Buenos Recuerdos: Old Balanga

Fifteen years ago, I was using a brochure-type map whenever I went to some unknown locations. Today, travelers rely on Waze to give them traffic updates and route suggestions. There is also Google Earth for those who prefer to see how the location is. Take note that Google Earth is updated every five years; the landmarks could be outdated.

Google Earth lets me revisit the past places where I lived or visited. I’m pretty sure that I am not the only person who does this. As I grow older, I have a strong feeling to reconnect to my roots. Whenever I think of my hometown, my recollections were about its past images and landmarks.

Jose Rizal Street

The Balanga that I remember had a creek on that spot. Mang Tinoy’s Lechon stood on a wooden platform above the creek. The lechon stall was later transferred in front of Denbel’s. Lysa’s Snack House was popular for the beer-drinking male customers for their boys’ night out. Live bands performed on its rival pub house “Pista sa Barrio.” To keep up with the competition, Lysa’s had the jukebox for their customers’ music. Farmacia Angelita, one of the oldest pharmacies in Balanga, used to occupy a one-storey building before. I can’t remember what was there before on the Mini-Stop spot. Bank of the Philippine Islands used to be a local restaurant that served the best-tasting banana split and chicken mami. If my memory serves me right, it was called “Magnolia Ice Cream House.” I am not sure if there used to be a bowling alley along this side of the road. What I am sure of is on the opposite side of the road, there used to be a bowling alley on the spot where Vercon’s is erected now. My friend’s parents had a small eatery beside the bowling alley.

We used to see the church’s tower from our house before.
I think that Galleria Victoria is better without the bridge-like connection to the The Plaza hotel.

Galleria Victoria was completed in 2011 but before that, there was no building to block the horizon of the Talisay, San Jose, and Poblacion areas. We used to live nearby and if we wanted to check on the downtown traffic, it was easier because of the open space at the intersection. The Balanga Arcade used to occupy the Gallery Victoria spot. If you are facing the arcade, you could see Michell’s Bakeshop on the left side, Johnpel’s Drughouse in the middle, and a dental clinic on the right side. Michell’s Bakeshop is a Balanga brand and it dominated the Bataan market before Red Ribbon and Goldilocks put up their stores in there.

Forget about the stalls in the picture. I got it from Google Earth. That area is much better now.

The building with a clock on it is the Plaza Hotel Balanga. As far as I know, it was originally a one-storey building that Bataan Community College used to occupy. The school was transferred to Diversion Drive in the mid-80s beside Michrom’s. In 1991, Balanga welcomed its first Jollibee branch on the Bataan Community College spot. Before we had our first Jollibee, Cindy’s (The Place To Be) used to be the only big fast-food restaurant available. I loved eating at the first Jollibee branch because you could see the panoramic view of the landscapes from there.
In the plaza, Jose Rizal’s monument used to face the municipal hall (it’s now a city hall). Today, his monument is facing the Galleria Victoria. His monument has sentimental value to me because one of the workers who helped build the plaza was my great-grandfather. His name was written at the back of its platform. (I hope it’s still there). The intersection arrow on the picture was a busy road in Poblacion before. The northern part of the arrow will lead you to Ibayo, the southern part to Poblacion, the western part to San Jose and Capitol Drive, and the eastern part to Talisay.

That river used to have a lot of water lilies.

This is an ongoing construction of Capitol Square Building when Google Earth captured it. It used to be a Pantranco (?) Bus Terminal in the 80s. I can’t remember exactly if it was Pantranco or Philippine Rabbit because bus stations in Balanga used to move out a lot.

J2

It’s the J2 Food House! The original one was made of native materials like sawali. J2 is famous for its delicious lutong-bahay. My high school classmates used to eat there during our lunch break. Ironically, I have never been to J2 and I’m looking forward to eating there someday.

Kumusta na kaya si Sir Triguero?
Side gate going to the grade school and 1st year HS classrooms (not sure if the HS classrooms are still there)

Tdel (Tomas del Rosario College) used to be the only private high school in Balanga. The main gate used to have little privacy when I was still a student. The walls were 30% lower and were secured by a cyclone fence to discourage trespassers. The tall building on the left was just one-storey before. There was a quadrangle in the middle of the school where we held minor school programs. The quadrangle appeared to be a garden now, I have no idea where they hold their programs now. During my time, we seldom used the main gate. We passed by the side gates where the guard could easily filter students who were not wearing their proper uniform. Male students were allowed to wear denim pants and a white shirt only on Fridays for our CAT (Citizen Army Training) activity. The school has better facilities now like better classrooms with air-conditioning. I don’t know if the golden shower trees are still around as they add character to the school.

VHS days. That was a long time ago.

We were allowed to leave the school premises during lunch break. There was a time when Rhonna and I went to the VHS rental during our recess. The place was a five-minute walk to our classroom, we told the guard that we needed to run an errand. Of course, VHS is a thing of the past now. JT Express occupies this area in the present.

Old Balanga’s simple joys.

Speaking of a public swimming pool, forget about the slides, artificial waves, variety of food and souvenir shops to choose from, and water activity sports. We did not enjoy these bonuses when we were growing up. The nearest (paid) public swimming pool available was in Dona Francisca, the Joyous Resort. What Joyous Resort could only offer was a kiddie pool and a half-Olympic size pool only. The cottage area was close to the fishponds and you would have to climb a few steps to get into the swimming pool area. I found the shower rooms isolated and prone to security issues. Joyous had private cottages, too for those who wanted an overnight stay at the resort. The structure on the photo served as a restaurant in the morning and a disco house in the evening. The last times I’ve been there was when I attended Rowena and Roland’s wedding and when I celebrated my birthday with Meliza and Shellah.

Reminiscing the old days does not necessarily mean that I resent what we have now. I am proud of what our town has become from being a sleepy town to a busy commercial place. We’re moving along with the changing times. But yes, structures do not last a lifetime. Twenty years from now, our children or grandchildren will witness a different image of Balanga. And when that happens, they would probably tell stories of how it was like in Balanga before.

Elison Hotel in Balanga City

Advantages:

  1. Located right at the heart of Balanga City. Just a few minutes away from the Genesis Bus Terminal and provincial bus and jeep terminal. Just a few meters away from the plaza, mall and place of worship (Balanga Cathedral and Iglesia ni Cristo).
  2. Privacy- each room is similar to an studio-type unit sans the kitchen.
  3. Security- guard on duty takes his job seriously. Female visitors are not allowed to go directly to the room of the person she’s visiting; she has to wait at the reception area.
  4. Swimming pool- if your purpose is just to relax, the small pool is just right for you.
  5. Attitude of Staff- the old man at the reception area gives you the feeling of security.
  6. Hot and cold shower is available.
  7. Cold aircon.
  8. Sound-proof room. This came as a relief for us because of my noisy kids!

Disadvantages:

  1. If you are budget-conscious and travelling alone, price starts at PhP 1,200. Since we are travelling as a family, we took a double de luxe at PhP 1,350 + PhP200 for the extra bed. I am okay with the price because it’s like paying PhP 370 per person.
  2. Bed sheet and blanket are too thin. Don’t expect comforters here.
  3. Don’t expect a state of the art carpeted room or a bathtub at the restroom.

 

Typhoon Memories

It’s 9:15PM, typhoon Santi looks like it’s gonna give us a hard time tomorrow when it lands on Aurora. Too bad, I won’t enjoy the long weekend that much. Yes, our HR swapped the October 15 holiday to October 14. Maybe there will be a little sunshine on Sunday. Who knows?

There are good memories that I remember during typhoons. The earliest typhoon memory is when I was only four years old. My father would get out of our house to go to Mama Dely’s (my grandmother’s sister) store to buy two large packs of Kiddie Curlz. Maybe it was his way of comforting us during the gloomy season. Our house was not comfortable to live in during the wet season. Humidity inside the house was high and everything seemed to be wet to the touch. The noisy sounds of frogs were like a group of young kids practicing a song.From where I grew up, the area was the catch basin of Balanga so everything around the house was water. A school of fish was a common sight. When I grew a little older, grade school in particular, I realized that there was nothing cool about typhoons. I hated the dampness inside the house. I hated the improvised walkway from the front door of our house to the gate. If there was something good about the typhoon, it was our little gathering at the living room for small talks because either Mama would not allow us to watch TV due to heavy lightning or there was no electricity. My brother and I would try to scare one another until his jokes would get on my nerves.

I was a high school freshman at T.Del when the heavy winds embarassed me by lifting up my green skirt to the full view of the people near the Balanga Arcade.

“So what? I am wearing shorts!” I repeatedly said to the onlookers. Two decades later, I realize that who the hell are they to deserve my explanation? Lol! Maybe I was being conservative two decades ago.

As if I was not embarassed enough, I was forced to remove my shoes and walk a few meters to our house barefooted. Some schoolmates saw me and teased me about it. Again, two decades later, I realize that who are they to react that way?

Baguio shocked me with the pestering sound of the typhoon winds. It was similar to the sound of wolves and it scared the hell out of me! Being young and naive, two of my dormmates went to sleep with me at the living room. In the middle of the night, the lady dormmate went back to our room and I was left sleeping beside the male dormmate! Our caretaker saw the two of us sharing a Uratex foam at the living room and she awakened us. Being stubborn and non-malicious, I told her that I was scared to sleep at my room. The caretaker had no choice but join us at the living room to sleep. I did not get her concern then because sleeping beside my male dormmate was nothing to me; he was like a brother.

Ah, the best typhoon memory in Baguio was when my brother and I got stranded in October 1998.We were running out of grocery and food when a good-natured neighbor gave us a big cabbage. We made that into cabbage soup and we survived one and a half days on that (with rice and fish, of course). My then boyfriend checked us and I cried the moment I saw him! Hahaha! I was so emotionally harassed and I was pining to go home only to be stranded with a little cash left.

October 2011 (?), election time, I was forced to take the SBMA-Morong route instead of the Layak route because of the floodings in Dinalupihan. It was my first time to see Morong and I appreciated the simplicity of the place.

Of course, who could ever forget Ondoy? I was supposed to give birth on the 3rd week of September but good thing I had my CS on the 2nd week. When the bridge connecting to Catmon and Patag was disconnected, transportation was paralyzed. We had to walk on a temporary bridge and take a ride from the other side of the bridge. Hassle! Just imagine the pain that I had to endure just to go to the bank because I had to withdraw manually since the ATM’s were not available then.

Typhoon Santi, please give me a good typhoon memory. Don’t be too harsh on us, please?

Balanga Floods

(Photo courtesy of FB) I don't have a Venetian dream.=p

(Photo courtesy of FB)
I don’t have a Venetian dream.=p

I received a text message from my father on Monday morning to tell me that once again, rainwater caused flooding in Balanga. Surprised, I confirmed if he meant the most recent flooding in August. I had never experienced frequent flooding in Balanga so a text message like this needed verification. A once-a-year flooding is normal there especially when the typhoon strikes but monsoon rains do not usually cause flooding there; there’s got to be some logical reasons behind the frequent floodings in Balanga, or maybe in most areas in Bataan.
Oh, floods, it was our way of life back in the 90’s! I am no stranger to small floods because our area is the catch basin of Balanga. Back then, classes were not suspended because as I mentioned, it was just a small flooding. Monsoon rains were not so destructive unlike these days.

According to the SMA (Systematic Managerial Analysis) principle, if something goes wrong in a product or process, find the drastic change that is implemented to check if it is the root cause of the problem. Government officials must sit down and brainstorm with a consultant about the possible root causes of the flood problem there. A third party who is not affiliated with any government or non-government organizations will better provide an unbiased analysis of the problem.

The people of Balanga and the rest of Bataan should not accept flooding as a way of life. The loss of life, belongings and even productivity are enough justifications for everyone to demand for improvement.

Galeria Victoria in Balanga City

May 2, 2018 Update:

BFP has yet to declare a total fire out on Galeria Victoria. This commercial establishment that is located at the heart of Balanga has been on fire since 9AM yesterday (May 1, 2018). Collective efforts from the different fire fighting units are ongoing with firemen helping from as far as SBFZ. My heart goes out to the employees of the mall.

 

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Picture Reference: http://nsjbi.net/commercial_space.html

I always look forward to visiting Balanga City to check for new or improved establishments. When the old arcade was demolished to give way to Galeria Victoria, I was skeptical about the idea of erecting a new building. First, the old arcade had a lot of sentimental value to me. Second, the old arcade was still functional and erecting a new building seemed capricious to me. Third, how would the architecture of the new building look like? Modern? Gothic? Traditional? Old-fashioned?

Galeria Victoria has this old-fashioned look; you thought you were walking down the streets of old Manila. I cannot comment on what’s inside the mall because I had limited time in Balanga last week. So this post is about my impression on the architecture from the outside of Galeria Victoria.

Whoever is the urban planner of Balanga City must be commended for this nice piece of art. I am interested to know the number of jobs Galeria Victoria has provided for the people of Balanga and its neighboring towns. More jobs mean more employment and more employment means a better quality of life for the people of Balanga City.