Persistence of Memory

(Fragments of Stories along the Heart of GenSan Downtown, Pioneer Avenue)


          It was dusk when I arrived at Pioneer Avenue. The last time I walked along the sidewalk was in elementary, when I was still eleven years old. A lot of things have changed in Pioneer. Four movies houses were gone, new establishments arose, it had became crowded, the community had changed, “with a lot more “challenging” kind of life than before” but the thirty feet tower clock was still there yet it had stopped working. Along Pioneer Avenue was the oldest standing structure, the clock tower. Back then, the clock tower provided the right time for those people traversing along the avenue. It stood there like a God feeling like a watchman as downtown GenSan slowly progressed in days and nights.


          The old tower clock witnessed the progress of downtown GenSan. Many years ago, the sidewalks were still green and unpaved. Bermuda grasses could be found embracing the ground of the sidewalks however the grasses soon vanished because of the outbreak of El Nino.  There were establishments from way back. Ram’s Bombay Bazaar used to sell assorted trading goods  like fashion accessories, clothing, stuffed toys, house appliances, etc. The Pioneer Hotel which used to house some foreign guests had now become GoldenState College. One of the movie theatres,the Capitol Theater was devoured by a diabolical fire and so the city mayor ordered it to be demolished. The theatre now became an abandoned lot. Another theatre was Pioneer Theater where most of the Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies were shown, one would feel like she was in a sauna while watching a movie, as my aunt once recalled. State Theater had now become Novo; Cotton Bowl Grill that used to serve one of the best chickens in the city became a photocopy center and an internet café. Sacred Heart Pharmacy had become a photo shop or photo studio. Universal Grocery has foreclosed; Marietta’s Barbecue which sold the tastiest barbecue in town was now relocated.


          In my high school days, when the clock stroke seven o’clock in the evening, “trashers” or those young boys who loved to play skateboarding started to warm-up for their show. These boys play half naked, wearing only their dirty baggy pants. They skated along the corners of the sidewalks, on bars and most of the time with their makeshift elevated “performance area”, made of spare metals to showcase the different techniques they learned in skateboarding. There were only two groups of boys who played skateboarding in downtown Gensan, they were the goth and the emo.  


          Originally, there were only two bookstores in Gensan, Oregon Bookstore and Kristan Bookstore. Then a new bookstore named Crown, sprang and that was where Zenco Footstep, the best dealer of shoes, sandals and slippers in town was before. I could still remember when I and my mother walked along the sidewalk going to Crown Bookstore to buy tubed poster colors, at the façade of Crown bookstore was the makeshift stall of some street magicians. A couple of them were carrying their pet snake curled around their necks and others were playing tricks to the passers by.


Aling Aiza

          While walking along the street of Pioneer Avenue I saw an array of identities. There was a group of drunkards, passersby, the tun-og or the children of the night,sidewalk vendors, students and working individuals and a group of prostitutes wearing “pek-pek shorts,” and  puffing their cigarettes . Fortunately,  I got the chance to interview a lady.

          She is a stout balut candy and noodles vendor in Pioneer Avenue. You could spot her right where the “bugaws” were located. She had been selling for almost ten years now.  She had grown to see a lot of changes in Pioneer Avenue. “Sang-una, wala pa man kayo diri mga G.R.O, dili pa kayo ing-ana ka daghan, peaceful pa, karon kay daghan na naga riot nga mga gang ug naga away nga mga bana kabahin sa mga G.R.O, magsinumbaganay lagi na sila, Mao ng Pioneer Avenue na akong na experience.”  I asked her one of the unforgettable experiences she had in Pioneer Avenue and according to her that was when Sydney Hotel was bombed by some terrorists, “Ah mao tong gibombahan ang Sydney hotel, wala pa man hinuon napatindog akong stante, naga prepare pa lang ko ato, Dunggan gyud lagi namo ang lagobo gikan diri” Aling Aiza was pouring a hot water to a plastic bowl when she uttered those lines. During my conversation with her, her child asked her money and then she said, “boy, wala pa koy kwarta karon, hina kayo ang kita sa atong balut, ug wala pa pud ta kabaligya ug noodles, lingcod-lingkod lang sa dira boy, unya nalang pangayo” Hearing those lines I remembered her during our first encounter, a minute before I had a formal conversation with her. She was with her friend, “ a last two financer”, they were discussing the lotto, “unsa’y nagawas kagahapon? I ramble lang ako, unsa may kusog dira nga numero sa imoha,” Aling Aiza inquired the old lady, “ikaw gud, tay-i nalang ang imohang maintain,dba pirminti man nimo ginatay-an ang 88?”, her friend told her. But Aling Aiza quickly replied, “hina pa man gud akong kita te, pero sige mutaya ko ug 5 pesos, 300 and daog ana no?, cge bahala na, tay-an nalang nako, malay suwertehun, lisod lagi ning naga tuo tuo lang sa swerte ba, pero malay mo dba, kinahanglan gyud mutaya kung gusto nimo mudaog


          I asked her the kind of people that would usually share a part of life in Pioneer Avenue and she told me, “A daghan kaayo uy, naay mga members sa frat, naa lagi toy ika usa nga nag riot diri, daghan kayo sila, dagghan gud samaran ato, nay mga bata nga nagapangayo’g kwarta, nay kanang ginatawag nila nga “trapo boys” ug daghan kayo mga “rugby boys”. What time would they usually come to Pioneer Avenue?, I inquired. “Kaning mga GRO kay mga alas singko hantud magbuntag na na. mga ala sais sa aga muuli na na sila, ang mga trapo boys kay mga ala sais sa gabii hantud alas dose sa gabii kay manguli namana sila, naa silay ginatulugan didto banda sa may palengke, ug kanang “tun-og” nga ang kadalasan mga burikat nga babae ug mga “rugby boys” nga sayo pa sa hapon naga hithit na ug rugby, daghan kayo na sila diri, pag abot gani sa alas sais o sayo-sayo pa kay hinay-hinay napud na sila ug kadaghan. Daghan na kayo kog kaagi siri sa Pioneer Avenue, kung unsa ka busy ni pag buntag mao pud ni ka busy pah gabii tungod sa mga “business” kuno sa mga tao diri nga dili nimo makitas pagbuntag. Sama aning barbeque stands diri, dili na nimo sila makit-an pag buntag kay taga gabii lng na sila nagagawas, para sa ako lahi lang gyud ang kinabuhi diri sa Pioneer bah, kung sa tao pa ang Pioneer pagbuntag kay murag naka Americana or murag kang pormalon ba pero inig gabii kay mura na ug cowboy.

          I knew that time that Aling Aiza still had more stories to tell but the customers swarmed like flies to the balut she were selling and so I opted to cut our conversation.



Ms. M


          Make-up on, lips colored with a bloody red tint of lipstick and pony-tailed hair, that’s Ms M. She was with her colleagues that time. Some were seated, having some chitchats with their fellow prostis and mostly were standing, waiting and hoping for a customer to approach them. It was an easy task to spot these kind of individuals because of the way they dress, they were far less different compared to other people. You could easily distinguish them from other girl because of the way they dress.

          I asked one of the ladies that was seated at the corner for an interview, Miss M. I was a bit hesitant to interview Miss M because I thought she might get offended or perhaps intimidated. However, I had that much courage to talk to her. She was alone on the corner of Pioneer Avenue’s intersection road, I believed she was waiting for a customer that time. I approached her kindly, introducing my name first and my good intention on that night. I won her sympathy and she agreed for an interview. How long have you been working in this kind of job, “pang-ilalim”, as Ate Aiza would call it “eight years nako aning trabaho-a,dugay-dugay na pud.”  When I asked her where they would usually stay to wait for customers, she answered with a soft voice, “Diri lang gyud sa Pioneer, dali lang man gud ko makakuha ug customer diri, dali lang pud ko mabaligya, nagtry napud ko ug laing night clubs pero diri jud sa intersection sa Pioneer ang may pinaka dako nga kita.” Whatelse do you do aside from being a “bugaw”? “Naa man koy upat ka anak, pagbuntang kung naa koy kita kay ako nagahukad sa ilahang pamahaw duha sa ilaha kay gipaundang nako ug eskwela ang duha kay ginapaningkamotan nako ug pag paeskwela, ang akong panganay kay lalaki, grade 6, mugradwetay na karong Abril ang sunod niya kay babae, grade 3 pa.” I was curious that time if there were also students who were involved in that kind of job. Miss M’s reply was, “Wala mi kauban nga mga estudyante, ginabawal man gud sa mga menor de edad ang ing-ani nga trabaho tapos puro naa nay mga anak ang mga kauban nako tanan nay live-in partner ug nay mga asawa.” I also asked her the way they fashion themselves and Miss M laughed after I asked her, “haha, karon lang pud ko nag pedal, ang akong prirmi gina suot kay short skirts pero ang akong pantaas kay pirminti jud sleeveless, dapat jud ma attract nako ang akong mga customers lisod na dili makapalit ug pagkaon pagka ugma tapos diri daghan pa jud ka ka kompetensiya, swerte na gani nga mga 2 or 3 ko ka customers taga gabii.” Have you encountered raids or any instance that you were trapped in a raid? “wala pa man hinuon,kadaghanan ana kay sa mga night club man mahitabo.”


          Our conversation was interrupted when one of Miss M’s colleagues approached her for a short talk. They were about two meters away from me and I could hear the mumble of words in their conversation. I heard her colleague mentioned the word “customer” pointing her finger to a guy with a big bike.  Miss M went near to the man. I could barely hear a word from the two of them as I was busy listening to the voice clip in my mp3 player. After a couple of minutes, Miss M went back and I asked her, customer te? She then replied, “oo gihatag nako sa akong amiga, naghangyo man gud na sa iyaha nalang daw tapos nag istorya mi kadali sa lalaki kung okay lang bas a iyaha kung lahi nalang sa nga babae, na customer naman gud ‘to nako.” I felt guilty that time. I believed that I was the reason why she opted to toss the guy to her colleague instead of her. Nonetheless our conversation continued. It was getting late and the sodium lights of Pionner Avenue were all turned on. Downtown GenSan was glittered with so much desolation that was hidden beneath the smiles of each of the “bugaws” I saw. The night had become gloomy, the more questions I threw to Miss M, the more glaring were the sidewalk.

          To conclude our conversation, I asked her, “What can you say about your job, are there any changes that you experienced” Mao lang man gihapon, 9 years old pako nakatuon nako manigarilyo sa ing-ana nga butang naabuso na nako ang akong lawas, tig sindi lang man gud ko sa sigarilyo sa akong mama tung-una tapos nakatuon nako ug panigarilyo, pero kabalo akong mga ginikanan aning akong ginahimo, wala lang man japon silay matabang sa ako labi na karon nga naa akong papa sa city jail. Buot huna-hunaon importante jud ang lawas sa ako-a mao gani ni ang naga tabang sa ako para mabuhi ug makapalipay pud sa ako-a kay kung dili tungod sa lawas na ni dili nako masuportahan ang akong pamilya, tanggap man pud akong trabaho sa akong mga silingan, kabalo sila nga ing-ani ko ug labi na akong asawa. If one day, you realized that there’s a need for you to change and you need to give up your job, what will you surely miss about Pioneer Avenue, “ daghan kayo, ang akong mga kaagi para lang mapakaon akong mga anak, naa man gani kanus-a nga kulang jud akong kita tapos ang gihimo nalang sa akong kinamanghuran nga anak kay natulog aron dili niya mabati ang kagutom, lisod jud, lisod jud pag walay ineskwelahan, mura napud nako ni’g ika duha nga balay ang Pioneer, tungod niya makakaon mi maski ginagmay lang, tungod niya mapa eskwela nako akong mga anak, tungod niya nakakita ko ug trabaho, tungod niya buhi pa mi hantud karon”.



Camille & Jawiah


          During my conversation with Aling Aiza, I was approached by two street children girls of ages 7 and 10. We had to cut our conversation for a while for the two the girls were very insistent in begging. These little girls were sisters, Jawiah is 3 years younger than Camille. They used to go to school but because their parents left them for no apparent reason, they have to stop their schooling, “sana inakami, sanya makamisaliku saniya, Jawiah spoke in their tribe’s dialect. Wala mi mama, wala mi papa, wala mi manghod Camille translated. They were not like those beggars who I have seen along the sidewalks of Pioneer Avenue. Their clothes were not that dirty and they still have their slippers glued to their feet. “ginalabhan namo among sinina, nakatuon nami nga kamilang duha, maski asa lang mi nagalaba basta naa lang limpyo nga tubig, kabalo name manglaba sa among sinina maski ing-ani pa mi, kinsa man pud ang maglaba kay kami nalang man duha nabilin, kinahanglan mi maningkamot” Camille delivered teary eyed. “istidi kami angalimos or nagapalimos lang mi” the intention to beg was still there, in the middle of the conversation Jawiah would ask me, muwan kaa pamili buwas or taga-i mi ug pampalit ug bugas. I further inquired,  If you have nothing to eat, what do you do? Muadto mi sa mga carenderia, mangayo mi ug bugas tapos kung dili mi makapangayo kay muadto napud mi sa uban hantud sa mkakaon  mi. Pirminti lang gani mi ginapahawa pag mangayo kay hugaw daw mi ug baho pa, muhawa nalang pud mi.” They would sleep beside Jollibee, still in Pioneer Avenue across where the GRO’s favorite “lungga” was located, as they would call it. Both of them used to go to school. Jawiah finished her first grade and her elder sister reached 4th grade, they only needed to stop because their parents left them and there was no one to depend to. “panagsa naga adto mi sa palengke para mangayo, nagabaktas lang mi”, Camille uttered while Jawiah with her hands was busy searching for lice on Camilles head. Camille brushed Jawiah’s hands off and soon Jawiah joined the conversation. “Gusto namo pangitaon among mama ug papa, ambot kung mubalik pa to sila”.  Unsa ang dili ninyo makalimtan diri sa Pioneer? Camille and Jawiah giggled, they pointed their fingers to Jollibee, “spaghetti ug French fries kay lami man gud, wala pa gyud mi nakatry na nagkaon mi kauban among mama ug papa katong wala pa mi nila gibilin. Makakaon lang mi ug Jollibee kung naa mi mapangayoan.” They were sometimes shooed off by the security guard being requested that they should not lean on the window glass to beg. “Te, gusto nako maging teacher, para matudluan nako ang mga bata ug matabangan nako sila,” Camille shared with so much sadness in her eyes. The encounter with these two children came to an end when Jawiah requested to leave Pioneer Avenue as they would still walk three kilometers away from the place to beg again.


Anton & Renante

          To continue the journey, again, I walked a couple of footsteps to the other end of the sidewalk. I chanced upon a group of boys. Two of them were wiping the wind shield of a black sportivo, one was wearing a loose t-shirt which I think was not for him, both of them were very untidy, without slippers. They were holding a dirty piece of cloth and kept on wiping some of the cars parked infront of Jollibee. They were the “trapo boys”. I got the chance to interview them without really disturbing them, “Tig trapo mi ug sakyanan tapos mangayo mi ug kwarta pag muabot na ang tag-iya sa sakyanan na among gilimpyohan”, Anton replied, wiping the sticky fluid from his nose by his dirty T-shirt. He saw me holding a Jollibee plastic bag and \asked me for the food inside, “ ako-a nalang na imohang pagkaon te beh, cge na te” with his sincere voice I felt a pinch of guilt. There were no foods inside the plastic bag, what was only left were the wrappers of French fries and the coke container that I bought an hour ago. These boys were not only “trapo boys” but also beggars. Renante said that they would only beg for those who wanted to give, they do not force someone to give them money, “mangayo lang mi sa mga muhatag, tapos kung dili sila kay dili nalang namo pugson” They were friends with the “rugby boys” but Anton and Renante didn’t try to join their “friends” in sniffing rugby. “Nag simot man ko ika is ate pero paghuman ing-ato kay wala na, baho-an man gud ko, sakit pa gyud sa ulo.” According to him, some of his rugby friends would give him a bottle or a plastic of rugby but he would refuse because he knew that it would do no good to his body, “Mas maayo nalang nga nagapalimos lang mi kaysa mag sakit mi parehas nila, pasagdan nalang namo sila na mag rugby.” Anton’s parents knew that he’s one of the “Pionner Avenue chidren”, infact, he still goes to school but with Renante’s case he lost his mother when he was still 5 years old, “gusto nako pangitaon akong mama pag dako nako, gusto nako dili nako manglimos” Renante’s words were spoken with hope. I asked  him if he still goes to church and he replied that he used to, when his clothes were not still as dirty as it is now, “kay hugaw naman ko, baho pa gyud, maulaw ko musulod ug simbahan”. For him, begging is one of the only means that would save his life for everyday’s undertakings. He wanted a decent life but for him it is too impossible. “Naa pay one time nga hapit ko madunggaban dira band ate”, he pointed his finger to the makeshift barbeque stalls. “Ice pick man to pero maayo nalang naa si SoySoy, gisagang ko niya”. Soysoy is the closest friend of Renante aside from Anton, ”Katong pagsagang niya te kay siya ang naigo, maayo nalang nadala namo siya dayon sa Emergency hospital”.  That was the time when the other group of rugby boys and soysoy’s group had a misunderstanding over a certain matter and so it resulted to such fight. Renante said that he would never forget that incident. Everytime he goes back to the makeshift barbeque stand, he would remember that night where he almost died. Nonetheless, Renante was always reminded of the wound that Soysoy once had. It was a kind of pain that would linger forever, not because of the scar that had marked Soysoy’s body but the sad truth that he would live with the company of Pioneer Avenue for all his life.

          The latter conversation was spent with Renante because Anton was busy chasing his other friends to get the 5 peso coin that he had begged. From afar, I saw them playing like “patintero”, crossing the street feeling like players in a game where tricycles, single motorcycles and jeepneys zoomed the street and they would ran to the other sidewalk too proud not to commit an accident.  The sodium lights of Pioneer Avenue added drama to the faces of the children. For a moment they would get angry to one another but many times they would smile and laugh. Pioneer Avenue had become their playground. This was where almost all of the memories of their childhood happened. They were just too enthusiastic in playing that they would forget that there was still life waiting for them at other end of the street.


10:00 pm


          He was wearing a black jacket that time with a printed word at the back, Happiness. According to him. It was his favorite jacket, he was fond of putting the hood of his jacket on his head. He would not mind if he didn’t have slippers, for him he was already complete and contented with a bottle of rugby to sniff. His eyes were like the eyes of a drunk person. Looking at the boy, you could feel that the drug had already consumed him. “dugay naman ko nagarugby, niundang na gani ko’g eskwela pero kabalo akong papa nga nagarugby ko” He shared to me that he was beaten many times by a “dos pordos” because his father caught him sniffing rugby. “Minsan ginaposas pako para dili nako makaadto ug makalaag-laag diri sa Pioneer kauban akong mga barkada.” He was the leader of the rugby boys. However, he was wise enough to escape from their house and fortunately spend time with his friends. “ Nadunggaban na gani ko tungod ani”, as he showed his scar on his lower chest. “Mao ni akong power”. I paused for a while and thought about the power he was saying, he was sniffing the bottle of rugby hardly when he showed his scar and so I thought that the boy was hallucinating. He would whisper words to himself like, “hawa mo dira, ipagawas na nako akong power” talking to no one but himself. He told me that he could see his enemies and they were in front of him. They, too, have their powers but for him, his was a lot more powerful. “makakita ko ug blue, red lights ug ang ilahang power na nagalupad sa hangin, kato oh, daghan kayo”, there were really no color red and blue lights during that time as Pioneer Avenue only had one color of light and that was yellow. I asked him why he was sniffing rugby and he just told me, “para makaipon ko ug powers ug para mapildi nako akong mga kalaban”. Soysoy would act as if he was really fighting with his enemies. Some of his friends would laugh at him but he would not mind.


          Soysoy believed about magical powers but whatever magical powers Soysoy had seen in the absence, it would never alter his life as a rugby boy. There was really no magic. He had lived life in a very disillusioned way and the most hurtful thing was he had grown up with that kind of life.


The clock said 10:15 pm and I was still walking along Pioneer Avenue. Renante accompanied me for a ride back home. I heard him said, “bye te”. After he had said those words I felt as though the time had stopped. I know deep within me that I would never see Camille, Jawiah, Anton, Soysoy, Miss M and most especially Renante. Surely, Pioneer Avenue will change as it always does. The memories we’ve shared would continue to live forever, however, those were only transitory like the tower clock of GenSan that had already stopped providing the exact time to the people who pass along Pioneer Avenue.   

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4 endeavored to criticize:

Pratik Rimal said...

See? With time, things change...that's why I said, "Life is not the way we want...we rather are the way it wants..." Time factor...that's what does the irrepairable damage...things that you loved are gone and replaced by something new...something which you hadn't thought of...that's life along with time. :-)

I like it. :-)

Damsel said...

you got it right P. very constructive... :)

liked it, silly?

Pratik Rimal said...

Yeah. I liked it. Welcome :-) you just thought of this now...I wrote an article about this time way were late to catch up :-p

Damsel said...

so what? hahaha... whatever P... okay, il read it... i was late to catch up? :(