Friday, October 9, 2009

This is Antipolo Today

Remember Antipolo, the pilgrimage town located on the hills above the Rizal towns of Cainta and Taytay? Much of the town looks pretty much the same as I remember it from when my family used to take excursions there when I was young. The streets, paved now, are busy with foot and vehicular traffic. The Church of the Virgin of Good Voyage is the epicenter of human activity, even on a Thursday afternoon when we paid our respects.

I can't remember how the altars looked when I was young, but seeing them for the first time after so many, many years, I can't help but be in awe at the delicate ornateness of the church's altars. This church has three: the main one, and two sub-altars on the right and on the left sides of the church near the vestibule. The two sub-altars draw many devotees, and the the right one features a larger-than-life size image of the Black Nazarene, similar to the venerated image in the Quaipo Church.

On approaching the church courtyard in a van, we are greeted by a young man beseeching us to patronize the souvenir store that belongs to his family, even before we get out of the car. First, we have to secure a parking space in the church courtyard. My wife's cousin, Tess Villacorta, whips out her senior citizen card and shows it to the security guard, and we are let it. Talk about the advantages of reaching sixty.

Competition is intense among the vendors, and some of them employ itinerant hawkers just like the young man that greets us. One of the long-standing culinary attractions of Antipolo is the suman malagkit wrapped in palm leaves, and we buy a bunch of those. Our hosts, Lou and Tom Victoria, owns Bougainvillea Hotel and Resort located about one kilometer away from the church. It is small and quaint hotel and resort with a first-class restaurant featuring superb Pacific Rim cuisine; a mid-size pool and a jacuzzi, a large function room and two videoke rooms.

Bougainvillea is located in a sloping piece of land along the town's main street, bounded by a small stream, still rushing with run-off flood waters. The grounds are planted with huge, decorative and fruit-bearing trees. Tom, an engineer, designed the landscaping himself, creating a mini-oasis replete with several family suites and rooms with the latest in modern amenities. We are talking restrooms with flushing toilets, air conditioners, and piped-in music.

The resort's tranquil atmosphere is helped in no small measure by the lushness of the vegetation and the ground cover. It is green everywhere, and the trees and the grass cover are in their most verdant at this time of the year.

Antipolo -- although it was hit squarely by typhoon Ondoy -- does not suffer from flooding due to its high location. But it suffered a number of landslides, and I saw evidence of these as we wind up the two-lane highway to the town. Driving through the heavily-devastated towns of Pasig, Cainta and Taytay while traversing Ortigas Avenue Extension, I see pictures of Ondoy's onslaught: unsightly mounds of garbage on the street-sides, muddy evidence of water marks on the sides of commercial and residential buildings in Pasig and Cainta; documents air-drying in front of business establishments, and disabled vehicles, some of which are undergoing repairs right on the side of the road.

I am amazed at the breadth and depth of the Metro Manila megalopolis; the new skylines dominated by commercial and residential towers; the new, wider highways and parkways, the many shopping malls, and the many other real estate developments. New cities, like the Bonifacio Global City, where my family and I stayed at the Ayala Corporation-developed Serendra condominiums. The biggest surprises are the mega-sizes of these developments: the blockbuster Mall of Asia, the trend-setting Market! Market! and the other great malls in Makati, like The Glorietta, Landmark, SM, and the posh and modern, high-end Greenbelt Malls. I will be writing about them in future blogs.

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