by Oliver Carlos

I lived in Sampaloc district in Manila for a good number of years. We stayed at Carola street in 2013, and then at Florentino street, for 2 years, and then at Maria Cristina street for 5 years beginning in 2015. The pandemic just sent us back to the province in 2020. My son Jethro was a UST student from Grade 7 until college, and I spent most the working days of the week in our Manila residence. Right now, Jethro’s doing online classes and he’s set to graduate in 2023.

Kuya Rene (far right) together with his mother (far left), and his siblings at the University of Santo Tomas. The kids were elementary pupils in that school in the 1960s and 70s. (photo from the Deriquito Family collection)

Part of life in España is dealing with floods. Of course, we experienced that. We waded the flood waters of España in the rainy seasons of 2013 and 2014. Then some drainage repair works were done, and I observed that there’s no more thigh-high floods beginning in 2015.

Recently, I had an interesting conversation with my old friend Rene Deriquito. I didn’t know that he lived in Sampaloc for a long time too. He was born in 1961 and he saw how his neighborhood transformed thru the decades. As a history buff who loves documenting local history, I was all ears to his stories.

Kuya Rene said that they lived at Galicia street. That’s one of the streets that is perpendicular to España Boulevard. If you cross España coming from Galicia, you will end up in front of the little UST gate near the College of Architecture. Rene’s mother Nancy was a dressmaker, they owned a shop at Galicia street. This was before she shifted her business to baking when they migrated to Los Baños in the 1980s.

During the pre-Martial Law years, Kuya Rene said that street crimes were rampant. He could hear the shouts “Snatcher! Snatcher!” every night. But when PD 1081 was proclaimed, he noticed that there was a significant decline in such crimes in the España vicinity.

Another interesting thing he mentioned was that there were professional photographers offering their services in the parks of Manila, especially on Sundays. Since camera phones were not yet invented, and traditional cameras were expensive and rare, these photographers roam around and ask strangers if they wanted to have their photos taken. If the customer agreed, the photo would be mailed to him days later. He had to pay the fee in full before they parted ways. A sample photo is the one above.

Kuya Rene and his siblings studied in UST elementary school. I didn’t know that there was a UST elementary school, because right now, the lowest level that UST offers is Junior High School. He said that the elementary school building was located near the “Forbes Gate.” For old folks, they knew Lacson Avenue as Governor Forbes street. Thus, the gate he’s referring to is the gate leading to the UST Hospital, and the elementary school building he’s talking about is the current College of Education building.

It’s great to hear stories about the past, stories about the familiar places today and how they looked like before we were born. As a History teacher, I believe that these unheard-of stories must be documented for the next generation to read, because they can be a good source of entertainment and wisdom.

Personally, this is the bit of wisdom I picked up from Kuya Rene’s stories: Nothing in this world is permanent. Change happens all the time. Landscapes change, names of streets change, laws change, businesses aren’t permanent, and so are people’s addresses as they constantly migrate. Even long-running schools and institutions close down, climate changes and so does technology and human knowledge.

But with all these changes in the world, there is just one that does not change- God himself. The psalmist observed this and wrote about it:

“Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.
They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing…
But you are always the same; you will live forever.” (Psalm 102:25–27, NLT)

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. His love and faithfulness never change. This is one truth that we can bank on and should be glad about. Meditate on this and have a blessed day ahead!