TODAY I find myself traversing the southbound route I used to call home. Passing through the old familiar landmarks — the sign to Nuvali, the celebrated theme park Enchanted Kingdom — I have slowly and lovingly begun to relocate my sense of place, my sense of belonging.
A few days ago, I applauded a media colleague for launching a provincial paper. I didn’t know him personally; nonetheless, I felt like I’ve known him for a long time. Somehow, the connection was there. I also savored the peculiar but warm feeling of being in love with both the place that I sorely missed, and a paper that has just been born but is already dear to me because it represents all that I love. The former is, of course, Laguna, and the latter, this paper, Laguna Now. (Laguna Now is a news website for the time being but will start publishing as a newsweekly in March. — Editor)
Gladly, I found a way to connect with the publisher who gave me this chance to write. This, after a few years of parking my pen to give way to my advocacy. Having lived most of my life with deadlines and demands, I literally vacated the world of juggling interview schedules and went to advocating, lobbying and doing what to me were the things that “made more sense.”
But now I’m going back — to the structure, the demands, the pressure, and the linkages with the locals. Through this column, I want to share my thoughts about Laguna, my adoptive city. This will serve as one person’s point of view, but my view is an amalgam of many lives, both private and public.
In 2007, I joined the media team of Santa Rosa City. Arlene Arcillas, who was vice-mayor in 2006, ran for mayor in 2007 and won. Arcillas rose to popularity after her father mayor Leon Arcillas was gunned down in front of City Hall. One crazy rumor that circulated was the deceased mayor’s assailants were allegedly the bride and groom he had just wed in a mass wedding the mayor himself officiated. The next election saw the bereaved daughter of the mayor getting all the sympathy from Rosenians.
Young, pretty, intelligent and virtuous in the throes of bereavement, she easily won the hearts of the people. She completed her three-year term by a landslide vote in 2013. Now the congresswoman for the first district of Laguna, Arcillas has gone a long way to becoming the most accomplished politician in the province. Living up to her campaign slogan, “Serbisyong makatao, lungsod na makabago”, Santa Rosa City, through Arcillas, started to implement its development programs in 2007.
The same year was the groundbreaking year for the Nuvali property venture of Ayala Land. The sprawling 1,700-hectare property of Santa Rosa and Calamba eventually became the central business district of the south. I remember being invited to the groundbreaking, when the property developer was just presenting the plan to the media, and there was not yet a single frame of house or structure built on it but merely architectural plans. Back then, the forecast for the Laguna cities, particularly Santa Rosa, was generally rosy.
I am proud to have coined the tag “Makati of the South” in one of the articles I wrote back then. Like the mythical Greek goddess Fortuna, I have foreseen the prosperity of Santa Rosa as it continues to evolve. It is now a model city and ranks number one in tax revenues. Dubbed the “Investment Capital of South Luzon,” it is host to industrial global giants such as Toyota Motors, Ford Motors, Honda, Nissan Motors, Monde-Nissin, Fujitsu-Ten, Panasonic, CiGi, the biggest Coca Cola Bottler’s Plant in the Far East. Santa Rosa City also hosts five major industrial complexes: Laguna Technopark Inc., Greenfield Auto Park, Santa Rosa Commercial IT Park, Toyota Special Economic Zone, Meridian Industrial Park, and four urban master-planned development projects: Nuvali, Eton City, Greenfield City, and Ascendas.
What makes me come back to Laguna?
The history, the harmony, the “evo-living.” Santa Rosa, for one, is a city bustling with activity but it remains a place of serenity. For someone arriving from the congested metropolis, a glimpse of the picturesque and state-of-the-art Nuvali seems to slough off years of tiredness in less than an hour. The ecstatic greetings I receive from friends I have not seen in years; the goodwill of strangers — these nourish my love for Laguna and make me feel this is still my town.
There is calm, there is chaos. Things are neither fast nor slow. They just are. It is both and neither.
It is home.
Aya is a wordsmith who is unafraid to risk her self-image via her sometimes cruel, sometimes ironic, brutally honest narratives. She endeavors to make her words not just mere babbles but quotables — straightforward, piercing down to the innards, but always with sense and soul. Send feedback to email@example.com.)