12/11/10

reminiscing Cubao: the Fiesta Carnival

More than the stores and the movie theaters, if you ask anyone who experienced old Cubao as to what was their best experience of the place, the most popular answer would probably be their visit/s to that beloved placed called Fiesta Carnival.

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right at the heart of Cubao: Fiesta Carnival, along with Araneta Coliseum

Long before Star City and (in some way) Enchanted Kingdom, one of the ultimate, if not THE ultimate, amusement park in the metropolis was the Fiesta Carnival. Despite the name though, it was not housed on a tent like the carnivals we see in the movies. Rather it made its home under a warehouse-type structure with a variety of shops surrounding the building. Very far from the common conception indeed.

While the exterior looks far from a traditional carnival, there’s no doubt the carnival atmosphere is felt when you get inside. It was big enough to house a variety of attractions like the carousel, roller coaster, a train travelling around the carnival, and bump cars to name a few. Of course, given the space and height limitations, the rides were not as high not only by today’s standards but even then compared to the seasonal outdoor carnivals Fiesta Carnival competed with during that time. Nevertheless, it was a big hit especially among the children growing up during the 1970’s-1980’s, as Fiesta Carnival became one of Cubao’s most popular attractions, rivalling that of Araneta Coliseum located just on the other side of Gen. Aguinaldo Ave. where the carnival is also located.

one of the few online photos of Fiesta Carnival (credits to the owner)

But Fiesta Carnival’s story mirrors that of the many “rise and fall” stories of celebrities that we hear. By the 1990’s, Fiesta Carnival began to lose its appeal among the children who have become more enamored with mall-based entertainment, computer gaming, not to mention the appeal of grander amusement parks especially with the opening of Laguna-based Enchanted Kingdom during that time. Fiesta Carnival soon degenerated as a run-down amusement park that was plagued by incidents of theft and other petty crimes.

During the 2000’s, Araneta Center, the developers of the Cubao commercial district, decided to breathe some new life into Fiesta Carnival. It was decided to convert it into an outdoor carnival, and it was moved to an open space right across SM Cubao. The old Fiesta Carnival building was soon converted into a hypermarket under the brand name Shopwise, owned by the kin of the famed Rustan’s brand which itself has a long established presence in the area.

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Unfortunately, the outdoor Fiesta Carnival did not click with the public. Faced with an alarming decline of what was once a revered landmark, the decision came to close down Fiesta Carnival for good, as part of its space was allocated to other projects in the ongoing revitalization project for Cubao.

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the former outdoor Fiesta Carnival, now a parking lot and a call center office building

But for the many who were fortunate to experience the joys of going to Fiesta Carnival, its contribution in the collective memory of many and in enriching the landscape of Old Cubao will never be forgotten.

© The Urban Roamer