KUNG HEI FAT CHOI!!!! Well, I thought that for a change, I would finally feature my hometown–er, city? But the thing was, I realized that I would not be able to say much about it as far as personal experience was concerned. I was a pretty shy kid that I practically never went anywhere the city without my parents. When I reached my teens, I studied in nearby-town Los Baños from high school to college, hardly spending time in San Pablo. Then I graduated, started working in Manila and since then, I have been working in and around Manila, far enough from Laguna.
So that was my dilemma until I realized that a fellow-San Pableña–a fellow-university student taking up the same degree and especially a fellow-member of a school organization for film enthusiasts–wrote something about her San Pablo childhood several years ago. I first read Ayie‘s writeup in Multiply (which folded up, of course), then she shared it in the official Facebook page of San Pableños more than two years ago. I have to say I could relate to most of what she said although she recounted things better. I asked if she could guest blog here although she needed not write anything new as I wanted to share her writeup. So here it is! She has given me the go signal to edit so I have, but mostly only to translate several words/phrases for non-Filipino speaking readers and explain some terms.
We both hope you like it (NOTE: I did not update anything here to preserve what she has written, although I, as “Ed.”, have taken some liberties in inserting several comments. This is only Part 1 as it’s a bit long and I also want to find some more images.)
WELCOME TO SAN PABLO CITY! (this arc has undergone a makeover, I’ve been told, as this was taken before that). Image courtesy of Laguna Travel Guide
MISSING SAN PABLO
(Aileen ‘Ayie’ Alcos-Garcia)
(This is an old post, dated Feb. 2009. Written during the time that I moved out of San Pablo. But now I’m glad that I am back home. I’m sure most of you who are no longer physically residing in San Pablo can relate to me.)
I was born and raised in this city, I grew up in my lola‘s (grandma’s) house on Marcos Paulino Street which is strategically located within the city proper and close to almost everything: market, church, school, grocery, highway, etc., even to the Social Security Service office…
Whenever I go home by taking a tricycle, I only need to tell the driver “Sa may eskinita po” (“Down the alley, please”) and chances are, the driver instantly knows where to drop me off. It’s so convenient to shop because however much you carry, simply rent a tricycle and you’ll be dropped off exactly at the house gate, and may even have your groceries carried for you up to your front door!
Since my parents are also full-blooded San Pableños, almost all our kamag-anaks (relatives) from both sides are residing there. So I just have to walk towards the market and sure enough, I’ll bump into at least one of them.
There are many things that I miss about living in San Pablo (SP). Here are some of them:
A really beautiful shot of Sampaloc Lake! Photo by Von Lord Malabanan at LagunaPinas.com
1. Sampaloc Lake – known as the City of Seven Lakes, San Pablo is truly a wonderful place to visit, especially if you can tour the seven lakes and sample freshly caught tilapia to be grilled at the hut in the middle of the lake!
Sampaloc Lake is the biggest and closest lake to the town proper (it is in fact near the City Hall). It’s a favorite dating place for couples, a fitness venue for the health-conscious (jog around the lake, join the aerobics sessions at the Leonila Park), a pre-labor room for expectant moms (The Staircase is a favorite spot), a haven for photographers, artists, and writers, a treat for people who love to eat ihaw-ihaw (grilled foods), and a whole lot more. The paved road around the lake is now a favorite route for joggers and bikers. There, you can also rent bikes (with or without sidecars) for P40-60/ikot (forty to sixty pesos per round trip) around the lake. The road is dotted with restos and stores.
Other than the coconut tree and the lanzones fruit that have made Laguna famous, the tilapia has become as iconic. At this part of Sampaloc Lake, we find this little monument as a tribute to the tilapia. No matter that it is said to be what they call St. Peter’s Fish in the Bible. St. Paul is getting dibs on this one Image from JourneyingJames.com.
When we were younger, our Yaya (Nanny) Marie would bring us to the playground (the spot where the Judicial Bldg. now stands) and we would play endlessly while she would meet with her boyfriend at the side of the skating rink.
[Ed. - My parents, especially my father, used to bring us to the playground so that my sister and I could play. The playground wasn't much but it was enough for us little ones. Maybe I'll write about it one of these days...Ahhh, the memories...]
2. Folcon Bakeshop – ayyyyy I miss their ensaimada paired with their classic brewed coffee!!! Promise pag-uwi ko, magkakape ako ulit dito! (I swear to have coffee there again when I go home!) Our place is in the middle of two Folcon stores that is why, left side or right side, I never miss seeing it. There have been a few other coffee shops coming out—there’s Café d’ Aviano, the one at Balagtas Blvd., Colette’s [Ed. - It's called Caffe Curio, the business Colette the Person, actually started. Colette's was established by her parents], etc.
The ensaimada that we inherited from the Spanish conquerors
Nothing beats good old kapeng barako brewed right at home. I used to buy kapeng barako at the public market where it would be immediately grounded. Last time I bought some, one takal* cost P40. I so love coffee that we gave samples of kapeng barako as tokens at our wedding. Ay, ambango sa reception nung inilabas na ‘yung little mugs containing coffee beans (Wow, the aroma filled the reception area once they brought in the little mugs containing coffee beans)…I can still smell them in my head….
3. January 15 Fiesta is the feast in honor of Saint Paul the First Hermit – we very much look forward to this occasion, ang daming lafang! (too many foods to devour!) Especially since the local government started the annual Coco Festival sometime in the early 90s.
A week before the feast day, every night, there are cultural presentations on the temporary stage beside the Cathedral, these are sponsored by the different schools. I remember before, whatever we presented for the PGM (my high school’s foundation day), we just modified for the fiesta’s cultural night. I think I performed twice as part of the high school dance group. We once performed an interpretative dance for the song ‘Magsimula Ka.’
This was just one group that performed at the last Coco Festival, the colorful annual mardi gras that San Pablo holds on the week of the city fiesta (January 15). Schools usually participate in this grand street dance. Photo courtesy of Mr. Ronald Obnial of the TSPKK Facebook group. Of course, image copyrights are his
Back to the Coco Fest. Well, much has been blogged about this wonderful event. The very first year that this was held, I was part of the local news team that made the coverage of the different activities and broadcast over Telmarc’s Ch. 11. One of the highlights that time was the initial holding of the search for ‘Mutya ng San Pablo’ (‘Muse of San Pablo’) where my friend Khruzette Sta. Clara emerged as winner, Sol Aragones was a runner-up (they were my batchmates from grade school). [Ed. - Segue non-SP trivia: (Former TV News Reporter/Host and current Congresswoman) Sol also joined the 'Mutya ng UPLB' pageant during her college days.]
That time, Mayor Vic Amante was in position and would sponsor wonderful fireworks displays every bisperas*. Meanwhile, on D-day itself, our family would sponsor the lunch or merienda (snacks) of the marching band (that we called musiko) who would render a special performance at our place….We starved them first by requesting tunes before we fed them :D [Ed. - In the evenings now, the main street, Rizal Avenue, is closed for most vehicles to make way for a street party. Stages are put up at almost every corner where mini-concerts are held while people order mostly street foods, particularly barbecue, and drink beer. There is a main stage where big things happen, too.]
This is the night market along the street where the public market is located. It is open from 4pm till the evening when the public market is closing/closed. It actually mainly sells foods although during the Christmas season, they make way for booths that also sell other non-edible products. More booths/stalls that sell products are allowed to be put up along the adjoining streets, the wares ranging from clothes, house wares and tools, and toys. The night market has only been a regular, daily thing for more or less a year. Photo courtesy of Francis Murillo Emralino of Back Trails
Before the Coco Festival (or Mardi Gras, as some call it), the tiangge (flea market) lining up the plaza, from Rizal Avenue down to M. Paulino Street, were the stars of the fiesta. It was a tradition among us cousins to wear our Christmas dresses (really dressed-to-kill), then after the festive lunch, we would meet up with other cousins or barkadas (peers) and then troop to the cedera (also means flea market).
I remember bringing home the mini-clay palayok (pot/pottery) set that came with a fruit platter with clay fruits, or the toy cooking set made of tin cans. I was probably in high school already when I finally grew out of playing with this! The cedera started soon after the New Year dusts had been swept off the streets, lasting until a week after the feast day. [Ed. - It now often lasts much longer than that.]
Another attraction was the perya, which was then a roving carnival located at the San Pablo Central School (my grade school) ground. It was a looong walk from the plaza to the perya that it was like a procession of people going there after going shopping (or window shopping) at the cedera. You could bet people stayed as late as possible! I remember the rides were the carousel, horror train, caterpillar, Ferris wheel, and then there were other attractions such as a mermaid, a half-horse man (I didn’t enter this tent as it was probably just a guy who looked like a horse), a woman sitting on a platform then we’d have to try hitting the button so she’d fall into the aquarium (what do you call that again?) [Ed. - Dunk tanks], the color game, shoot-the-rings, etc.
This was also where you splurged on cotton candy, sorbetes (ice cream), fishballs, hotcake with lots of yellow food color, snowball, popcorn, and sago’t gulaman (refreshing sweet drink with tapioca pearls or sago and jelly or gulaman). The carnival and cedera returned in a smaller scale around All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day (Halloween season). They could be found at the corner of M. Paulino and M. Leonor down to the street facing the public cemetery.
The other famous “SM,” the also-iconic San Pablo ‘fixture,’ the Mango Tree. SM stands for “Sa Mangga” or “At the Mango Tree.” image courtesy of Laguna Travel Guide
4. S.M. — We’re not referring to Mr. Henry Sy’s “ShoeMart.” Long before “SM” spread all over the Philippines, we already had ours—“Sa Mangga” (At the Mango Tree). Our plaza has an old mango tree, pinalibutan ng semento, nilagyan ng waiting shed, presto, isang instant landmark na (we cemented the area around it, put up a shed, and presto, we’ve got an instant landmark). This is the most familiar loading and unloading area. I miss this because whenever I pass by SM, I know I’m close to home.
One more thing, it’s so nice to buy balut (boiled fertilized duck egg, considered as a Filipino exotic food), kwek-kwek (deep-fried quail eggs coated with orange batter) and puto bumbong (steamed violet-colored Filipino rice cake) here especially when Christmas is near. San Pablo is now ready to welcome the latest addition to the actual SM (ShoeMart) chain of retail stores. It will be located at the foreground of Riverina Subd. in Brgy. San Roque. [Ed.- The said mall has been in San Pablo for a few years already, at Brgy. San Rafael]
5. Prosperity Food House’s pancit bihon (a type of noodle) – hayyy naku winner ito! ‘Yung main ingredient ng pancit nila ay in-adobo muna….ay heaven talaga! (This is a winner! Their pancit’s main ingredients are first fried with soy sauce…heaven!) I can hardly find a seat when I’m there because it is usually full of customers. What’s cool is that you can phone in your order first, then the staff from Prosperity will call back when your order’s ready so you or someone else can go and pick up the order. I don’t know if they’ve branched out some more already, but they have two branches: one at Bonifacio Street and one at Regidor Street.
6. Colette’s Buko Pie – Need I say more? What’s nice about this is that when you’re on the bus going to Manila, you can ask the driver to stop at Colette’s so that you can buy treats for family or friends and your fellow passengers won’t mind (or at least I haven’t heard anyone complain about it yet?). [Ed.- I personally do mind, actually, because some people take their sweet time buying. It's not a vacation trip where it is acceptable and other passengers do need to get to work on time. I won't mind as long as it gets done real quick. Anyway, the good news is there is now a bus stop where people can buy treats (hopefully real quick, too) and vendors go up to sell them as well. The bad news for loyal patrons is they're not Colette's]
Colette’s Buko Pie has spread around the country through franchise ventures, but the original store is right in San Pablo, along the highway. From just the pie made of buko (young coconut), they now offer variations of it and various pies, rice cakes, pastries and other treats. Buko pie actually originated from Los Baños and was brought to San Pablo by Colette’s family
Here’s a footage from a morning TV show featuring the giant buko pie that was created for the last Coco festival (for some reason, I can’t embed the actual vid, so for now,…) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0GTzg7x3Ks
(TO BE CONTINUED…)
*takal - measuring style using a cup, mug, bottle, or whatever the vendor wants to use as his/her standard measuring unit
*bisperas - “eve of…”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ayie, as many fondly call her, can be found at Google+. Here is her account: AILEEN ALCOS GARCIA
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Oh, and all copyrights, except those of the images (which are all either linked to their respective sources or credited to owners) go to Ayie.