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On the street where they live

On the street where they live

9 June 2019


Capital cities are always depicted as gleaming, heaving hubs of buzz and modernity. Their buildings soar, the sunsets are painstakingly crafted and there are always beautiful people serenading each other in lush settings. But cities are built on the backs of human labour and often, the underbelly hangs, unnoticed below the surface. It is a place where nobody likes to go because there is nothing there. 

Or is there? Here is a slice of life on the street. Imagine if you would one of those movie shots that zooms in constantly, starting from the earth as a spinning globe to Asia, Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Manila, Metro Manila, San Juan City, Corazon de Jesús (a barangay, or district) and then to San Roque Street, a cul-de-sac that doesn’t even have its name on the map. 

Life is out on the street here.
Because the street is where people play, gossip, dance, strut, love, shower and take in the evening. 

It is a far cry from the manicured spaces of Bonifacio Global City or Makati, which are patterned after metropolises like Singapore, completely anaesthetised of character and life. The streets there are always swept clean, nothing is out of place. 

Here in San Roque, everything is out. Everyone is out. 

And everything is in its right place, whether it is older men gambling under a tent, to kids splashing about or a young couple enjoying the evening. 

I felt a sense of contentment like I rarely do in a big city. This was a village transported into a territory that’s known to be the "Town of Philippine Presidents." Four presidents have been official residents of San Juan when they assumed office. 

But all that is a far cry from this particular neighbourhood. Yes, they are poor, and this isn’t about plastering over that poverty, but about celebrating a spirit that’s fiercely communal and alive. 

It’s a reminder that community is not a buzzword or something conceptual but is something real and very much alive on San Roque street.