Sunday, December 24, 2006

Policarpio Street

This is that famed street in the city of Mandaluyong that has already gained much acclaim locally and even internationally because of the purported fantastic Christmas Lights and decorations of the houses.

Finally, and thanks to the incessant requests of too many of you, I went to that little street just this afternoon! The verdict, yes I was amazed but NOT TOO HAPPY! I suspect this is a “sign of the times” and “false entrepreneurship” working hand in hand.

How did I know about this place? Well, for years now, this street always makes the headlines on various news media during the Christmas Holidays!

Going there
Transportation to the area is a bit tricky for the first-timer. So I heeded the advice of friends who have been there – “don’t bring a car” unless you have a driver who can go elsewhere after dropping you off and return to fetch you when you feel like its time to go! There is no place nearby where you can park a car with peace of mind! So you have to do a commute! Don’t worry, this is just Metro Manila and there always are alternatives.

I asked around and these are the options:

Option 1: Take a cab and ask to be dropped at the corner of Primo Cruz St., and Policarpio St. – not too many of them cab drivers will know where that is hehehe! With this option, you enter the quieter and less crowded end of policarpio St.

Option 2: Take a jeep from EDSA cor. Boni Avenue that goes to “Gabby’s” (wherever that is). You get off at either the corner of Boni Avene and Primo Cruz St (that intersection where two gasoline stations on your right are facing each other – and this was the route I took cuz the gas stations are easy to spot) or you get off at the intersection of Boni Avenue and Ballesteros St., - which is just the end of the little block from that Shell? gas station. Then take that short walking distance to I. Lopez St.that intersects with the southern end of R. Policarpio St.

Option 3:This I noticed and realized after I visited. You can also go to the place by taking a jeep from “Stop-N-Shop” (wherever that is) going to Boni and ask the driver to drop you at Policarpio (this is that corner mentioned in option 1 above). I hear that there is a nearby LRT station at Stop-N-Shop.

Option 4:Take the reverse of option 3 – and that means ride a jeep from Boni Ave. cor EDSA but ensure that the sign says “Stop-N-Shop”.

Hints: Options 2 and 4, you spend P7 for the jeepney fare. Am not sure how much it will be by Jeep from “Stop-N-Shop”. And you should of course realize that Boni Ave. cor EDSA is just a few steps away from the Boni Station of the MRT. Also, option 3 should definitely pass by or cross Shaw Blvd, but I don’t know at which corner hehe!

So how did I like the place?
Just happy. I am neither ecstatic nor overwhelmed that I have been there. The jeep ride was a surprise. On a Saturday evening, traffic was very light, so I arrived there with ease – and that was via option2. On going out or home, it was a bit slow but bearable as the jeep driver kept stopping at anyone standing along the sides of the street.

The whole street of I. Lopez though will irritate you if you are not a fan of Divisoria or Baclaran. This little and short street which is your way to Policarpio is lined on both sides with a lot of bazaar stalls and tables. No vehicles pass here but it teems with a dizzying flood of humanity that it will be hard for you to walk with ease.

What do you find in these stalls? Surely anything and everything that can be found in any street bazaar or tiangge! There are slippers, fake shoes, fake jeans, fake shirts and blouses, figurines from China, alarm clocks, toys, cellphone casings, hotdogs, etc. Then again, if you are fond of shopping for wares of the cheap kind (both price and quality), this is another place to grab them. And this is I. Lopez St., where you bump and push people, scrimmage for those little things you want and haggle with the tinderas! Ahh!

Anyway, on entering Policarpio St., from I. Lopez, don’t’ get excited as there is nothing to see yet! The first few houses do have lights but just a few touches and nothing worth to widen your eyes.

The first spectacle, if I can call them that, starts at house number 506 – to your right when walking the length of Policarpio St. from I. Lopez St. This is actually not a house but some kind of a bodega that could probably better house a few badminton courts when it’s not Christmas.

House number 506 has a lively display of mostly moving mannequins and dolls from Santa to Sesame Street characters. No fancy lights here. For the purpose, the display is fun to watch. However, the ground floor is a “tiangge” where you find all those wares sold at I. Lopez St. And there is a P10 entrance fee for you to enter this street-kind bazaar. Just note that the ten pesos does not get you closer to the display of moving dolls etc as those are on the 2nd level and off limits to people. So, that’s your entrance fee to be able to browse the wares of just the bazaar – where everything sold in those cramped stalls are available at the equally dizzying I. Lopez St. More importantly, note that you are better off watching the “tableau” from the street.

Turn around and right across 506 is house number 507. This house is your only reminder of the true essence on the drama that was Christmas. Perched on the 2nd level of the house is a fine tableau of the nativity. It’s a colorful display and properly lighted with stars and native touches here and there like the backdrop which is made of native sticks. Elsewhere (like the roof area) are blinking lights in the form of angels and reindeers. The frontage of this house is a fine display. The plants and shrubs and trees are adorned with lights and make-believe flowers and butterflies. There is even a mini-waterfall!

Still on your left, beside house number 507 is house number 509. This is actually more of a building than a house. Most of it is glass from floor to ceiling so that the house looks like a miniature office structure. The thing fine that they did is nothing fancy. They just traced every line of the building with little lights of different colors such that the effect is its like a Disney facility! Oh, there is even some kind of a globe on top of the house with lights that make it appear to be rolling! Even the various lines of the gate are traced with multi-colored Christmas lights to make it wonderful enough at street level. It’s like a dream-palace for kids.

Nothing yet on the right side as you walk on, but beside 509 is house number 511 which becomes the comedy relief of your tour! This old house with a dark colored gate (maroon?) has no lights or any fanfare whatsoever. But, just outside of the gate are seated on monobloc chairs, a woman and an old woman seemingly having a ball watching the multitudes of passers-by. AND behind them, hanging on the gate is a sign that says “Burung Dalag For Sale” written on a cardboard! Am not sure what that is but my guess is it’s a fermented fish so that it tastes like something yucky hehehe! I definitely don’t wanna taste whatever delicacy it may be hehehe! Not yet, that is!

Onwards there is nothing worth your curiosity until you reach house number 515 (still on your left) which will probably pique you as it did me! They have a “nice-enough” tableau of what looks like a winter wonderland with Santas and flying reindeers on the 2nd level of the house. The backdrop and the amount of lighting will tell you they spent a lot for this. And those are really good. Back of this house is a taller building with a lot of little Christmas lights hung parallel with each other that looks like a golden cloth draped on a wall. And above that building are lighted messages like “Peace On Earth” or “Maligayang Pasko”.

Alas, the “badtrip” part about this house is that its frontage is lined with stalls hawking things from food to trinkets and these stalls use huge umbrellas. You guessed it; the huge umbrellas obstruct any visitor’s view of the tableau above. Probably the owners wanted to get back their investment on lights and paints that they had to allow these ugly obstructions. You’ll have to be tall (am already 6’0”) to be able to have a good unobstructed view of the display as the umbrellas are erected too high.

Here is proof that house number 515 is not anymore the famed “neighborhood who wanted to regale and remind people of Christmas”: They even converted their garage and deep to almost the insides of the house into a very busy tiangge selling everything you find at I. Lopez St. like slippers and Christmas decors. You’d think, as I did, that the clumsy attempt at doing a Christmas display (for which this street is/was famous about) is not really just for the spirit of the season but to earn from the crowds and the hawkers who rent their residential space. If this is the case nowadays, I would rather go to the Greenhills parking area!

Anyway, as if to relieve you of the distaste that is house number 515, still on your left while walking on, you will stumble upon house number 521, WHICH, I must insist – is the only great thing about Policarpio this year! My goodness! The house is all covered with little Christmas lights that from a distance it looks like a fairy tale palace! I did hear an onlooker say it was like a gigantic gift, wrapped in glittering colors. The gate, the fence (it’s big by the way), the walls, the window panes, the roof (yes, the roof!), the garden… name it! Everything you see about this house is tastefully adorned with Christmas lights! The house should probably even be most visible up in heaven hehe! There is even a “live” Santa Claus” standing up on the 2nd level holding lollipop-like lights and swaying/imitating a robot-like movement to the delight of the crowd. Everyone in awe have interesting comments like “probably woman yan, kasi payat”, “ang hirap nyan, nakatayo lang sya”, “baka maid nila yan” and so many things else! This is the most wonderful sight you will ever see on Policarpio St. this year! This is the greatest crowd drawer so expect to have a thicker crowd of visitors here.

Sadly there is also some bit of disappointment if you want to take pictures or videos at this grand display of a house. The sidewalk fronting it is also lined by hawkers selling mostly food. So you can’t have a clean view. At least there are no big umbrellas to totally ruin your view like in #515.

Try going near the gate or the perimeter wall or any part of house number 521, you will all the more admire greatness of their display and the expense they must have born and will be incurring next month when their power bills arrive. Again, house 521 is not to be missed.

Finally there is house number 526 on your right and just actually across the expansive garden of 521. Number 526 is adorned with a lot of Santa figures big and small to life-size and some of them are moving mechanically. Children will truly be in awe. The house capitalizes on the endearing Santa figures. Just outside the gate, there is one life-sized chubby Santa that most everyone stand beside to have their pictures taken. It’s almost like a Santa museum. The greatest display of them Santas is up on the terrace at the 2nd level of the house where a trio of big St. Nick mannequins seems to be dancing. As this is a private residence, not just anyone can enter the house but peeking or straining your neck over the fence and/or gate, you would see snippets that even the insides do have other big Santa Clauses everywhere. This house is the other big show on Policarpio this year!

Finally, walk a few more steps continuing northward and you reach the corner of Policarpio and Primo Cruz Streets. And that is the end of your 100-meter or so leisurely stroll – if you did option 2 or option 4 above. For options 1 and 3, your experience will be a reverse of our descriptions above – which means you start your amazement with house number 526 going downwards.

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