CITY OF SAN JUAN, METRO MANILA’S LOVELY PLACE

imagesSan Juan City, having more than 200,000 populations, land area of 5.94km, and having 21 barangays, is considered as currently smallest in Metropolitan Manila in terms of area, it is one of the smallest among cities and municipalities, second only to Pateros. This city was the site of the first battle of the Katipunan, the Filipino revolutionary organization, against the Spanish colonizers.

June 16, 2007, congressman Ronaldo B. Zamora sponsored the City hood Bill at the House of Representatives, geared up with a special computation of its population and boasting of the remarkable 200% increase in its income, worked for the approval of the city to be urbanize,  citizen voters of San Juan wanted the conversion of the municipality into a highly urbanized city, pursuant to Republic Act No. 9388 (“An Act Converting the Municipality of San Juan into a Highly Urbanized City to be known as the City of San Juan”).

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from left: Sen. JV Ejercito, Mayor Guia Gomez and Rolando Zamora

Born in Bacolod City to Silaynon, Guia Gomez lived together with her parents Doctor Dominador Gomez and Paz Guanzon of Iloilo City. She was the valedictorian during her elementary years at the University of Negros Oriental- Recoletos (formerly Oriental Negros Institute) and completed her high school studies at the Philippine Women’s College in Davao City. She graduated from the Philippine Women’s University with a degree in Business Administration and a major in Accounting.

Guia starred in several films while she was in college like Cuatro Cantos (1960), Rancho Grande (1960) and Isang Paa sa Hukay (1958), It was in the film Asiong Salonga, however, that she found romance, eventually falling for her leading man, former President Joseph Estrada. She halted a promising film career in order to finish her college degree and pursue a career in business.

In 2009, Guia Gomez declared her intention to replace her son, JV Ejercito as mayor of San Juan City. In line with this, she formed her own political party, called Partido Magdiwang. She serves as president of the party while her son serves as the chairperson. It is a “San Juan-wide local political party with offices and chapters in majority of its barangays local wide.

During her tenure as Mayor, San Juan City was recognized by the Department of Interior and Local Government as the Top Highly Urbanized City in the country in terms of governance for 2011. It was the second ranked in the country in 2010. Mayor Gomez mentions that this is due to her 7K program – Kalinisan (Cleanliness), Katahimikan (Peace), Kaunlaran (Progress), Kalusugan (Health), Kalikasan (Environment), and Kalinga sa Pamilya (Family Welfare). The latter two Ks were added by her, building on the 5Ks initially started by her son.

On October 1, 2012, Ejercito filed his certificate of candidacy for the 2013 Philippine senate elections, in which he won as the eleventh out of twelve of the senators elected.

Congressman Ronaldo Zamora finished his elementary and secondary education at the La Salle University, Manila in 1957, 1961 respectively. He took up his AB Political Science, graduated magna cum laude at the University of the Philippines 1965, and his Bachelor of Laws also at the University of the Philippines in 1969,graduated magna cum laude.

Ronaldo Zamora has been an Executive Secretary, office of the President, Malacañang (1998-2001), Member of the Board of Regents, University of the Philippines (1998-2001, 1978-1984), Representative of San Juan, House of the Representatives (1995-1998), Representative of San Juan and Mandaluyong,House of the Representatives (1987-1995), Assemblyman,National Capital Region, BAtasang Pambansa (1978-1984), Minister of State, Department of Public Works and Highways (1978-1984), Presidential assistant for legal affairs, Office of the President, Malacañng (1972-1975), and Assistant executive secretary for legal affairs, office of the President, Malacañang (1972-1975).

ent8b600Mayor Gomez’s plan is to acquire for the city the remaining heritage homes that are either rotting away or are in danger of being turned into commercial buildings. We are familiar with many of them — the home of literary figure Paz Marquez Benitez (her mother’s elder), now smaller than before, still home to two granddaughters; a house on No. 24 Artiaga, of which no one seems to know the owner; the crumbling vintage home on P. Paterno whose caretaker appeared allergic to our taking photos.  Of course, everyone knows of the handsome vintage Café Ysabel turned by famous chef and teacher Gene Gonzalez into San Juan’s most popular eatery.

One of her most important programs, together with architect Jun Palafox is the transformation of San Juan City into a vertical green city, with “elevated sidewalks, monorail, high-rises and greenery”. This is in response to the danger of floods in the city.

In 1950’s, my father, Ramon Cuervo Jr. formed Perpetual Investments, Inc., a real estate brokerage and development company, with fellow realtor Gabriel Ambrosio.

Blessing and inauguration of Little Baguio, San Juan attended by Don Francisco Ortigas Jr., Federico Calero, Tony Calero, Ramon F. Cuervo Jr., and other personalities from Ortigas & Co. and F.Calero Realty

Blessing and inauguration of Little Baguio, San Juan attended by Don Francisco Ortigas Jr., Federico Calero, Tony Calero, Ramon F. Cuervo Jr., and other personalities from Ortigas & Co. and F.Calero Realty

Sometime in 1947, the Ortigas developed what was called Sta. Lucia Estates. Tony Calero (my uncle) – son of Pipo was the one who “baptized” Sta. Lucia to what is popularly known as Little Baguio.

Our first home was built by my father sometime in 1950 situated at 604 General de Jesus Street. This house is now owned by Mr. Lim and still resides there.

In 1967, he established RF Cuervo, Inc. (RFCI) and was involved in subdivision development, sales, leasing and brokerage, corporate services, property appraisals, real estate consulting and building management. His first office was located in the Natividad Building along Tomas Pinpin Street, Manila. Pappy was a true pioneer in Philippine real estate, being the first to introduce the concept of condominium and time sharing ownership.

collage2In 1980, Ramon C.F. Cuervo III, conceptualized Cuervo Appraisers inc. and the co-founders were my father, Ramon F. Cuervo Jr. and Oliver A. Morales. With the rapid growth of the Philippine economy in the 1980s, Cuervo established Cuervo Far East, Inc. (CFEI) to expand its real estate activities in the foreign market by its initial association with Richard Ellis. CFEI took the business away from RFCI which was shrunk down into a holding company of the Cuervo family.

Great grandmother Blanca Calero (seated) with my Tia Buela in rural San Juan now known as Little Baguio

Great grandmother Blanca Calero (seated) with my Tia Buela in rural San Juan now known as Little Baguio

 

I spent my childhood days at San Juan. They were the best of times for a boy in a hurry to grow up – wondrous times that seem to have vanished as swiftly as a falcon diving headlong down through the sky.

When did I come of age? When did I become man enough? How did I learn to live life?

The vast hinterland of Little Baguio was my oyster, but it is now a world away from where I sit, sipping coffee from a shiny white mug at some café in a shoppers’ paradise that half a century ago used to be my hunting grounds.

I shake my head and smile to myself as I think of the curly-haired, fair-skinned child, no more than five years old, roaming the undulating hills and twisting drives of San Juan, armed with a slingshot and a grown-up, unbridled passion to face the unknown.

left: My Parents Build their first home at 604, Gen. De Jesus st. Little Baguio  right: My parents, me and my siblings

left: My Parents Build their first home at 604, Gen. De Jesus st. Little Baguio
right: My parents, me and my siblings

There was so much space laid out before me to conquer! Creeks to cross, slippery stones to step on, tall cogon grass to hide under, dirt roads to hike, streams to swim on, big rocks and flat tops to gape at, mango trees to climb, birds to hunt, fish to catch, little boys to fight with and befriend, endless stretches of land and sky beckoning to my young curiosity-driven, adventure-seeking mind…

 Field Trip of Ortigas & Co, with F. Calero Realty, the Exclusive Agents then of Santa Lusia Estates, now Little Baguio

Field Trip of Ortigas & Co, with F. Calero Realty, the Exclusive Agents then of Santa Lusia Estates, now Little Baguio

It was the interesting 50′s, the age of television and the automobile. The Korean and Vietnam Wars straddled the decade, at a time when most nations were still recovering from the Second World War. Sputnik 1 orbited the earth, the United States tested its first atomic bomb, Elizabeth II was crowned queen of England, and a long period of global economic prosperity was in the offing. Elsewhere, people were mad about Elvis and rock ‘n’ roll, and it was hip to be a rebel without a cause.
The family’s old residence at 604 General De Jesus Street didn’t have a TV set at the time, but my Dad had a second-hand green and white Buick station wagon. I thought that Daddy’s car was amazing, and the missile-like ornaments on its large bumper were out of this world. Oh, yes, the magic of the big box with an oval screen appealed to my sense of wonder and I would watch ‘Our Gang’, ’Leave it to Beaver’ and ‘The Little Rascals’ at the neighbor’s house without fail.

left: Our 'war games' were real and bloody. right:     Cuervo-Calero children dressed in pirate costumes           The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remaining over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.

left: Our ‘war games’ were real and bloody.
right: Cuervo-Calero children dressed in pirate costumes
The things which the child loves remain in the domain of the heart until old age. The most beautiful thing in life is that our souls remaining over the places where we once enjoyed ourselves.

My father would often remark about how Queen Elizabeth looked like his sister Conchita. One of my uncles thought highly of the Soviets, but was greatly outnumbered by his ‘pro-American’ relatives. They would argue over dinner on the issues and events of the time, and listening in on their conversations allowed me to go through an edifying foretaste of the world of adults, which would significantly influence my outlook in life when I became an adult myself.

The Philippines then was also undergoing a rapid period of change and reconstruction from the ravages of war. Tall edifices were being built where once there were only enormous swamplands, drastically transforming Manila’s smog-free skyline. Escolta and Juan Luna streets were the main shopping districts, and today’s sprawling mega cities were still mostly pastoral pampas.

The movie industry was experiencing its so-called first Golden Age, with Leopoldo Salcedo as the acknowledged King of Philippine Movies. Luis Taruc of the Hukbalahap rebellion surrendered to the government, effectively causing the communist movement’s defeat. Filipino doctors and nurses started migrating to the United States on professional visas, and ‘Filipino First’ was the popular catch phrase.

left: My military training at AQUINAS School, San Juan del Monte  right: My High School Graduation, as an officer from AQUINAS High School with Dominican Priest , Rev. Father Mancebo. The first Director of Aquinas

left: My military training at AQUINAS School, San Juan del Monte
right: My High School Graduation, as an officer from AQUINAS High School with Dominican Priest , Rev. Father Mancebo. The first Director of Aquinas

President Ramon Magsaysay perished in a plane crash, throwing the country into immeasurable shock and grief. An estimated two million Filipinos attended the burial of the man largely known as Champion of the Masses, who became even more beloved by his people because of the circumstances surrounding his passing.

It was also the period when fried chicken houses started to proliferate and the ‘soda fountain’ was the place to congregate in the metropolis. Brightly lit gasoline stations, with well-kept green lawns and pocket gardens, mushroomed in street corners and crossings everywhere. So did motels, with their arcane architecture and entertaining names, as well as neighborhood banks and drug store chains.

They were the landmarks and milestones that ushered in the ultra-urbanization, for better or worse, of my childhood playing fields. Most of them are gone now, in the name of development; and some remain, with a decidedly different face.

Source:

http://www.sanjuancity.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&Itemid=181

http://www.wikipedia.com

http://www.flickr.com

http://www.philstar.com

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