Any Street, Philippines

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Katipunan Avenue, present day

ALONG the Katipunan Avenue of my youth was a small eatery called Pampanguena. It was run, we can suppose, by the eponymous (and possibly fictional) Pampanguena. We had lunches of grilled pork belly there. It had a jukebox that played songs I didn’t know. It is gone now, taken over by a tire repair shop.

Down the road was Mango Brutus, where I bought mango shakes to go with snacks from stalls selling 3-M Pizza, Joe Kuan dimsum, and hotdogs from the original Smokey’s outside some small grocery store whose name I have since forgotten. Across Aurora Boulevard, a crippled Armored Personnel Carrier from one of the failed coups stood impotent watch.

None of them exist now. The grocery has long since been demolished, and nothing has been quite able to take root there. There are still some small food stalls there, but of the generic kind that sell squidballs and tapsilog that you can find pretty much anywhere.

It is the loss of small holes in the wall like Pampanguena that I mourn when I think about how this road that I have been walking on since the 1980s has changed since then. Not the heavier traffic, and not the generations of students who come to Katipunan each year to claim it as their own. Increasingly, it is becoming more their street than mine. Or, more precisely, it is nobody’s street now, being indistinguishable from any other major road in this blighted metropolis.

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