Cubao X, during the evenings, minus the sun's heat and less pollution, looks much prettier.
I wanted to escape to a tranquil place. Sometimes, traveling does not assure you your most desired moments of peace and quiet. The weeks before my 28th birthday had been most emotionally exhausting and Cubao, Quezon City, a place I have been living since March 2008 (after my three-year stay in Tokyo), had temporarily lost its appeal.
Cubao, crowded and dirty as it is, has always been the most convenient spot in the city where I mostly hang out with friends. It is one of the busiest transportation hubs of Quezon City, and from there you could get to most places in the country, and certainly to all neighboring provinces and islands. Should you need to go malling, Cubao has its list of respectable shopping centers (Gateway, Alimall, Farmers Mall and Wet and Dry Market, Shopwise, SM Supermarket and SM Mall), apart from the small shops you can find around the Araneta Center
and under the MRT and LRT Cubao Stations.
Some of the richer and choosy people I know tend to avoid Cubao. Well, Cubao, in the 1970s was in fact one of Quezon City's more elite places. It is home to the country's very first fully airconditioned shopping
If you want to shop or window shop for antiques, secondhand clothes, local shoes, then Cubao X is the place. Try to make it after 6pm for reduced traffic jam and noise/air pollution. It might even be better during Friday or Saturday nights as you might catch some gigs inside the area!
centers -- Alimall. It was the families of the 70s and 80s' favorite Sunday and Christmas destination. I vividly remember the life-sized automated puppets at the now defunct C.O.D. (Cash on Delivery) Mall. Families would crowd in front of the C.O.D. to watch the evening Nativity puppet shows. I cannot exactly remember when C.O.D. went bankrupt. When I was in university and addicted to the wisdom of the New Age, my sister and I would still frequent the 4th floor of C.O.D. to get our supply of incense, or just to windowshop. When I visited last year, it was gone.
Today, Cubao is said to have lost its luster, or at least some parts of it. The moviehouse where I first saw a couple kiss while watching the movie "Si Malakas at Maganda" (The Strong and the Beautiful) is old and crumbling down. The elaborately-designed big cinema located right at the intersection of EDSA and Aurora Boulevards has been abandoned since ages ago. I imagine it would look glorious when repainted. But I guess this is how the system goes -- objects fade and people forget. Opposite the cinema used to be the display area of gigantic hand-painted movie posters. This was before the tarpaulin sheets dominated the print ad world.
Cubao area could have been the center of the Filipino movie industry, like Mumbai is known for Bollywood. Just 15 minutes from the center of Cubao is the defunct LVN Pictures Studio
, the production and editing outfit owned by the family of the acclaimed and brilliant Mike de Leon which was responsible for the growth of Filipino national cinema. I loved this place. My parents used to live inside the LVN Studio's premises as my father used to be one of the company's employees. We lived just across it and I when I was younger, I had my fair share of stalking the actesses, actors and directors coming in and out of the studio. And, of course, beside our house was also the historical Ropers Studio. I believe that it used to be one of the "brands" in portrait photography of the celebrities of the local movie industry. We would once flock outside Ropers to catch a glimpse of the famous people like Kris Aquino, Richard Gomez, Ruffa Gutierrez, and many others. Cubao is brimming not only with general local history. Cubao is always, and will always be, part of my personal history.
Back to the center of Cubao, the exhaust fumes from the jeepneys, FXs and private cars give the place a ghastly look. As you walk, the MRT and LRT trains wheeze past above you. The place has somewhat taken "chaos" as a fitting synonym. The overhead pass from the Farmers Mall is said to be a main spot for snatchers, holduppers and hypnotists. My brother lost his camera to a thief once. I was once frozen when somebody grabbed my upper leg while climbing the Farmers footbridge. A university classmate was bullied before by juvenile delinquents in the area. It is always smart for one to walk a bit faster, with their bags in front of them while strolling.
Around the clock, it is mostly chaos but despite this, one can still a natural visual and audal overload. There's something special in this cosmpolitan jungle. Cubao is exhausting and euphoric at the same time. It is the perfect place for "jeepney-watching." In the Metro Manila area, some of the most elaborately designed jeepneys are those travelling the Marikina-Stop and Shop route. All of them load and unload passengers just along Aurora Boulevard in Cubao.
Still along Aurora Boulevard and across the Gateway Mall, you can always find pleasant surprises. This side of Cubao is a stop for many jobseekers and it is here where they can get the requirements done on the cheap. Small photocopy shops, photography booths that develop I.D. photos manually, secondhand clothing shops, roadside canteens, among others, may interest those looking for a visual trip.
And of course, more recently, Cubao is finally getting a facelift. A complex which was called in the past the "Marikina Shoe Expo" has been given the hipper name "Cubao Expo or Cubao x." Cubao X
still has some of the shoe shops like Bandolino, a brand that we used to patronize for our black school shoes. No longer a shoe center which used to display the latest coming from Marikina (the Philippines' shoe capital), Cubao X now serves as a hangout for many of the country's young artists, designers and writers. Mogwai, owned by Filipino filmmakers, is one of the more famous drinking spots and artist hangouts. Just across it, the I Love You Store, is where fashionistas hang out. And of course, it is the antique shop called the Vintage Pop that started the revolution of the place. Now, Cubao X has grown into a vibrant community of young people inclined towards the arts.
And of course, Cubao X is also the home of my and Deyan's more favorite vegetarian restaurant, Halo
. There is also a stall where you can buy veggie meat and other organic food inside Cubao itself and even inside the Farmers Wet and Dry Market. For cheaper vegetarian food, there's Bodhi
on the 3rd floor food court of Ali-mall. The newly opened SM Supermarket along P. Tuazon (just across Ali Mall) has a bigger selection of fresh fruits and veggies, even better than the gigantic Shopwise also located in the vicinity.
A good friend used to tell me that Cubao, much like Manila, is like the country's intestines for it could be the dirtiest and foulest part of Quezon City. In its drainage flows in the city's dirt and secrets. On the surface, he said, there is a neverending facelift that forever attempts to hide its gore. Despite this, I have no hatred for Cubao nor for its chaos. But for now, I need to get away from Cubao. Sometimes, you feel the terrible need to run away from the city.
(Written by Dada while in El Nido Town, Palawan Island, Philippines. Photos by Deyan.)
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