Monday, February 21, 2005

An eyeful of bygone sights

THIS sight is gone. From Rizal Avenue to a vanishing point somewhere in Tondo in the 1960s, the middle portion of parallel railroad tracks teemed with sampaguita bushes. Pearl-like buds culled off those bushes were strung into fragrant leis and peddled for a pittance by urchins and elders in the streets of Manila’s Sta. Cruz district and beyond.

Off a section of an extant Highway 54—renamed since as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue – was a sight that must have been torn off a Claude Monet canvass: a stretch of urban waterway alongside the San Andres rail tracks trenchant with saba bananas, water lilies and lotuses in a serene blast of foliage and petals. That sight is gone.

Gone too: Gardens and plant shops a-bloom with rainbow colors anytime of year once hogged both sides of the railroad tracks from Makati to the once-pastoral parts of Muntinlupa, on to the more bucolic precincts of San Pedro, Laguna.

Those were sights that somehow effused beauty—gone all of them. Claptrap structures and grime-decked hovels passed off as homes along da riles stand there now.

Beauty went. Maybe Beast remained.

The patches of real estate that held feeble efforts at making dust underfoot grin with foliage, flowers, and fruits—why, those tracts are still there. It’s the grin that turned into a groan.

Probably, such grins-turned-groans are a riposte to the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting -- a wayside sacrament. “

Most probably, a grin gushes from a heart oozing with joy, or from a head filled with happy thoughts that allow a Peter Pan to soar. Most folks in such a bygone era must have been brimming with happiness. Life must have been easier then. So they must have grinned a lot. They infected whatever lot-- be it urban patch or rural spread-- they settled on with winsome grins.

Whatever it was, the contagion spread. Vacant lots filled out with belly-filling beds of kamote,saba, gabi, sili, and saluyot. Roadsides bloomed with kakawate, katuray, and malunggay. Carabao wallows and stray pools where ducks mused were sprung forth with hyacinths and kangkong. Empty spaces smack between railroad tracks were tended with sampaguita. The earth laughed its joyous laughter. It held a surging tide of smiles.

Common folks brought such ubiquity to life—not an ordinance that imposed fines to those who litter their immediate environs with throwaways and discards, not a well-funded scheme at a cost to the taxpayer.

This was life that delighted in its being alive. Life springs from life.

Only the heart sees the sight that has been effaced from the naked eye…

This sight is gone. From Rizal Avenue to a vanishing point somewhere in Tondo in the 1960s, the middle portion of parallel railroad tracks teemed with sampaguita bushes. Pearl-like buds culled off those bushes were strung into fragrant leis and peddled for a pittance by urchins and elders in the streets of Manila’s Sta. Cruz district and beyond.

Off a section of an extant Highway 54—renamed since as Epifanio de los Santos Avenue – was a sight that must have been torn off a Claude Monet canvass: a stretch of urban waterway alongside the San Andres rail tracks trenchant with saba bananas, water lilies and lotuses in a serene blast of foliage and petals. That sight is gone.

Gone too: Gardens and plant shops a-bloom with rainbow colors anytime of year once hogged both sides of the railroad tracks from Makati to the once-pastoral parts of Muntinlupa, on to the more bucolic precincts of San Pedro, Laguna.

1 comment:

Elmo said...

Gone, too, are the huge acacia trees that lined Taft Avenue.

Gone, too, is a beautiful garden along Corta Bitarte St.