MAGSAYSAY AVENUE

Magsaysay Avenue is a major artery that brings people from the Cordillera up north to the City of Baguio. It is the only route from La Trinidad, Benguet's capital town unless the road from Pico, La Trinidad up towards Tacay Road at Quezon Hill has been finally completed. The winding road follows the flow of the Balili River, which is the destination of the water collected from surface run-off from Session Road, Harrison Road and Abanao Streets. The water from these roads is collected in a large drain underneath Magsaysay Avenue. The drainage is a large tunnel that brings all the water collected to the Balili River.

The Maharlika Building is the newest building along this road. This is situated at the corner of Magsaysay Avenue and Abanao Street and directly abutting the foot of Session Road. An L-shaped overpass, one that cuts across Abanao Street from Sunshine Grocery and the other from the DOT Park cutting across Magsaysay Avenue, services this. This building is probably the strongest building that was ever built in the City to date. It was designed for a high rise structure but the final construction was for only 4 levels following the zoning regulation of the City. Residents did experience the noise of the pile driver as it hammered its pre-stressed concrete foundations to its bed.

The basement of the building serves as a food court. As you enter the mall, you will hear a cacophony of voices inviting shoppers to sample their wares. The sound of food processors making different kind of fruit shakes can also be heard. Food is reasonably cheap. As you go up the ground floor, aside from the regular shoppers you will notice a cluster hanging around the lobby. The big bags one group carries would identify them as moneylenders. They stroll at the lobby near the Security Bank, the other group, one with a rolled paper tucked on their arms; these are real estate brokers. They usually occupy the center of the lobby going around the stand that sells strawberry wines, as they wait for their scheduled appointment. At the far left of the lobby is a restaurant.

The ground floor of the building connects to the Marbay Shopping Center where the souvenir shops are. The shops carry the woodcarvings of the Ifugao carvers; the silver filigree products of Baguio entrepreneurs, the loom weave native cloth, antique shops. There are also shops that carry the wares similar to that seen at Dau i.e. military uniforms from raincoats, to field jackets to belt buckles and combat boots. And of course, my favorite tailor Max Tailoring is also located there. He had been my tailor ever since I was wearing bell-bottomed pants. Go up the next floor by way of a non-functioning escalator (This is the only building in the city then with an escalator) and you will find a variety of shops i.e. Haberdashery, leather products, beauty products and parlors. Entrepreneurs who own them come and go depending on how agile they are in riding the business cycle in the City. But one prominent fixture at the Maharlika shopping mall is a beer joint called the Wagon Trail, which seems to be always full. Selling San Miguel beer is stable business in Baguio.

In between the building and the adjacent building is an alley with stalls that sell flowers. The flower concessionaires occupy this alley and the Kayang Street side of the building. As you get out of the shopping mall, you will see the People's Park opposite the building. This was formerly Malcolm Square used formerly as a public pays parking area before it became a permanent concrete park. You will see old timers sitting on concrete benches playing chess or just willing away their time with shoe shine boys working on their boots to a polish. Adjacent Maharlika is the old stone market building, so called because this is the only remaining replica of Hispanic presence in the City. The foundation and frame of the building is made up of Baguio stones typical of building construction then. This building houses, Parungao Pharmacy, the Magnolia Kiosk that sells other than Magnolia products, long johns that is so good with barako coffee, and Cunanan's Trading, where school supplies can be bought sometimes cheaper than when you get them from Cid's.

In between the stone market and the next building is an alley that leads to Kayang Street and the wet market. The approach usually filled by people jostling for room are occupied by fruit stands that sell seasonal fruits from the lowlands i.e. apples, oranges, lanzones. A permanent fixture of this alley is a peanut vendor who had been there since I was in short pants. There are only two places that we buy peanuts from, this vendor or the stall at the Sari-Sari Section further down beside Mrs. Maccam's store.

The public market buildings occupy the remaining blocks on the left side of Magsaysay Avenue. These are two rows of buildings spanning the street. The first two rows are the Sari-sari section, so called because of the variety of dry goods that are sold. A typical inventory of these stores is the Baguio dolls, the everlasting flowers, the brooms; fruit preserves like strawberry and the Kalamay in shells. Tourists in Baguio do not go home without any of these items. The sari-sari building behind the one directly fronting the street are the stores that sell imported items. This is the area where Danny Lazo's family conducts business. I found that a better place to go girl watching other than Tesoro's along Assumption Road is this place in the City Market. My friend whose family owns a store at the corner would often invite me to join him since he has to man the store. So you can stand right at the corner watching the girls go by. Finally it would be time to close shop. We move to Session Road when his shop closes.

Further up the row are the shoe section and my classmate's suka & uling store. The next two rows are the vegetable section. These are for tourists. But tourists in Baguio don't mind the prices. They are still cheaper and fresher compared to when the goods reach them in downtown Manila. Baguio people buy cheaper vegetables at the Hangar Market, the place where wholesaling of vegetables are done. The rice section follows the vegetable section. This is the place where all the grains are traded. At the end of the rice section is an allley that leads to the hangar market. This route is the Batangueno's section of the market. Other than dry goods, this is the place where you can get coffee beans and fresh ground coffee. Boy! I miss that barako coffee we usually get from Garcia's shop.

The building following the rice section is the Magsaysay office building. The second floors of these buildings are offices. The road levels are commercial shops. Prominent in this row is Dimalanta's grocery and the Sacred Heart Pharmacy following it. Laguisma's shop is also located in this building as well as Jack's restaurant and Mercury Drug at the further end. This is the place also where several Chinese owned shops trade construction materials, prominent of which is Wilbur Tan's construction supply. The last end before the road going towards the upper market is the shop that sells mattresses. If my memory serves me right, the shop is called Elegant Furniture's owned by a Chinese lady. The last block at this side already going towards P. Burgos Street is a building that houses the pubs and disco joints.

The opposite side of Magsaysay Avenue after People's Park is Tiong San Bazaar. This was the old store. Apparently the family was so successful in their trade that they were able to build a new building at the corner of the street and Gen. Luna Road. There is also a third Tiong San Building near the foot of the road near the boundary to La Trinidad. The old Tiong San, occupies the entire corner from BPI-Family Bank which starts the block. Kayang Restaurant follows this. The pancit canton prepared by this restaurant has a more distinctively Chinese flavor than those do at other restaurants. They also use flat broad canton noodles as differentiated from that of Rose Bowl, Luisa's, Dainty and Star Café.

Next to Kayang is PangHoi, a store where school and office supplies are cheapest in town. The remaining block consists of two small Chinese bazaars that sell textiles. I remember a lot of times when Romy Sabile, my friend at PMA's Post Tailor, and I would drop by these shops to pick up bundles of cacha to be used in cadet uniforms. An alley cuts of this block where jeeps en route to Aurora Hill are parked. This alley will never be forgotten by a lot of Baguio boys for this is where Sagada Lunch is located where a bottle of Ginebra will not go the round due to the delectable taste of pulutan and spare parts. The building following is occupied by Pilipino Savings Bank with professional offices at the upper level. General Luna Road separates this building to the other block, which is started by the New Tiong San Building. This was the entire block that was razed by a fire that gutted all the buildings all the way to Bonifacio Street. There was a building construction going on after the New Tiong San Building. The building that housed a hotel, which was destroyed by the earthquake, follows this block. This is where Jollibee at Magsaysay now stands.

The next block is the entire burned area used as a parking lot for jeeps plying Magsaysay Avenue and La Trinidad Valley. Behind it is the Dangwa Terminal. I learned that this place has already been developed as additional shopping complex since then. The corner of Magsaysay Avenue and Bonifacio Street is a junction occupied by jeeps en route to La Trinidad Valley right beside the Rabbit Terminal, which sunk after a lengthy monsoon rain that visited the City. With the sinking of the Rabbit Terminal, the building of Galo Weygan was also eroded under washing away its bed but leaving the building's foundation intact and now making it the "leaning building of Galo". I wonder how they will be able to re-erect the building. That is one big engineering puzzle. Behind the rabbit terminal and now already separated by the crevasse are the commercial establishments which could only be accessed through T. Alonzo Street. This area of Magsaysay is notoriously known as the red light district in the City due to its pubs and disco houses.

After the Rabbit Sinkhole, going down further Magsaysay Avenue is the building of Dr. Pilando. Right after that is a movie theatre called the Prince Albert Cinema. There is a disco joint adjacent to this theatre. What follows is an apartment complex, the City Abattoir complex (Slaughterhouse) and the residential area of Lucban, The Slaughterhouse is home to Times Terminal and the eateries made famous for their tinono, anger and pinapaitan. Further down Magsaysay Avenue where now a flyover is being constructed is the Agrix Building. After the New Lucban Police Checkpoint will be the Pines Doctors Hospital, the Baguio Supreme Hotel and right at its boundary is the Bell Church- the Chinese Temple, which is nestled at the slope of a mountain.

P.Q.B. December 21, 1998
matapat@yahoo.com


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