Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Old Cubao

I read in an article that the Araneta family has finally decided to renovate the Araneta Center in Cubao Quezon City. Good for us to see development that will parallel the Gateway Mall package.

For thirty something guys like me, Cubao holds a special place in our bucket of memories. I used to live in Malakas St., near the LTO office in Diliman. I was less than a kilometer away from Cubao.

Because of the unobstructed skyline then, the dome of the Araneta Colliseum was visible from street level. I actually remember that it looks new and imposing, but then again this was thirty years ago.

My father used to work in the office of the Rustan’s Super Store store in Cubao. His office entrance was near Cinema 21. Rustan’s was the chic-est place to shop in the seventies and it was always a nice weekend treat to go shopping there. The main lobby had this enormous fountain with lights. The foundation area also contains a stage akin to the activity center in today’s malls. The lobby conveniently divides Rustans into the department Store Area and the grocery area. Just near the stage was this elevated restaurant called The Veranda. They serve really good food there---I remember their sizzling spaghetti.

Just outside Rustan’s was Fiesta Carnival—now the Shopwise Store. It was the distant ancestor of Enchanted Kingdom. I remember the space train ride. In the 80’s the space train ride became the horror ride. By the year 2000 I think it has become the Dugyot Ride or something.

Also across Rustan’s was Ali Mall, the Philippine’s first mall. They used to have a really 70-ish skating rink there called Skatetown. Teenagers would hang around, skating to 70’s disco music, probably getting stoned or getting wild sex, but then again I’m too young (sigh). By the late 1980s Skatetown was also known as Gaytown. At least you can actually earn money there, instead of just spending it (hahaha..AIDS test…AIDS test).

Ali Mall also had these SENSOROUND –equipped movie houses. SENSOROUND I think is the ancestor of today’s THX theaters. But the SENSOROUND thing is more primitive and brutal. It works by bombarding you with 500 decibels of sound from all directions. I think I ruptured my eardrums there once. SENSOROUND was also Quadrophonic. Unlike Stereophonic speakers, which use two-speaker output, Quadrophonics uses a four-speaker output. Human being only have two ears, so what’s the point in Quadrophonics? Stupid heroin addicted scientist from the 70s… .

Sometime in 1979, some guy named Henry Sy was building a department store near Ali Mall. The store was Shoe….something…I can’t remember.. (haha).

Fastfood in Cubao consist of one Mcdonald’s near New Frontier and street corner kiosks selling hotdogs, waffle dogs and that orange kropek. The Kiosk was never named, but in the 90’s we actually started giving them funny names like e.coli one, bacillus two, dysentery three. There was also this Orange Julius stand near the Rustan’s grocery. Since there was only two Mcdonald’s in the Philippines (one in U.N. Ave. and the one in Cubao), people actually traveled to get a Big Mac:

Dad: Family!! Pack your bags. We are going to McDonald’s for some French Fries!!”

Need to see a movie? In a stand-alone movie house? The old Cubao had tons of them. Odeon, Remar, New Frontier, Sampaguita, Ocean. I remember the hand painted movie billboards where the flesh areas are always painted as pink pigment. By the 1980s these movie houses turned from chic to sleazy—showing Soft Porn Pinoy movies. Owwww..come on? Who among you did not cut class, fake their ages to see a good Myra Manibog or Anna Marie Gutierrez movie in Ocean Theater?

Ticket Seller: “Ilang taon ka na ?”
Sneaker : uuuummm…..18 !!!
Ticket Seller : What year were you born?
Sneaker: hehehehe…ummm 1968? No…1969!! 1970?
(Huli ka!!).

We always look forward to Christmas and the annual animatronic display in COD. COD is now the Puregold Store. My favorite display was that Space-theme display in 1979. But there was one tragic twist. When I came to see it, one of the animatronic spaceman lost its head because of a loose nut. All of kids were screaming when that display came out. Half of them eventually made it to theraphy.

Farmer’s Market will always be Farmer’s Market. But it was for rich folks who wanted to stimulate going to a dirty Market. Farmers in the 70’s was clean and beautiful. As for my middle class family, we bought our stuff from NEPA Q-Mart.

Thirty years later, Cubao is a mixed of old and new. The Gateway Mall is a time machine to when Cubao was chic and trendy. There are still places where the sleaze of the 80’s and 90’s can still be seen. All this reminiscing is giving me an appetite.

Let’s all pack our bags and go to TACO BELL in Gateway.


  1. No way I use to live in cubao ! albany street and went to cubao elementary school. I left when I was eight to live in the UK. I went back this year, Walking round cubao trying to remember the big painted billbords. The one that stuck to my mind, was when Superman came out and there was a massive superman one. I use to like going to Ali mall the food court with all the little kiddie rides. I remember COD too

  2. Odeon is not in Cubao.Sa Avenida Manila yun.

  3. True Odeon is in Manila. If you say you were only in your 30's in 2008, then you probably know too few about the Araneta Center. How old were you when you first went to "Skatetown" Ali Mall? Sorry, it's not SENSOROUND but SENSURROUND.

  4. The ACT theater is very prominent theater in the 80s. There was the Uniwide bldg behind it; got burned down in the 90s. Ooohhh...memories.

  5. Cubao will always be cubao! Question: What was the name of the restaurant near Farmers where they served the food using a mini locomotive train? Cannot remember the exact name 'chew chew train' something I think