Thursday, April 10, 2014

Long Ago and Far Away -- Revisiting Malabon

On my way to Malabon last week, somewhere between Monumento and Sangandaan, I found myself discomfited and dismayed.
By the time I was passing through what I knew to be Letre, where hectares and hectares of fish ponds once existed -- I was utterly depressed.  
What happened the the Malabon that I knew -- where I was born, grew up and lived in for over 20 years?  
It had transformed itself into the poster child for urban blight.  
It made me unbearably sad as Malabon used to be such a clean and picturesquely pretty town.  With its old Spanish era houses, sprawling fish ponds lined with mangroves and rather elegant and genteel ways -- it seemed to belong to another time.
Even during Spanish times,  Malabon was quite a prominent place -- it merited a mention in Rizal's Noli Me Tangere -- it was the birthplace of Capitan Tiago, the "father" of Maria Clara.

I was in Malabon to visit friends from high school.  I had invited myself for dinner since we had not seen each other for so many years.  My friend's house is almost at the end of Hulong Duhat, one of Malabon's many barangays.  After we passed through the gate and walked behind his house -- this is the scene that greeted me.  
This was the Malabon that I knew --  preserved, guarded and kept hidden like a precious jewel.

My friend had built a small terrace right at the side of his fishpond -- tables and chairs were set up so that guests could relax, eat, talk -- and yes even try to catch a bangus or two.

I arrived just before sunset -- a perfect time to enjoy the mild breeze on this hot summer day.  I took the opportunity to walk around the entire pond -- balancing carefully on the pilapil to make sure I wouldn't fall in.  I'm sure the bangus would not have liked that.

This is a nipa tree or sasa which grows along the sides of the fishpond.  See the fruit?  The sap from that is made into vinegar, specifically sukang Paombong.

There are various types of trees all around the perimeter -- they form mangrove pockets that are very useful in reducing erosion.

After that walk -- it was time for old style typical Malabon hospitality.  
This is my friend Chiki in the foreground and his mother who along with another high school classmate of mine had a feast ready for us!  
Freshly caught bangus, grilled to perfection, my favourite pancit Malabon and sapin sapin from Dolor's -- plus a side of great conversation and a lot of nostalgia.  I couldn't have asked for more.

Except for one thing -- bottles of our favourite beer.
Cheers to Chiki and Boyet -- friends I have known and loved for more than forty years.
Cheers to Malabon -- I was so happy to find her, unchanged and untouched in this hidden corner of the past.

I took this lovely memory with me on my way back home -- shutting my eyes tight against what Malabon is today.  In my mind and in my heart, this is what it will look like always.
Thank you Chiki for keeping this lovely place alive.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post Tita Nonna! We have an old painting of the fishponds, but it's always been hard for me to picture Malabon in that way because I've only seen the urban blight version. Seeing these photos (especially the first one) gives me a real life image of what my mom has been describing to me all these years.