Special Feature

Dispatches From The Urban Jungle: 7 Stories From 7 Years of Urban Roaming

Seven years. Yup, it has been that long since I thought of setting up this site called The Urban Roamer. Back then, I never really thought this little “side project” would go on that long. Heck, if this was an actual job, this is now by far the longest employment record I would gladly put on my resumé.

It is also amazing to see how much The Urban Roamer has grown. I still find myself surprised seeing how much some of my work has gone viral, or getting appreciation from people and institutions I look up to like the Wilson Lee Flores, Intramuros Administration, and the Ayala Museum, among others. But I have to say I feel proud too to see how much I have grown as a writer, a heritage advocate, and a storyteller who strives to tell the story of the metropolis throughout these years in a unique and interesting light.

So as the Urban Roamer celebrates today its 7th anniversary, for a change, allow me to share to you here 7 of my favorite “dispatches” or stories I’ve written here for the past 7 years. In addition, I will share the background as to why I decided to write them as well as other insights that I may not have touched upon in the original stories. Believe me, it is hard choosing which one of the 500+ dispatches I have written over the years would make this list, but as a personal journey throughout these 7 years, these stories would be the ones that still hold a special place in my heart for one reason or another.

These are ranked in chronological order, starting from the earliest that I have written. And I hope you enjoy rereading these stories as much as I have.

Just Opened: Newport City’s Resorts World Manila (August 31, 2009)

The Urban Roamer was already a couple of weeks old at that time. By then, I have written a few entries already relating to my neighborhood in Santa Mesa, as well as a piece on the Ninoy Aquino monument in Makati. But I had a vision to take the site further, exploring not just the past but the present and future developments in the metropolis. The opportunity came on August 28 that year when Resorts World Manila formally opened to the public. And I would not want to miss the opportunity.

At that time, I was working in a contact center and was working the graveyard shift. So before I went to work in Makati, I went all the way to Pasay on the night of the 28th to check out the newly-opened entertainment complex. I also managed to enter the casino area though I just wandered around to see what was there and did not play any games. Given the limited time I had, I could not manage to stay long and enjoy the entertainment. But I made it a point to finish the piece as soon as possible. As a result, I believe this dispatch is one of the first, if not the first, features ever written on Resorts World Manila.

Reminiscing Cubao (Series from November 20, 2010 to January 10, 2011)

I was inspired to do this series out of my nostalgia for the Cubao I knew which was of the late 1980s to the mid 1990s and from what I witnessed as to how much it has changed since then. It helped that I still remembered where the old Cubao landmarkes used to be located. Writing the series sure brought back memories; I still find myself surprised by how much I still remembered of old Cubao, which helped in writing this series.

Of course, much has changed of Cubao since this series was published. And I do plan to revisit Cubao soon, this time the new Cubao that is rising and how much the landscape has changed since the mid-1990s. My idea for this forthcoming series is that it would be a companion piece of sorts to the Reminiscing Cubao series that I did before.

Roaming Malabon (Series from March 5 to March 19, 2011)

One of the things I love to do was join trips. Even if it is not an organized tour, I appreciate being part of a group who shares some common interests. One of those interests is food, and I found myself become part of a Facebook foodie group that does informal food trips in different parts of the metropolis. This was one of those adventures I was fortunate to join as it gave me an opportunity to explore Malabon, a place I have never been to before and have only known from the news as a place that gets flooded so often in a year.

That Malabon trip made me appreciate this place on an entirely different level. More than just a flood-prone area, I was surprised to learn that it is a place rich with heritage and a unique culinary culture. The fact that I was able to enjoy that Malabon experience with friends and fellow foodies made it even more special.

On a personal note, reminiscing about it now makes me feel sad a bit because of the death of a good friend who organized this Malabon food trip. You will be missed, Doy. Sigh…

Discovering The Birthplace of Philippine Television (October 21, 2011)

Originally published 2 days shy of what was then the 58th anniversary of the first Philippine television broadcast. I was long curious about the place where it happened. I knew it was in San Juan in an area called Sitio Alto but I did not know where in San Juan was Sitio Alto. Online search at that time yielded no results. Even the iconic book of Raul Rodrigo “Kapitan: Geny Lopez and the making of ABS-CBN” was not much help for me either.

That was, until I stumbled upon a tweet by Ivan Henares of Ivan About Town in relation to the site of Sitio Alto, which was somewhere along P. Guevarra Street. So one weekend, I decided to explore that part of San Juan called Little Baguio (which reminds that I should do an entry about this area soon) and I walked up north along P. Guevarra Street, trying to find where it was. By chance, I saw this huge compound with the sign at the gate that said “Sitio Alto.” Finally, I found the birthplace of Philippine television. By chance, the gate was actually open so I managed to take some photos of the garden (which I assumed was where the broadcast was made) and the house in the property before the household help noticed me taking a look at the property. Luckily, they did not see me take photos and asked me to leave which I obliged since I got what I came there for.

I am proud to see my work serve as a reference since then about Sitio Alto. In fact, any photos you see right now on search engines regarding Sitio Alto in San Juan came from this site. You could say I am the first and, so far, the only one who was able to put out original media related to this place. It’s also disappointing that the NHCP marker that celebrates the anniversary of the first television broadcast was not installed in Sitio Alto but at the Eugenio Lopez Jr. Bldg. of ABS-CBN. I believe the marker should be relocated to its rightful place which is Sitio Alto.

Reminiscing The Cinematic Glitter (Series from April 6 to May 12, 2013)

If you are going to ask me what my most favorite story or dispatch to write about in The Urban Roamer, I will have to say this series would be it. It was actually something I wanted to write about for quite a while, out of nostalgia and an awareness that grew over the years that many of these movie houses are actually heritage structures in their own right. It helped that I grew up in a period when the traditional movie theaters were beginning to lose their luster against the modern cineplexes located inside the shopping malls. So I was a witness to the slow death of many of these movie houses as they shut down one by one; some of them already disappeared from the cityscape as they were demolished to make way to some new structure.

The old movie theaters have a place in my nostalgia on a more personal level. You see, many of these movie houses served to “fuel” my “raging testosterones” of puberty. I grew up in the 1990s-early 2000s, when softcore R-rated films were being produced in local cinema one after another. So while I never watched them since I was below legal age, seeing the posters and still shots displayed were enough to do some when I got home…you know what I mean.

Ok back to the story, One reason I never got around to doing this entry was the challenge of going around the city to check out these places, not just because of the traffic but because of the people who may forbid us from taking these photos because of, I dunno. Finally, I was able to set a schedule to do it on Holy Week 2013, Maundy Thursday to be exact, a time when there’s little to no traffic and we have the streets pretty much to ourselves. I managed to tag along a friend and spend the whole afternoon roaming Quiapo, Santa Cruz, Binondo, checking out as many movie theaters as we can, even the ones that no longer exist, plus some other sights along the way. Our “Visita Takilya” was a tiring but memorable experience, and being able to appreciate them more than I normally would (due to the limitations experienced on a regular day) makes it even more worth it.

Tip: if you want to explore the city really well, there is no better time to do it than in Holy Week.

Manila1945 (Series from February 3 to March 4, 2015)

A series I wrote to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Manila in 1945, the Battle of Manila is an event in history that I have always been intrigued in. In fact, one of my pet projects that I want to do was to ultimately, write a script for a possible movie on the Battle of Manila though more as a war drama film than a war film with the emphasis on the fighting. Because ultimately, the Battle of Manila was not much about the fighting but the people and places that were lost because of it; many of them would be gone forever. It was that single event thac changed Manila forever, and I would like to someday see someone do justice to that in film given the opportunity

For the meantime, the best that I can do is write about the history and legacy of this even in the site through this series. Having read much about the Battle of Manila, I strive to provide a neutral perspective in that I think both the Japanese and Americans deserve some share of the blame, though whether it could have been avoided is something left for speculation. At the same time, I wanted to honor the city and the people lost in the battle in the best way I can, and that is to write about and give it the extensive treatment that it deserves.

I was glad that it managed to gain some recognition, most especially from Carlos Celdran and Transitio Manila, the annual event that serves to commemorate the Battle of Manila. If anything, it was validation enough for me.

The Urban Roamer’s BIR Registration Guide For (Part-Time) Freelancers (April 13, 2015)

It was one originally written out of interest and frustration not just with the process of BIR registration as a self-employed (part-time at that time) professional, but also with the lack of resources available that tells me how to go about in the registration process as a part-time freelancer since every resource I can find then pertained only to full-time freelancers. While this particular dispatch was not a regular type of feature I would write in the site, it was nothing new since I have been writing about workflows in government transactions was nothing new to me since I did write about the ePassport Application Guide in 2009 and 2015.

What else can I say? This one paved the way for me to become a co-author of Cyberpreneur Philippines, the first book I got to write, in part at least thanks to the publisher noticing the link for this dispatch I shared in a Facebook group for freelance writers which I was a part of. Of course, the chapter that appeared in the book went through some significant edits, including some additional information added as the book was geared towards online cyberpreneurs (those who are looking at setting up their own businesses online, even as solo professionals) in general. This helped open a new door for me as far as opportunities are concerned.


My thanks to everyone who have supported The Urban Roamer from the past 7 years, from my own circle and beyond, even those people I look up to. I hope, as always, you will continue to be with me as this roamer’s journey continues.

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