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rosendo m. makabali
rosendo m makabali MY FIRST experience of malls was loitering about, away from school with classmates, at Franda Mall in San Fernando town (now City of). By today's standards, Franda Mall was not at all mega-packed with shops, restaurants, theaters, and other haunts offering various amusements and attractions. What it was is close to the now scaled down versions—of course sans the cellphone kiosks or shops, KTV booths, and those guerilla CD, VCD, DVD stalls—of Angeles City's Savers Mall in Balibago and Jenra Mall on Sto. Rosario Street after the big malls' invasion. But for the freewheeling public high-schoolers that we were in the late 70s up to the early 80s, Franda Mall in San Fernando was already a big hangout. The gang of us eagerly trooped there after school, at lunch hour sometimes, when we cut class, or when PAGASA raised Signal No. 3 on an otherwise sunny school day.

Situated just at the mall's lobby area was our gang's favorite dig: the JV record bar. It was a small joint, so we had to crowd inside—we would rather regally scan the LPs mounted on the wall than be spotted outside commonly peering at the cassette tapes racked inside a locked glass wall-cabinet set below knee-high from the floor to the ceiling; although once inside the store one or two of us would browse over the songs menu to assemble a playlist for recording on cassette tape. Some of us chatted expertly with man-on-board Edgar over the merits and demerits—deciphering sleeve art, lyrics, and even liner notes—of the latest Van Halen album, Black Sabbath's, or other rock icons'; while the rest would just listen, nodding or grimacing, to whatever music was on, either being recorded or on after-sale trial for a customer.

Oh we ourselves did score some LPs and cassettes now and then, so we managed to remain in Edgar's good graces even if at times we were there simply generating idle body heat. It was at JV where I got, among other LPs, my Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here—this I still prize but no longer have the turntable to play it on—and my John Lennon Rock and Roll—this I let go cheaply soon after college for milk money as a jobless first-time father. (Oh well...) Whereas it was someplace else, at the ether-reeking Torno store down on the other side of the road, that I completed, albeit in cassette format, my then The Beatles discography—this gradually dwindled to zero (sigh), however, in the scheme of things of mutual borrowings within the gang and in subsequent other circles I gravitated to after high school. (Thanks to the cheap MP3 CD compilations circulating nowadays all the things I lost, plus more, returned with a sweet vengeance. Well, well, well... shh.)

The old gang also spent good time at the Franda Mall's gaming arcade, checking out the running high scores to break and squandering school allowances on the chung-chung or pyung-pyung machines. Although I was not much into video games (even then), I patiently waited and watched over the shoulders of my mates as they valiantly got their fixes filled on Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and other jurassic titles I don't remember now. (The video gaming high is still lost on me as a middleaging adult, patently parentally watching my kids' thrill levels elevate and accelerate at lightning speed from Counter Strike, Battle Realms, Grand Theft Auto, Ragnarok, to M.U., or what else have you in gear at the internet cafés in Nepo Mall.)

It was on Franda Mall's second floor where I was awakened somewhat to my baduy caste, when a buddy from the barkada took me along the rounds of apparel shops to blow his birthday money on orig Levi's or Lee jeans and Hanes or Fruit of the Loom tees. It was a consolation that I was evidently utterly—unwittingly at that—a savage when it came to clothing sense and style, that my friend condescendingly shrugged off my incapacity to be impressed as he confronted the shop girls with his Nepo Mart-acquired smarts on price and quality. (Even now I am slow to feel vindicated for my long-running, supposedly off, taste in garb, as I shamble about the city criminally in some mongrel getup a generous onlooker might yet estimate for inspirations of punk, grunge, hip-hop, and jeproks... The thing is that this old bud's still—now knowingly, incorrigibly—baduy after all these years, yeah.)

Down the pavement from Franda Mall was a rather staid commercial and office building that had perched on its rooftop the DJ's booth of DWSF-AM. (Is the thing still on?—I wonder.) Getting to the rooftop offered the treat of riding an elevator just one or two floors up (I still don't remember)—a novelty we never did tire of availing in such a provincial town that San Fernando was once was indeed way back then. Being on the rooftop itself was the bigger treat: for up there the gang got to feast spying on or heckling (likewise truant) coeds on dates—some stiffly exchanging sweet nothings, others tangled in surreptitious petting—as the outdoors speakers poured out tender strains of anything like "Just Once" or "Three Times A Lady." While I would always get a kick out of brashly tearing a leaf off my notebook to scribble a song request on and then smacking the paper at the DJ behind the window glass, who in turn would instantly spin the rousing "Eight Days A Week."

[About the author. Rosendo M. Makabali is literary editor of , a website dedicated to new underground guerrilla exploratory art + literature in the new medium. He has published poetry in several Philippine print magazines and online in spreadhead.net and . A few of his poems appear in Slam the Body Politik, the Revolutionary Multi-Arts, Multi-Media CD ROM released in 2004 by the Australia-based . A chapbook of his, Last Words and Other Poems, came out in 2005, as a grant under the UBOD New Authors Series project of the National Committee on Literary Arts (2001-2004) of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts.]

-Posted: 9:10 AM 2/25/07 | More of this author on eK!