PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Thursday, April 18, 2013

 

Case study of ‘overpopulation’ in Kalayaan Village, Pasay City


Kalayaan Village is a third-rate village located in the boundary between Pasay City and Parañaque 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.

I said 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 huge favor.

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 Malacañang and the Makati CBD should be relocated here at once if they want to be safer next time.

You know what? In those dark moments, I never expected I’d be thanking God profusely for ‘cursing’ me to remain in this place.

I am 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.

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