my backyard has seen quite a number of reincarnations through the years, "projects" by each wave of tenants that have lived here. you'd certainly expect this much considering that it's almost 500 years old. from an undeveloped marshland flanking the river, given to my forbears by those snooty, paranoid, aristocrat-loving neighbors of ours living in that walled house with the canons, my backyard now boasts one of the most expensive parcels of real estate in the country. hard work, determination, and lots of luck had seen my fathers and their father's fathers turn this place into one very prosperous lot. indeed, as you walk down the main path that courses through my backyard, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by all the knick-knacks accumulated by my family. down the path and through the side alleys that bisect and transect this piece of land, and you surely will be lost, pleasantly of course, in aisles and aisles full of objects of desire ranging from gadgets to charms to clothes to food to jewelry, and practically everything else that comes in between, this place housing still the different trades my family has gotten itself into through the years. speaking of housing, my folks have managed to hoard in a few architectural pieces as well. buildings constructed and decorated in different styles: classical; baroque; neo-classic; art nouveau; art deco; post modern; oriental; they are juxtaposed with each other, making a stroll through them almost feel like going through time with each step. it definitely brings a whole new meaning to " a trip down memory lane", for it is quite a trip, for me that is.
my backyard is only a good 15 minute walk from my room, yet despite its proximity, coming here almost feels like a journey. indeed, passing under the decorated arches and i find myself amidst hundred-year old churches and poised dragons and lanterns and houses with extended eaves; where horse-drawn carriages still course the streets; where signs are written in a language thousand of years old; where the people look different, sound different, act different; where the food not only fills the stomach but also nourishes the soul; where the doctors act like shamans and their medicine look like potions; where modernity constantly finds itself in a head-on collision with a culture resistant to change; and you too would agree, entering into my backyard feels like being transported through time and space. it is probably this very reason why i often come here, why even after so many years, this place still offers me great wonder. it reverberates with an energy unlike any other place i have been. i come here to loose myself, through the alleys and corridors, through the merchandise my family hawks, just like how they have always done. i come here to throw myself to the mercy of my imagination and what the sights and sounds and scents this place elicits, the stories and the memories they conjure up. i come here to connect, to be reminded again of my heritage, my history, my family, my identity.
my backyard is a humble lot. you cannot even consider it spectacular or beautiful in normal definitions. it is old, worn-down, cluttered and congested. but i hope despite this, you can see past these things and view it with changed eyes, my eyes at the least, and probably behold the treasure that it truly, truly is.
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reflections over the food walking tour of binondo and quiapo with the fabcasters last february 28, 2009, comprising of: migs; joel; tony; aj; eugene; joseph; jaybee; john stan; ian and myself. the day saw us have lunch by the estero, traversing ongpin, visiting the binondo, sta. cruz and quiapo churches, walking along escolta, walking along carriedo, visiting excellente ham in quiapo; sampling fried siopao and having late merienda over dumplings and soya milk.