Thursday, July 2, 2009

People’s Center of Tacloban Revisited

Who goes to the Sto Nino Shrine without glancing at the People’s Center beside it? Well, during this “revisit”, I did not only want to glance at it, I wanted to roam the place once again. Alright folks, for those not familiar with it, google will help a lot as there too are a lot of descriptions and images of it. The People’s Center actually simultaneously sprouted with the Sto Nino Shrine beside it. They were the twin attractions of the city during their heydays until the Marcoses were ousted from Malacanang – but that’s another topic that I might in the near future write about.

I am not here to discuss that it is another extravagant thing commissioned by Imelda. That topic is already way too worn out. My visit was more for the what it was and what it is now!

The People’s Center and Library looks like a building inspired with ancient greek architecture. Ah that one will probably be hard to change even in oblivion hehe! Its original color was white, now it is dirty white. Hey, I do not mean the color “dirty white” or “off white”. The building as viewed from outside and front is white and dirty! That is most especially during my visit as it was fiesta time. I already knew from long ago that schools colleges and universities use the social hall or conference area for their graduation ceremonies or other gatherings. That portion of the building (ground floor) was what it was made for anyway. But I was surprised that nowadays, the same area is converted to a “tiangge” or flea market during the city’s fiesta and during Christmas season. I think it is distasteful. There are too many areas in Tacloban that can house such a cheap event like the grounds or the unused buildings (too many of them) of the defunct Divine Word University.

Anyway, I first circled the externals of the People’s Center and Library. Like the Sto Nino Shrine beside it, the floor and walls are unkempt and needs to be properly maintained. At least it is not vandalized. Then I approached the main entrance. OMG, it felt like I was entering one of the Baclaran Malls! The place for me was very disrespectable! Went to the stage area and attempted to climb on to it. A man (am not even sure if he was a guard) prevented me saying they (the vendors) kept their supplies and valuables there. Oh really?! Peeked at the sound and light control room beside the stage. Except for the heavy equipment, everything is amiss. But another man I talked to said those are all still working fine. I did not wish to believe but took his word for it.

I remember this place to be one of the few performance stages in the country with a full backstage. I mean, the backstage is spacious; the mirrors are big and strewn with lights all over. And the comfort rooms were shiny and tidy clean. As a youngster, I toured this place and really admired it. Oh okay, I performed in that stage and used the dressing rooms during one of those national science fairs held there. This time, the mirrors are still there. Light bulbs gone. And the whole place smells of something I do not anymore want to describe. The floors are yucky wet. What did I expect anyway? Didn’t I already see that there was a tiangge?

Went up to the library area. My goodness, climbing the big stairs, everything looked ugly and smelled yucky. But I was a bit delighted that the library area did not sport that nauseating stench from downstairs. On entry, there was the same table where visitors register on a logbook. And there was signage that said visitors who did not have a 'People’s Center Library' ID have to pay. I waited and asked a lady passing by the area where I should pay. She told me to just go ahead and enter. So I did.

The shelves and the dioramas are still the same but aged and obviously ill maintained. The books, thousands of them, are still there lining the walls from floor to ceiling and on shelves that pepper the floor. Hmm, some books I still remember I have skimmed through during my younger years are still there. At some of the shelves, I did see new additions as the books are fairly recent. That made me think, didn’t some of the books get spirited? PCGG? Asus, surely some of the more interesting ones have already disappeared.

Oh, the reading rooms (some of them with shelves and books too btw) are now classrooms of a fledgling English language school! At least their students do not seem to be messing with the books – am not too sure though! At one room, I saw classes going on… at another, I chanced upon a man (probably a teacher) who had an open book in front of him but was audibly muttering vindictives at the noise (music) from down at the tiangge. In what tiangge do you not find stalls selling pirated CDs and DVDs anyway? And downstairs there were many of them. Poor man, he probably could not concentrate on the book cuz his feet readily itched to thump when he hears that incessant “pa pa pa pa pa pa pocker face” tune hehe!

The lines, scars and drag-marks on the floor tell me whoever is managing this place now, he/she/they could not care any less. There were even electrical wires crossing hallways. Where the walls are white, smudges and dirt are very easy to see. Housekeeping in this place seem to dwell on that ancient notion of families where the shiny floor tells everything. So they don't mind if those are now of different colors or if the wood had been scraped by anything heavy they probably pulled or pushed sometime ago. and no qualms too if the sides or corners are dusty as long as the floor where you walk on is shiny. Awk! But hey, at the card catalogue room, dust literally made some parts of the floor whitish! The AV Control Room is now off limits and a dilapidating high chair blocks the equally dilapidating door. Hmm, I wonder if anything is still there since what I could see from the door ajar were plants and pots!

Oh that old grandfather clock is still by the very same position (near the stairs) where it was from many years ago. This time I felt wickedly happy that it was dead for I can still remember that its tick-tock and hourly resonance gave me the goose-bumps as a youngster feeling that Count Dracula would suddenly emerge hehe! The stairs on this part of the building is also “off-limits” and blocked by chairs and some cleaning implement. Like that is a dustpan standing proudly just behind the first chair. If you see anything green at the front of that same chair, ah that's brother dustpan probably guarding the staircase hehe. And the red colored tin is cousin floor wax waiting for his time to shine hahaha! And they all sit beside grampa clock by this exitway, if to wish you well as you flake off from this area of the library! Need I say the place is a dust factory? Oh too, didn't I mention that lying straight across the 3 chairs are the sisters broom 1, broom 2 and broom 3? Yep, they're all there just waiting...!

Alright, as I circled the whole library, I had to pass by backstage since the only stairs in use is that side where I came up from. Yes yes, there is a “backstage” even up at the second floor but though not locked, all were closed and eerily dark. I did not dare venture lest someone accuse me as a thief! But the hallway at this backstage (still behind but above the performance stage) is awash with cobwebs you’d feel you were in a basement where a hunchback with protruding eyeballs may suddenly emerge. Du! Hehe, all I did was walk briskly past this dark dungeon alley, turned back to quickly snap a photo, then go down the stairs! Hahaha duwag na kung duwag haha, and this was at almost high-noon!

I walked out of the People’s Center and Library to meet my lunch, and as I did so, this PCGG thing really gave my brain a lot of churning! They sequester an otherwise useful and working edifice because it is/was a Marcos extravagance and they let it rot while purportedly employing people to man them? What for and then what? Ah!

Now am thinkin... maybe I'll go make a re-revisit of this People’s Center and Library when there is no flea market. Although am almost sure, there will be nothing much of a difference.

It’s still worth a visit, if only for you to see and say how the place has deteriorated. Oh well!

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