Saturday, October 25, 2014

Quezon City celebrates its Diamond Jubilee

Note:  This photo-essay appeared in the 17-23 October 2014 issue of the FilAm Star, the weekly "newspaper for Filipinos in mainstream America," which is published in San Francisco, CA.  This version includes more pictures.  The author/blogger is the Manila-based Special News/Photo Correspondent of the paper.

The set of commemorative stamps shows the  histo-
rical Tandang Sora and Emilio Jacinto Shrines, the 
SM North EDSA that started the shopping mall trend 
in MManila, and the UP Ayala Technohub, the first
campus-based technology park in the Philippines.
(This is a photo-scan of actual stamps issued by
PhilPost for the Diamond Jubilee.)
The afternoon rains did not spoil the spirit of celebrating the 75th anniversary of Quezon City. The grand celebrations went on under the hot morning sun and the afternoon drizzles and downpours of the 11th and 12th of October .

This Diamond Jubilee date happened to be the second Sunday of October, which is, in the Roman Catholic church calendar, the feast day of Our Lady of the Rosary, the religious and historical La Naval, the “pintakasi” or patroness of the city, enshrined at the Dominican Sto. Domingo Church on Quezon Avenue.

Seventy five years ago, on 12 October 1939, President Manuel L. Quezon signed the city’s charter, Commonwealth Act. No 502, originally Bill No. 1206 that the National Assembly deliberated on. A hot issue of argument was amending the original city name of Balintawak to Quezon. Historical accounts tell that Quezon himself had to be convinced to have the city bear his name. When he was consulted, he is said to have replied, “Why can’t you wait until I’m dead, before you name anything after me?” He was eventually convinced.

Quezon envisioned a “paradise for working men - dwellings with all the comforts of sanitation and with playgrounds near-by for children, to be constructed by the government and given in sale or lease to the laborers or employees at cost” after a tour of the possible site of his dream city.

The Diliman estate of the Tuason family was deemed best site for a government housing project for laborers and employees. On September 27, 1939, President Quezon stressed the “necessity of early approval of the charter of the proposed city in Diliman site.” Bill No. 1206 was proposed by Assembylman Ramon P. Mitra of the second district of Mountain Province, and approved on September 28, 1939.

The Quezon Heritage House, relocated from New Manila to the Quezon Memorial Circle, is now a 
museum of Quezon memorabilia.  The room of President Quezon features his formal white attire, 
his boots and a bed sheet embroidered with his name.

In 1939, the population was estimated at around 58,000. The population peaked to around 2.8 million in the national census of 2010 with the annual population growth rate was estimated at 2.42 percent for the period 2000-2010.

The Quezon City folks who attended the celebrations at the Quezon Memorial Circle or at their district centers comprised a broader demographic definition of working class: from informal settlers to residents of affluent villages or high-rise condominiums.

The youth participated in sports, musical and dancing events. The senior citizens from all the six city districts had their sunny morning program of dancing exhibitions at the Circle. Large contingents from the districts and other guests aimed to dance at the largest Zuma fitness outdoor party and break the Guinness World record set by India in September 2012.  This was rained out, but reports say that many participants were not dismayed and went on Zumba dancing wet and wild.

High school children with colorful props along the route of the La Naval’s exit 
from the Misa ng Bayan venue (left). Senior women in indigenous Mindanao 
costumes for their dance exhibition (right).

This year the city’s Gawad Parangal that started in 2002 became honorific for the Commonwealth President and city founder. The 2014 roster of Manuel L. Quezon Gawad Parangal awardees comprise ‘workers’ of different distinctions: actress Nora C. Aunor; woman leader Dr. Lilia B. De Lima; economist Dr. Benjamin E. Diokno; Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr.; OFW advocate and journalist Susan V. Ople; National Artist for Music Ramon P. Santos; SC Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno; broadcast journalist Howie Severino; DPWH Secretary Rogelio L. Singson; CCP President Raul M. Sunico; Jollibee Chairman and CEO Tony Tan Caktiong; and investigative journalist Marites D. Vitug. 

The city charter defined the boundaries of QC comprising 7,355 hectares composed the eight big land estates that government acquired, and barrios carved out from Caloocan, San Juan, Marikina, Pasig, Montalban and San Mateo. Some barrios reverted back to Mandaluyong and Marikina in 1941, and additional ones were acquired from Caloocan in 1948.

Within these boundaries would spring in the 1950s the first morphs of Quezon’s government housing project: the Project 1 to 8 homes.  The ‘Project’ still remains part of postal addresses while upper-scale villages with foreign-sounding names continue to be developed within the city limits. Informal settlements though blight the social fabric of the city even as urban development is pursued with by public and private partners.

The construction of the College of Liberal Arts and College of Law buildings of the University of the Philippines in Diliman started by end-1939. World War II interrupted, and the transfer officially began ten years later. 

At the QC Food Festival on Maginhawa: Two sisters and a cousin charm with their smiles 
and dishes at their Fat Dads food stall (left). Foodies can also order dish sets called Quiapo 
Ilalim, Monumento, etc. and enjoy them inside this vehicle at Gerry’s Jeepney. 

Sikatuna Village near UP-Diliman campus has provided lodging places for students, a viable market of food establishments that can offer budget meals.  Most of these eating places are on Maginhawa Street; thus, its whole stretch was the venue of the whole-day Quezon City Food Festival on October 11 where foodies enjoyed indoor or al-fresco the signature dishes of restaurants there.

Farther away from the city center is La Loma, the iconic place of the crispy lechon. Also on the 11th, seventy five lechons were brought in parade into rows of long tables covered with banana leaves for boodle feasting. It was free to ticketed delegations from the city districts. Participants, including Mayor Herbert Bautista and Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, were provided with paper bibs printed with the slogan “Salu-salong Saya sa La Loma” and thin right hand plastic kitchen glove for the kamayan eating style. The boodle fun did not take very long to finish. As someone jested, the lechons were completely zapped “sa isang kisap-mata” (in the blink of an eye).

Typical lechon scene in La Loma (left). Mayor Herbert Bautista and Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte enjoy
eating lechon kamayan style (right).
Outstanding institutions located in several city districts also received the Manuel L. Quezon Gawad Parangal:  Kamuning Bakery (QC’s pioneer bakery); Pangkat Kawayan (unique youth orchestra and bamboo ensemble); Quezon City High School (QC’s first public secondary school); Quirino Memorial Medical Center (leading government tertiary medical center in QC); and Veterans Memorial Medical Center (QC’s most outstanding public institution for 2014).

The historical and religious institution, the Sto. Domingo Church, like UP was also a migrant. It settled in Quezon City after World War II. The original church in Intramuros was razed to the ground during the liberation of Manila.

The image of the La Naval at the Misa ng Bayan held at the Quezon Memorial Circle (left), 
and at the grand procession in her honor from Sto. Domingo Church (right), both on 12 October.

With the Diamond Jubilee celebration and the feast of the La Naval in synch on 12 October, the program that day opened with a Misa ng Bayan, which was graced by the image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, at the Quezon Memorial Circle.  In attendance as guest of honor was Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who, as expected, drew media and crowd attention after the religious services.

The civic Jubilee events were capped by the Parangal ceremonies at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, which featured performances of world-class Filipino entertainment and musical talents.  On the religious side, Roman Catholic devotees were not dampened by the afternoon rains to proceed with the grand procession honoring the La Naval.

Sci-fi characters roam around the Quezon Memorial Shrine to entertain Jubilee 
celebrators (left). Clowns on stilts stand tall over young martial arts kids (right).

In his address before the National Assembly in 18 September 1939, President said, “I dream of a capital city that, politically shall be the seat of the national government; aesthetically the showplace of the nation – a place that thousands of people will come and visit as the epitome of culture and spirit of the country; socially, a dignified concentration of human life, aspirations and endeavors and achievements; and economically, as a productive, self-contained community.”

The Quezon City Resiliency Initiatives for 2014-2020 include the innovative waste-to-energy plant in Payatas [the former dump site of the city’s garbage], the city government is looking at as a possible business venture of the QC Development Authority and Public Private Partnership scheme.

Klinika Bernardo, the city-owned diagnostic and treatment facility for HIV-AIDS strategically located on EDSA, is at the forefront of the city’s health initiatives. Reportedly, it is the first government unit to include HIV-AIDS among its health priorities.  Its Computerized Health Information Tracking System (CHITS) is the city’s low cost computerization initiative interconnecting 65 local health centers for effective and efficient delivery of health services.  Five of these health centers have dialysis clinics, three already have completed the requirements for licensing to operate.

Still on people watch though is the Philippine Children’s Medical Center on Quezon Avenue. There had been announcements that it will no longer be transferred to another site. The move to relocate raised a big howl of protest from the public. Apparently, developers around the area were eyeing the hospital site as well, and city hall supported the transfer.  

The float of barangay Payatas used recyclable waste materials
 and highlighted their onsite waste-to-energy and housing projects.
QC calls its socialized housing program “precedent-setting in scale and deeply rooted in terms of sustainability and multi-partnership arrangements.”   There are ten housing projects going on; around 2,400 units have been constructed with around 8,000 more to go. Housing beneficiaries are trained in livelihood projects by the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). Scholarships are made available to children who are qualified to enter college. 

May a sustainable housing program put an end to violence that expectedly comes with the demolition of informal settlements in the city.  May MLQ’s dream of “paradise for working men” come to pass. 

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