Saturday, December 22, 2007

my chinatown

been assisting my dad these past couple of days at the shop since he was short of people. it's a couple of days away from christmas and people are on a frenzy to finish last minute groceries especially since the markets would be closed next week. though i am not the most eager to wake up at 4am to get ready for work, i thought that it would be nice to bond with daddy dearest in his element, especially to discuss the design changes i am thinking to implement when we renovate (what do you think of pink tiled walls with chocolate brown accents!?). it was also good field study on my part since i got to familiarize myself with the system my dad uses, as well as how the employees and the customers use the space. very important things to consider, end users, you know. God forbid the carousel i plan to install in the middle of the shop impede the flow of traffic!, hehehe, joke.

now, since we start rather early and i sleep rather late, it would only be quite natural that i get dozy during the day. in the events wherein my eyelids do start to shut, i excuse myself to go wander around the neighborhood for a couple of minutes. the short stroll coupled with the fascinating sight of seeing the area deserted never fails to get me awake (it's 4 freaking am!). now, before you guys start to think of me to have perverted tendencies, allow me to elaborate. actually, i love taking these brief strolls, especially in this part of town. my dad's shop is located in one of the older parts of chinatown. if i remember my facts correctly, this part of manila used to be where the "barbarians" used to dwell. the spanish seat of government as well as the members of high society used to reside in the walled city of intramuros, along the banks of the river Pasig. across the river was extramuros, where everyone else who weren't in intramuros were (duh!). a bulk of the residents were apparently chinese who dealt in commerce along the river(selling DVD's, no doubt). i guess we liked it there so much that we set up camp permanently and called the place chinatown.

it titillates me sometimes when i take my strolls how profound it is to be in a chinatown, on a spanish named street, surrounded by american art deco buildings painted in the gaudiest colors of the rainbow. the chinese, being notoriously frugal, would rather renovate or repaint than tear down a dilapidated building, thus making chinatown a rather odd looking (and colorful) architectural museum. owing to chinese cost cutting, only in chinatown can you find the only standing art nouveau building in the country. the first HSBC and CITIBANK buildings are still up and have now been considered heritage buildings by the national government. most of the buildings still being used are done in art deco from the 20's and 30's when the style became vogue. there is even a chinese restaurant here where Jose Rizal ate in back during the spanish era.

to walk around chinatown is to walk in a totally different world it seems. we have piped-in chinese music courtesy of an over-enthusiastic baranggay captain. we have the smell of noodle soup, freshly made permeating the air like local perfume. we don't sell bread but buns and cakes instead in the bakeries. here, dimsum in its own is a religion. local street signs are translated to chinese, as well as every other establishment. our drugstores and candy stores are basically the same since they look more like curio shops than anything else. the town is laid out like a mall with every alleyway selling only one type of merchandise. tea is the staple beverage with someone, somewhere having it and picking one's nose, the popular past time.

my stroll is more than a waker upper for the mind, but also one for the soul. though i am sure chinatown has seen better days, what i have now isn't all that bad. despite the mismatch, the chaos and the hustle and bustle that work and modern commerce has brought to this place, it's not that difficult to see the beauty that it still possesses. hmmmm, i suddenly had an urge to have some dumplings....

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