate and propagate the chosen names of those consigned to our eternity.

And quite common in most places we have been to, whether of considerable renown or not, is the practice of naming streets after those admired personages. The ubiquitous signage makes for one sure route to give more mileage (in a manner of speaking) to that person’s honor and name. After all, street signs are installed in most intersections and/or long stretches of roads for easier negotiation or faster access to destinations.

Let it be said though that at times street names are grudgingly given for more mundane and practicable reasons, like because the named person used to own the real estate traversed by the roadway or maybe in a generous gesture donated the real estate for the roadway. At times certain places are known by a person’s name, simply because that person whether renowned or not was domiciled in the area, or again maybe because people know he used to own property in the vicinity.

But clumsy distinctions aside, the street names given can be a good glimpse into a bit of local historical narrative of a place or locality, like as if history has crept into a place’s consciousness through the dead-giveaway uniqueness of its street names.

A little tour around town or even a more studied look at the street names of places we travel through our workaday lives can be revealing of both the past and the possible reasons for the nomenclature.

Thus, the street name of the place where we live is Paz Neri San Jose situated at RER Drive Subdivision, which is bounded on the east by the Rodulfo N. Pelaez Avenue. The sprawling compound of Liceo de Cagayan University lies on the other side of the said avenue, stretching maybe a half-kilometer wide. Why? Because the family of the late Rodulfo Neri Pelaez owns the university and the subdivision was once part of their landholdings. And our street being one of the main streets of the subdivision is named after his beloved mother, Paz Neri San Jose. Why RER? – the subdivision was named after the first letter of the first names of both parents and daughter.

Trying to skirt the usual heavy traffic around the Carmen Market area during commute periods, I chanced upon a rather obscure side street named Matilde Neri that stretches westward. Again an old resident can readily tell why. Matilde Menciano Neri was the widow of Faustino S. J. Neri, and her family used to own large tracts of land around the Carmen Market area.

And right smacked in the center of the old poblacion anchored by its premier plaza, Divisoria, is the street named Tirso R. Neri stretching from one end of the plaza to the other and defining its northern boundaries. Tirso Neri made a name for himself locally in both peace and war times, serving creditably in government and doing other exemplary work. Thus, it seems appropriate to name an equally important street after him.

There should be more, even if only for the visual benefit and easy entertainment of members of the extended Neri clan. Just give me time to reach those places. Or better still, bring them to my lazy attention and I shall schedule the legwork. Our subdivision is a veritable gold mine, since most streets are named after Neri ancestors.

Oh, by the way, I do have a street named after me, announced by two lonely rusty signs that have fallen into quite ugly disrepair as to be almost unreadable.

Actually, it was intended for my father. Being named after him has at least one spurious benefit, I guess.