A Mother And Daughter Share Their Memories Of Living In Cubao

See old photos of Cubao, and read on how two generations reflect on and reminisce about their Quezon City hometown

Original Article: Elvie & Tisha Alvarez Photography: At Maculangan (Main Photo)

The past: Elvie’s Cubao

Our family moved to Cubao in 1957 when I was ten years old. My parents were able to build a modest house on a lot they had acquired during the Japanese occupation. It was situated in an area where the houses had ample vacant yards. While the houses were not so close to one another, the neighborhood had a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. It was such a pleasant change from the crowded Sta. Cruz district where we lived the year before; there the dwelling places were so near each other, yet the neighbors hardly knew one another.


It did not take long before I had a group of playmates who were almost my age. We became so chummy with each other that we decided to give a name to our gang of seven—CELGINS—representing the first letters of our first names. We relished the simple joy of being together when there was no school, engaging in innocent, childish fun and games.


Two of us from CELGINS were classmates at Stella Maris College, which boasted a very spacious, well-manicured front lawn with a fountain at the middle. (These grounds later gave way to a commercial building). We would take the short ride to school, taking either JD, MD, CAM, or Marikina transit, paying the minimum fare of 10 centavos. If the weather was good after classes, we would sometimes walk and window shop before heading for home at the sosy Aguinaldo’s, Assanda’s, Syvel’s, or Matsukaya, a Japanese department store. Eventually, SM (then called Shoe Mart) opened on the corner of Aurora Boulevard and Yale Street.


If we needed school supplies, we would buy them in Vasquez Bros. For fine dining, there was Eugene’s restaurant and for bigger celebrations, Aristocrat  had a big function hall which catered to weddings and other big parties (my sister had her wedding reception there). These establishments were some of the early tenants of Araneta Center. The construction of Araneta Coliseum sealed the Center’s position as the hub of commercial and social activity in Cubao, and Quezon City as a whole. And of course, that was the dome where our young hearts swooned over Pat Boone and Neil Sedaka!


I went to college at the University of the Philippines-Diliman and had to get my daily ride to the university at Highway 54 (now EDSA) in Cubao Rotonda. I also remember as a freshman at UP that we would cut out coupons from the Philippine Collegian to get free root beer at the newly opened A&W Restaurant along Highway 54, near Araneta Center. I continued to conveniently traverse Highway 54 via public transport from Cubao, when I eventually worked in Makati. Oh, if only those days of fewer vehicles on the road and lighter traffic could be back!

READ: 7 Reasons To Live In Capitol Hills, Quezon City 

My kids also grew up in Cubao. They became regular weekend patrons of the Fiesta Carnival rides, devotedly accompanied by their dad. I am sure they have their own reminiscences of Cubao. As for me, my memories of Cubao are long and never-ending. I still live in the same house originally built in 1957. It has undergone a series of transformations and so have I, but the happy thoughts of the past linger.


The present: Tisha’s Cubao

The Cubao of my mom’s memory is nearly nothing like my Cubao. Of course, the Coliseum is still there, where I still cheer my heart out whenever I watch my Blue Eagles. And, while the traffic is much heavier now, Cubao is still a sort of portal to Everywhere—massive crowds converge in the LRT and MRT stations, and wait in line to get on buses here each day. I actually remember a former colleague once remarked, “Saan ba nanggagaling ang lahat ng tao sa Cubao?”


But the rest of Cubao circa 1960 sounds strangely unfamiliar. I couldn’t imagine strolling down Aurora Boulevard, for one. “You mean it was actually pleasant to walk here at some point?” I asked my mother incredulously, as we both held on tightly to our bags, for fear of snatchers and pickpockets. She chuckled and explained that there weren’t quite as many jeepneys back then—hence, less pollution and noise—and that all the buildings were very low.


Neither could I remember my dad taking us to Fiesta Carnival. My three older brothers, perhaps—but his unica hija? Not a chance. My only recollection of Fiesta Carnival is when I snuck off with my brother one afternoon and rode one of the more, er, thrilling rides. (“Thrilling,” not because it had loops and dips, but because the general condition of the ride was suspect.)


My memories of Cubao mostly consist of shopping at the old Rustan’s with my mother, satisfying my sweet tooth at Magnolia Ice Cream House, and hearing the clackity-clack of mah-jong pieces as my lola played with her friends. I remember squealing as I watched Menudo perform onstage at the Coliseum, with my dad was right beside me.


I remember seeing movies with titles like Kapag ang Palay Naging Bigas, May Bumayo in theaters along Aurora Boulevard. I remember the mischievous glints I would see in my guy friends’ eyes whenever I mentioned Cubao. And, because of the noise and pollution, and its somewhat seedy reputation, I remember wishing at some points that I lived elsewhere. Somewhere cleaner. Somewhere more quiet. Some gated village where the houses all looked the same, and where jeepneys didn’t honk that annoying laugh.


But the older I got, the more I appreciated the place I grew up in. When you’re younger, you just want to fit in; later on, you want to have your own identity. When I reached “later on,” I began to fall in love with my default hometown. I loved that it was extremely accessible, that even a commuting lightweight such as myself could easily get around. I discovered such interesting places hidden away in little corners, Adam’s Foodhaus, a corner carinderia near the old LVN studios, an eatery which served some really awesome lumpiang sariwa; Cubao Expo, the former Marikina Shoe Expo that now has a lot of cool stores; the ukay-ukay shops that gave me my P50 finds; chocolate-supply shop Chocolate Lover, that hulking castle that looks like it was built by a raging chocoholic.


READ: We Revisited Cubao X After 10 Years And This Is What It's Like Now

I opened myself up to the noise, the vibe, the pulsating energy, and I finally understood: Cubao, unlike many bland neighborhoods, is just screaming with personality. And it became an indelible part of my own identity.


I’ll be moving out in a few months, and I’m finally going to get the peace and quiet I once so earnestly craved. But I know that there will be days when I’ll really miss Cubao. So during those times, I’ll probably crack open a window, and try my hardest to listen for that annoying jeepney laugh.

This article originally appeared as “Cubao From Two Perspectives” in the August 2009 issue of Real Living magazine. Tisha Alvarez is a writer, and was the former managing editor of Real Living, and then editor in chief of Good Housekeeping Philippines.  

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