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Name: Don De Alban
1. Where did you grow up, and what made that place special?
I was born and raised in Makati, Metro Manila, back in the day when the Rizal Theatre was the most spectacular movie house and the Mandarin Oriental was the tallest hotel in the area. My family was in the construction business in the 1970s, and by the standards then, I would say that was a time when our clan was well-off. It was a special time since my entire clan regularly got together in huge parties and celebrations, which were held at our family's ancestral compound that spanned about half of the street.
Sadly, when the country was experiencing economic turmoil in the mid-80s during the Marcos regime, the company was not very fortunate and went down. Family feuds ensued after that up until the early 1990s to fight over remaining wealth and inheritances. Our family left Makati for Baguio to start over but didn't exactly intend to stay there long.
I still consider Makati as my hometown even though we don't have our house and property there anymore.The place is still special to me since I was born there and I lived the early carefree half of my life in that area. It was a time when I could buy a Coke Litro for P5 from across the street, and spend the afternoons playing with other kids from the neighborhood. Children's games then (like taguan, patintero, habulan, and tumbang preso) were more interactive in the real sense unlike the network PC games that kids so crazily enjoy now.
Of course, that old Makati gone now and the town has changed a lot in two decades. It's truly unfortunate (for me, that is) that most of our family pictures have either been missing or lost as a result of several house relocations in Baguio in the 1990s, except for some that were stashed when I brought them to attend college in Quezon City. I guess all those fond memories only live through my recollections now or whenever my family gets to talk and reminisce about those days long gone.
2. What was your favorite tv show, cartoon, or children's show growing up? What did you like about these shows that made them your favorite?
Cartoons and kiddie shows made my day when I was growing up. I remember watching them with my younger brother, Rom. The TV was propped on top of a small dresser and we'd sit on the floor watching the shows while eating snacks. Eventually we'd end up lying on the floor, sleepy, until we had to go because Mama was already calling us since it was time for lunch.
Sesame Street was undisputedly my favorite. I always looked forward to seeing Oscar the Grouch and the Count. I even remember singing along to the tune of that counting segment (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12... too too toodoo too too too toodoo doo...) where there's a pinball and a certain number is featured during the ball's journey in a tunnel. Two other cartoons that I also enjoyed watching were Super Book and The Flying House, which were about stories from the Bible from both the Old and New Testaments.
I guess I could not have been watching those shows back then because I knew they were teaching me the alphabet or the rudiments of counting--let alone good moral values through biblical stories. I definitely had no idea that I had to learn them. I was watching those shows then because it was very entertaining. But when I look back at that time and see myself where I am now, I'd say that these shows were, in fact, instrumental in my development as a kid and as a person. I had probably learned to speak English better from watching these shows, and could not only recall those stories from the Bible but aspired to live my life through its teachings as well.
3. Favorite music group or artist? Most memorable song?
The most memorable song to me probably, other than Sesame Street tunes and the main soundtrack of Superman, would be "You Got the Power" sang by Gary Valenciano, which was one of the soundtracks of the movie, Ninja Kids. The movie at that time was phenomenal to me, my brother, and my cousins when we were kids. We were so enamoured by the idea of ninjas that we did alot of roleplays imagining that we were ninjas ourselves. We'd wrap t-shirts over our heads and leave only our eyes exposed. We also used to make those ninja "stars" from paper and throw them around as weapons during our make-believe adventures. One time, we were practising doing forward flips on the bed during our "ninja trainings," and I had a mishap while doing it and couldn't breathe as a consequence. Everybody was in a panic to get me alright. It was really good that I got out of it after a few minutes without any need of going to the hospital, and that there were no serious injuries. But I think from then on, I stopped being blindly adventurous and refrained from further acrobatics. I guess that particular Ninja Kids soundtrack never fails to remind me of my childhood days and my wild ideas as a kid.
4. Share with our readers one of your fondest memories of growing up.
It was the very first time I saw Superman in flight back in the early 1980s at Rizal Theatre (where Shangri-la Makati Hotel now stands). My 6-year old mind then did not protest to the concept of a flying person with supernatural uncanny strength and unusual abilities. I liked the idea of the superhero--one who fights for justice, truth, and good causes--while having all those wonderful powers. I wanted to imitate him and thought that everything was possible. Superman became one of my childhood heroes along with Optimus Prime (from the Transformers cartoons) a few more years after.
Anyway, after the movie, Mama took a photo of my brother, Rom, and me individually at the parking lot (where the Landmark now stands) with Rizal Theatre in the background. I held both my hands, clenched in fists behind my back while I posed for the camera. Mama insisted I put my hands to my sides but I didn't listen and kept them behind me. In my head, I knew I was inspired, even looking determined, and thought I could be like Superman and wanted to fly.
Years later, Rom jeered that I was just being silly by considering I could fly like Superman by the pose I took. I admit now that I was being ridiculous then, but I've also realized that my capacity for imagination when I was a kid knew no limits. It's quite unfortunate that the photograph is nowhere to be found now.
5. What do you miss from back then that's not available today?
That would be Hershey's Brown Cow. If you remember this chocolate syrup, it was made into a drink by pouring it in a container with milk. But for me, I'd slyly open the fridge while no one was looking, and drink the chocolate syrup straight from bottle thru the easy-to-open nozzle. The taste was absolutely rich. I can't find the product anymore (or I believe I haven't seen it in years) at the local supermarkets but I'm not sure though if its production in other countries have already ceased or they're just not selling it locally anymore.
I was also into collecting stickers over several series of sticker albums then, which I sorely miss now not only because they're already a thing of the past but because I lost my collection. It started when I was in elementary Grade 1 with "The World of Survival," which was a sticker collection about different animal species in the world. It was followed by "The Age of the Dinosaurs" when I entered Grade 2, and annually followed by other different themes particularly on cartoons like the Carebears, Mask, and the Ghostbusters.
I also remember being addicted to Chikadees and Cheezels too. I usually bought some after school because I liked collecting the free small toy items that came inside each packet.
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