Kalayaan Village is a third-rate village located in the boundary
between Pasay City and Parañ
aque City. This village is reportedly
originally built by government for its policemen. It is adjacent to
BLISS, a government tenement for teachers, and Merville, originally a
village built for employees of MERALCO. Across this village is a vast
squatter colony whose ghastly sight is hidden from view.
Kalayaan Village is third-rate because each lot is occupied by a quadruplex. This means there are four families occupying what appears to be a
regular village house that is subdivided into four. These subdivided
houses were originally built with substandard materials, a claim that
can be easily proven by taking apart the original walls (they had
sawdust!) and talking to the engineers involved (I’ve actually met one who
confirmed this to me).
Anyway, most of the streets
crisscrossing the village are narrower than the usual side-streets that
they are veritable eskinitas (uncomfortably narrow passageways), which
can accommodate only bicycles and pedicabs (and of course humans and
their pet dogs). The cramped feel is worsened by the fact that most
households who have a car don’t have a parking space of their own. They
park their cars elsewhere in the village where there is enough space, which is in certain streets and corners.
By Manila standards, to live here is to live on
the wrong side of town. True enough, for the longest time I regarded
this place with the hate and mocking it deserved, and for
the longest time, this place responded in kind, or so it seems, by condemning me to
feelings of misery. Each time I trod on its ground was a reminder that I
wanted to leave it and should very soon.
But it seems I was
meant to be consigned here for some reason. I must have some sort of
mission here. I had struggled long and hard to fight my feelings, until I smartened
up and decided to accept what I couldn’t change. One day, I decided to
embrace this place and enjoy anything passably enjoyable that I could squeeze from it. What a liberating gesture it was, like I did myself a
I have been here long enough to see this village grow from a ghost town to one we can scoff at as an ‘overpopulated’ miasma.
Give or take ten years, I have seen how it thrived, from having a
countable number of essential businesses inhabiting one long stretch, to
its unbelievable state in the present, with virtually each house lining
the main street being transformed into a legit business enterprise!
In Year 1, the
only establishments easily noticeable were a pediatric clinic, a girlie
bar (!), a rice vendor, a dry goods store specializing in construction
materials, a vendor of vegetables, a fruit stand, a newspaper stand, a
barbershop, a buko vendor, a couple of beauty parlors, and a
Chinese specialty restaurant (Ding How).
Today, not only have these
businesses survived or even expanded and grew in spurts; the number of businesses also
multiplied to a level that I’ve never seen before! You see,
since my family originally hailed from a small town in the province of
Pangasinan, where economic nonactivity is the
norm, I am amazed no end what a span of ten years could make here.
Many of the original policemen families have either sold or rented
their homes, and this resulted in a constant parade of people coming and going
here from God knows where and why. I can no longer count with my
fingers and toes how many new faces appeared and disappeared here through the
seasons. But this also meant a constant influx of new families looking for a more permanent place. Noticeably through the years, these families looked more and more materially wealthy
than the original settlers. Middle class. There was a time when you could count with
your fingers how many families had cars, but now – almost every other
household has one, in addition to tearing down the original one-fourth
house construction and replacing it with a new expanded house, sometimes rising to up to four stories.
Among the new businesses that have sprouted are three more barbershops,
innumerable salons, two pawnshops, two laundry shops, about a dozen
cooked-meal stores and turo-turo restaurants, maybe ten bakeries/bread
shops, a vulcanizing shop, an upholstery repair shop, a tailoring shop,
five Internet and gaming shops (many with a copy machine service), a
doctor’s and dentist’s clinic, too-many-to-count fruit-and-vegetable
stands, five drugstores (two of which are South Star Drug branches
within walking distance of each other), two small grocery stores, maybe
30 sari-sari stores (including those near the three village gates), two
little wet markets selling fresh meat and fishes, water refilling
stations, LPG store, and one lugawan/gotohan. The sole buko vendor has
retained his specialized business, despite the presence of competitors
(fruit and vegetable stands that include buko) excluding the ambulant
buko peddlers. His buko juice used to be just Php7. Now he sells at
Php20 a pop. It’s incredible how all these businesses are being
sustained at all.
This place has proved to be big enough to
attract such big-name firms as Jollibee and Greenwich, 7-11, Burger
Machine, Pan de Manila, Andok’s roast chicken, Mr. Quickie shoe repair
shop, Mang Boks lechon, Index Salon, and David’s Salon. The presence of
four competing cash transfer businesses – Western Union, LBC,
MLhuillier, Cebuana Lhuillier – is especially notable, for this means a
lot of people here are breadwinners regularly sending allowance to their
families in the provinces. While Jollibee moved out a few years ago for
unknown reasons, and Bayad Center closed shop this year after the
cashier was held up at gunpoint (by criminal elements from the
squatters’ area, they say), the space vacated by the giant fastfood
chain was almost immediately occupied by Inasal at Iba Pa, an
establishment which is a notch higher as it is a proper restaurant with
waiters. Maybe Kalayaan Village's location just beside the SLEX is a big
factor, but business is really brisk inside the village itself.
Now where do you think these businesses got their market? What magic wand is causing their steady growth?
During the unprecedented flooding by Typhoon Ondoy, which invariably drowned most of the
metropolis, and during the ‘Rumaragasang Habagat,’ which was a surprise
reprise of the Ondoy flood, Kalayaan Village remained largely dry. While the rest of the city, unknown to me, was underwater at critical levels, I was typing away at my computer, working as an online English tutor for American clients. You’d think
ang and the Makati CBD should be relocated here at once if they want to be safer next time.
what? In those dark moments, I never expected I’d be thanking God
profusely for ‘cursing’ me to remain in this place.
currently thinking of a possible enterprise, in order to take advantage
of this windfall of ‘overpopulation’ while I still can, i.e., before
everybody buys the idea of contracepting for ‘their own good’ and revert
this place to its former ghost-town self.