Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Getting misty-eyed over Xmas lights on Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila


By Nancy T. Lu

Memories of Christmas lights brightening up almost the entire Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, four years ago make me misty-eyed. My first visit there happened during my last Christmas holiday with my father.

Arriving at Policarpio Street in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, just a few days before Christmas brought out the hidden child in me. My father, too, was overwhelmed to see an entire neighborhood in Barangay Zuniga glow with the heartwarming joy of the Christmas season.

December in the previous seven or eight years at least, I was told, had meant skyrocketing electricity bills for the community. Some belt-tightening homeowners were forced a few years ago to drop the whole idea of keeping the tradition.

I was back in Manila for the first time in December after so many years of living and working in Taipei. I had heard so much about Policarpio Street as a tourist attraction.

Fortunately that year when I first visited Policarpio Street, Anthony Suva, the barangay captain, wanted to set a good example in showing the spirit of Christmas. So he went ahead and transformed his two-story residence into the most attractive House of Santa Claus.

Right across the Suva home was a huge mansion shining with a hundred thousand lights as in the past years. Even the gate, the walls and the tall water tank tower of this residential compound were covered with tiny lights. The sparkling ornamentation was indeed a joy to behold in the night.

Some residents opted to put up animated decorations that December. The story of the first Christmas all the way to the visit of the Three Kings was told with music playing in one moving display. Santa Claus riding away on a sled pulled by reindeers was the theme of the showcase on the fa├žade of another house.

Vendors sold hot “bibingka” (rice cakes) and “puto bumbong” (glutinous rice steamed in bamboo tube), delicacies usually associated with the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, to the delight of the “balikbayan” (homecoming) crowd.

Word about the Yuletide celebration on Policarpio Street near Boni Avenue had gone around fast. The lighting ceremony in late November officially announced the arrival of the Christmas holidays. Visitors who turned up every night contributed to the festive atmosphere in the whole community. Volunteers assisted motorists in looking for parking space. .

Christmas lights and animated displays in Metro Manila such as the showcase on Philippine history at UNI-Mart in Greenhills that year reminded me so much of my happy childhood. My father always found time at the end of the day to drive the family around during the Christmas season.

We made the rounds of a few places like Caltex on Padre Faura, Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Otis, Pepsi-Cola and Magnolia plants (completely giving way to condominium high-rises today) on Aurora Boulevard, C.O.D. Department Store in Cubao and Ysmael Steel on Espana Extension. We did this several times every year then. We even voted on the best or favorite display each year.

My father and my mother sent us, the children, to bed and dreamland only after putting us through an exciting drive around the city in those days when road traffic in Manila had yet to deteriorate into a big nightmare at Christmastime.

The mass-circulation newspaper Philippine Star carried on the front page a few days ago this year a big photograph showing that the lights are back on the big mansion on Policarpio Street. That the Christmas spirit is alive in that neighborhood is wonderful news.

Was it Fate that brought me back to Manila for the first time in December after so many years of living and working in Taipei? Looking back, I feel more than glad that I made that trip to Manila in 2006.

I saw my beloved father again during my Lunar New Year break not long after. But the angels took him away forever the following June. So now thoughts of Christmas lights on Policarpio Street leave me misty-eyed.

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