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Those were the days: When the city was young & beautiful
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: None
Date: 2002-01-12
The Manila I now live in pales in comparison to the Manila I remember from my youth, Manila in the late 1960s was so much colorful and so much livelier than it is now.

At that time, Cubao was just rising on its legs, while Makati had still to emerge from a wasteland of cogon. The commercial districts of Quiapo and Sta. Cruz were where the public converged. People flocked here for the necessities of life. On the other hand, Ermita and Malate defined what Philippine society held dear. We were all living then a good life.

I was a college freshman student at the University of Santo Tomas in 1966. I was then taking a course in medical technology, my choice over agriculture. I was to shift to fine arts and architecture a few semesters later, a change in career that I really wanted.

On my free days, I would wander around Luneta, Ermita and Malate, having my fill of the sights and sounds of the city. I had so much time on my hands, playing hooky from my Chemistry classes.

I would often start the day exploring Luneta. The area at the back of the Quirino Grandstand was a favorite haunt. The sight and smell of the sea, the nostalgic sunset and the playful basket fountain, that played friskily during the night and that was lit by multi-colored lights in a splendid display, all of these attracted me to visit it frequently.

I remember being there when model Cristy Flores posed by the fountain, for the cover of the old Manila Times Sunday Magazine. The Grandstand was just a few months old and the fountain was in good working condition.

The basket fountain was located at the rear of the Grandstand by what used to be a police station. The station has since been converted into the VIP entrance. The old fountain has also been replaced with an ordinary one that has been filled with some gold fishes. There are no lights to color the water’s flow in the evenings.

The latest addition to the Grandstand area is the Luneta Boardwalk, a joint project of the office of the President, the City of Manila, Department of Tourism and Philippine Tourism Authority. Covering a total area of 1.3 hectares, the Boardwalk will have a four-storey mall that will house shops for tourists and park goers.

Opened in September last year, the Boardwalk has attracted more than its share of park visitors during the recent Christmas and New Year holidays. A park security officer said the Boardwalk was packed with promenaders who wanted to have a good look at Manila Bay and admire the sunset during the time.

At the right side of the Grandstand and the Boardwalk is the M/S Philippines Floating Hotel and Restaurant. I had the chance to see it last year during a party hosted by Ben Farrales. It was a well-attended event, and I was encouraged to think of holding a future party at the same venue. With some friends, I was able to go around the ship, exploring its different facilities and inquiring of the different amenities it offers.

Long before the recent development of the Army & Navy Club area as a dining complex, there were already two restaurants at the left side of the Grandstand that gave diners a view of Manila Bay. Harbor View and Golden Horizon attracted me because dining there reminded me of Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California. The sea was right beside you and the clean, fresh air was refreshing.

Golden Horizon was also the depot of the ferries that take sightseers around Manila Bay and Corregidor Island. During my visits to the States, my brother Roger and his wife Evelyn would bring me to Fisherman’s Wharf. This place comes to mind whenever I come here to eat.

When the nearby Army & Navy club was still managed by the Americans, my good friend lawyer Ningning Muñoz would take me there for lunch. The building has since been converted into the Museo ng Maynila. The club’s tennis court was also frequented by my friend Sylvia Muñoz and Ariel Ureta, and often I would join them for a game or just simply watch them exchange volleys. Now, that tennis court is managed by Seafood Wharf Restaurant, one of the dining establishments at this side of the Grandstand area. I now come here for breakfast, sometimes for coffee, to enjoy the sea while I relax from work.

Another favorite eatery is Nena’s Bibingka, which is just a stone’s throw from the cages for doves at the left side of the Grandstand. I love their mechado, kaldereta, bibingka and puto bumbong. It’s still there, and every so often, when the craving hits me, I go there to have my fill of merienda.

A few years ago, some of the dining kiosks right across the Army & Navy Club building were home to a four-man combo of blind musicians. For a few months, they were playing standards and popular tunes to the delight of park goers. They have since moved, and this side of Luneta has since been silent to their kind of music.

On weekends, ballroom dancing enthusiasts now flock to the Boardwalk in the late afternoon to dance. They are a sight to see. On ordinary days, the ballroom dancing crowds take to an open court by the police precinct just outside of Manila Hotel. A stone’s throw from them, a section of the grounds of the right side of the Grandstand is now home to the skating rink operators who used to inhabit the Agri-Fina circle. Teeners and promenaders flock here for a little recreation or just watch the youngsters manage their moves on their roller skates.

When I’ve had my fill of Luneta, that’s the time I head for Ermita and Malate to continue my wanderings for the day. (To be continued)

[ Museo ng Makati Wiki ]


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