From township to citywood
Turning the clock of life in full circle, there are memories that golden age cannot blot out. For seven decades now the shadow of those assorted fingerlings playfully drifting against the gentle current in a drainage canal shaded by full-grown Mansanita trees standing along the pebblelaced street where our house then stood still lingers— but only as part of memory. For together with the other wooden houses found on both sides of the street, they were all gone.
The fact is all the homeowners, including my family, residing within the neighborhood were informal settlers who vacated the occupied property upon demand of the landowner. Even that twostorey structure housing that chinese-owned siok tong factory was not spared-although I learned it got relocated somewhere in barangay Sta. Lucia, and still operating? My family re-established residence in San Simon, my mother’s hometown.
I was four years old when we bid goodbye to our intimate neighbors in that part of San Fernando, barangay Lourdes, Arellano Street. Yet, that friendship with a childhood playmate nicknamed PILING remains etched in my consciousness affirming the immutability of human bonds when forged with innocence of youth. I wish that events will conspire as to permit that PILING and I will cross path in reunion before sunset.
Anyhow, from its township days to Cityhood, San Fernando has undergone tremendous transformation. Its farmlands have metamorphosed into housing communities— subdivisions and condominiums, and shopping and leisure malls, financial institutions not to mention booming commerce and industry. Most of all the City’s world-renowned lantern festival continues to attract domestic and foreign visitors that generate employment and revenue, and at the same time showcases the innate expertise in the art of magical lantern-making.
Inevitably, though, this modernity and progress has its toll. The old edifices of leisure have folded their curtains. I mean such popular moviehouses, such as, Frida and Estrella theatres to mention two. Indeed, PASUDECO, San Fernando’s great contribution to the sugar industry in general and to Pampanga’s sugar farmers in particular, have succumbed as an unwilling casualty of recent development. For within the compound of its muted sugar mills will soon rise a high-end residential and leisure enclave.
The need to sustain the momentum of progress becomes more compelling as the City aspires to stream along, if not excel, with the bigger transformation transpiring around the outlying geography. First and foremost, the City must sustain its current priority in providing much-needed social services to its growing constituency. This is a political covenant. For another, simultaneously with sustaining the current economic growth, the redevelopment of the City’s Old District is long waiting in the wings if only to resurrect the old glory of San Fernando as a premier trading and commercial hub in this part of Pampanga. Indeed, the desired renaissance will be a fitting reward to the pioneering efforts of Fernandino traders/ merchants that started the ball rolling to cityhood. Inarguably, in a representative society, such undertaking presupposes tested and progressive leadership, the realization of which lies in the hands of the governed.
In the meantime, notwithstanding the great leap forward since Cityhood, San Fernando needs a pattern. Residents and their visitors need to understand their City, its logic and cohesion. They need to know where to find activities, and how to reach their destinations in shopping areas, downtown, at institutions and at places of entertainment and recreation. The City pattern helps find their way, without inconvenience or lost time, letting them see the routes to be taken. Travel congestion is reduces if the best routes are easily found, and safety is enhanced. In fine, the City needs a direction to facilitate circulation from within and out. In this regard, two elements are essential: prominent landscaping and street lightning.
Going back to the place where I spent my tender years, the place is now very different with no traces of the old stuffs. Today, the houses are concrete and their garages are adorned with SUVs. The street is concrete-paved although the drainage system is currently undergoing improvement. I first witnessed this change in landscape and lifestyle in 2004 when I taught in College of Law of Harvardian Colleges. I also learned that the lot where the school now stands in retirement used to be the land on which our house stood 70 years ago. What a coincid en ce!
HAPPY 18th CITYHOOD