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Changing Times

by Alfonso Bermejo Villamora (,

Kaiba News and Features--Bicol


“It’s hard for me to get used to these changing times. I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty.” George Burns


Life used to be slower in Tinambac, Camarines Sur. I remember how this slow pace would come to a virtual stop just after sunset, when the altar boys tugged at the ropes of the aged bells: Angelus in the Poblacion.


     The centuries-old church sits atop a small hill, across from the old municipio. When the bells are rung, the echoes reverberate all the way to the westernmost and farthest parts of the town from the church. On a slightly breezy afternoon when the amihan (northeast wind) comes to gently cool an overheated town, the sonorous sounds can be heard as far as the nine fathom mark on San Miguel Bay where the night fishers await for darkness to fall.


     When I left in 1975, the main streets in the Poblacion (forming a rectangular perimeter) were the only ones built with concrete. Today, the whole town is paved in concrete, including the road to Naga City. But it took two decades to get this job done!


     Back then, the town folks looked forward to the weekly movies at the old sinehan on San Pascual Street. The late Choring Santamaria of Goa, Camarines Sur, owned the wooden structure that passed for a movie theater. This I know because I vividly remember the tall mestizo – the late Pay Choring who strictly manned the entrance. Dolphy's antics tickled, Tony Ferrer's and Bernand Bonin’s exploits amazed, and Fernando Poe and Ronald Remy’s adventures were larger than life. “Aninong Bakal”, “Agent X-44” and “Sierra Madre” were just a few of the movies I remember. People enjoyed everything else this one local entertainment venue offered.


     The old movie house is nothing but a distant memory now, thanks to the proliferation of VHS and DVD players and cable TV. Even the Bicharas’ venture in Tinambac did not flourish either, as their old movie house next to the Platon’s “Whitehouse” on La Purisima Street is now an eyesore. The Bicharas own the monopoly of movie houses in the Bicol Region.


     On fiesta days, the town’s saod (market) would host the travelling perya and other itinerant business. As a kid, I eagerly looked forward to those days so I could have an old fav - a clay toy gun! The wares of the visiting merchants from Tiwi, Albay lined the old seawall – all sizes of korons (clay pots), clay planters, clay dolls gaily painted in bright red, green and yellow.  I remember pestering Mama for a few pesos to buy cotton candies and colorful ice drops while standing in the queue for the kino-kino (a carnival game in which a mouse or guinea pig is let loose near a ring of rotating, numbered houses. The entered house is the winning number) roadshow. Ah, those were the days!


     In recent years, entrepreneurs started renting spaces for their Tiangge set-ups along the commercial section of La Purisima Street. Cheap plastic wares are everywhere; bundles of slippers are on sale as if they are going out of style. The streets become impassable to vehicular traffic. As a matter of fact, the traditional bisperas procession for San Pascual Baylon had to be rerouted because of the bizarre, I mean bazaar-like set-up that has encroached into the main thoroughfares. What a pity! The town officials must be really hurting for cash that they have succumbed to commercial demands passing over tradition.


     Definitely, life in Tinambac has picked up its pace now but not yet to the extent of finding a Mang Donald or a Chow King outlet. The old municipio now houses a college. The new and bigger municipio is located in Binalay, away from the “happenings” in the town plaza and away from the common tao. If you need to visit the post office, one must hire the services of a padyak (foot-pedaled tricycle) operator. For two pesos, he will take you anywhere in the Poblacion. But Binalay will cost you two pesos more. Of course trykes and jeepneys will get you there faster. Personally, I like the padyak ride. It is slow but void of the 90-decibel noise they call music that blare in more modern conveyances.


     Excursionists and curiosity-seekers from the big city are more frequent now, eager to visit the invigorating waters of the Lupi and Himoragat Rivers. Two years ago, I invited some of my balikbayan friends from Nabua, Camarines Sur for a dip in Iraya (upstream). I had a hut built on a rocky area in the middle of the pleasantly fresh Himoragat. The water under the hut was deep enough for swimming in and out of it and into the even deeper parts of the river. With a case of cold San Miguel and lots of seafood and summer fruits, the outing was complete. Truly, it was a memorable experience.


     One of the things I miss particularly in Baybay (coast) was my old tambayan – Tiang Talin’s sari-sari store along San Vicente Street. Come to think of it, sari-sari stores look so different now in that part of the town- though bigger they seem inhospitable to loafers. Stores used to be smaller and had two rough wooden benches in front of them. You'd find people perched on the benches talking and catching up with the day’s bareta (news) and the latest tsismis in the afternoon. They wouldn’t be drinking; they’d just be talking. The drinking session happens at night. Then, armed with a bilog or a kuatro kantos, they would turn the night into hell, comic relief, or heaven for the neighbors, depending on their musical abilities and the extent of their inebriation. With no police to contend with, just some stray animals and an occasional angry wife, they men folk would while the night away. Scorecards are compared in the morning when the wives gather and talk about the previous night’s unscheduled performances.


     Indeed my hometown has changed both physically and demographically with time and progress. I miss the old Tinambac and the clanging of the old church bells from atop the gently rolling hill just after sunset. The bells still toll the Angelus but now it is sadly drowned by the neighbors’ boom boxes – the new sign of the times in this sleepy, old town (Kaiba News and Features, email: URL:






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KAIBA News & Features, P.O. Box 6126, Naga City 4400.  email:  Tel No. 0917 8122107 Copyright © 1999  KAIBA News & Features. All rights reserved.  Revised: August 13, 2002