There’s a faceless bust on Pelaez Street that my friend, Hendri Go, pointed out to the participants of “Jane’s Walk: Lost Bookstores and Cinemas of Cebu” that humid Friday afternoon of May 3.
We were not quite sure if the bust is the same person who the street was named after. I was just surprised that in the many years that I have passed by that area, I never noticed that bust.
I have developed quite a liking to this street because of the street food that are sold there beginning late afternoon to around 9 p.m. Siomai is sold at P10 for three pieces, puso (hanging rice) at P3 plus there’s deep-fried chicken, and saang (spider conch) best dipped in their most delicious street sauce.
It’s the same street where Pete’s Kitchen used to stand. My mother, who studied at the University of San Carlos (USC) Downtown Campus, back in the mid 80s have told me countless stories about how she loved the food there. Hendri also said the same.
I often imagine how it was like back in the days. My mother got pregnant with me when she was 18, a second year college student at USC. I often think if my love for humba and afritada was first developed in her womb while she ate at Pete’s Kitchen.
Pete’s Kitchen has stopped operating since then but it’s signage has not left the place, leaving a nostalgic feeling among those who knows about this place.
We were walking that afternoon as part of Jane’s Walk, a “community-based approach to city building that uses citizen-led walking tours to make space for people to observe, reflect, share, question and re-imagine the places in which they live, work and play.”
The walk was inspired by Jane Jacobs, an American-Canadian journalist/urbanist/activist who wrote the book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961), which argued that urban renewal did not respect the needs of city-dwellers. For Jacobs, citizens should have a say in urban planning.
Hendri and I practice are own different brands of activism so when he told me about Jane’s Walk last year, I was quite interested. He hounded me for many days about co-leading the walk on “The Lost Bookstores of Cebu.” I eventually agreed; a decision that led to the publication of a three-part report on the “Lost Bookstores of Downtown Cebu on CDN’s print edition.
This year, 2019, Hendri told we’re on to another walk. This time, aside from the lost bookstores, we will be revisiting the lost cinemas of Cebu. Hendri is not a licensed and accredited tour guide of the Department of Tourism – – and so am I.
But he spent his childhood in downtown Cebu, you can very well call him “batang downtown.” He knows where the old restaurants once stood, where the cinemas once had its glory days and the nooks and crannies only those who lived in downtown Cebu will ever know.
In short, no other person is more qualified to take you around downtown Cebu than Hendri Go.
That humid afternoon of May 3, Hendri led a walk entitled “The Lost Bookstores and Cinemas of Cebu.” We retraced the former locations of Music House, Gaisano Superbookstore, La Belle Aurore and Oriental Bookstore, to name a few. Along Colon Street, Hendri pointed to a building which now houses a Starbucks that was once a cinema. Hendri remembers as “President Premiere,” which shows movies from Viva Films.
Cross the street and there’s Oriente, which has since been renovated by the family of Sir Bobit Avila. You can watch movies there for as low as P150. I’m talking about fresh, just-released, new films. It’s truly admirable how the Avila committed to preserve our culture and heritage in downtown Cebu through the Oriente Theare. Back in the days, Hendri said Oriente played movies from Regal Films.
The walk took us to Ultra Vistarama, which had an underground pass that I never knew existed. The theatre still shows “some film” that I did not dare explain much because my five-year-old daughter was with me.
We walked some more until we reached the building that once housed City Savings Bank. Hendri quipped that that busy intersection where Metro Colon is located is Cebu’s version of Japan’s shibuya crossing. He was right.
Crossing that street we made our way to Vision Theatre, which still has it signage. We walked one floor up and found out that a portion the theatre is a prayer room (or was it a mosque?). What was once Eden Theatre is now a supermarket.
On Pelaez Street, we stopped at the “bust station” to talk more about the developments that brought about both progress and plague to Cebu.
The bust is located just outside the main opening of a beer bar that was playing a hip hop song. Antoinette, in her perky self, danced along exhibiting quite an energy for a child that joined the walk that started at the Halad Museum on Dionisio Jakosalem Street.
The walk culminated at a hole-in-the-wall milk tea spot located on Pantaleon del Rosario Street, right across the University of Carlos Downtown Campus.
We were sweaty, sticky and exhausted.
But it was an afternoon well spent in learning and relearning what downtown Cebu was like with all the bookstores and cinemas in its midst.
My daughter said she had a great time with me and my newfound friends that day. Her smile said it all. She wished for her brothers to join us next time so they too can see the faceless bust and walk the underpass.
Jane Jacobs was right in writing that we, citizens, need to know our cities to better appreciate it. We protect what we love and care about. The best way to do that is to get out and explore your city or town on foot.
Downtown Cebu is the perfect place to start the journey.
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