Manila Times Editorial: Tondo
By Editor-in-Chief (Manila Times)
Some politicians speak of the district of Tondo as if it were a
backwater community of the downtrodden and the unfortunate.
The presidential aspirant, Fernando Poe Jr., the champion of the poor,
for example, had said that he would participate in a presidential
debate only if it were held in an impoverished community where the
masses could take part and raise questions.
What poverty-stricken places? He named several slum neighborhoods in
Metro Manila. He also named Tondo.
In his equation, Tondo is home of the utterly poor who could help
raise his spirits in a spirited debate, when the exchange gets heated
and he runs out of arguments.
The King of Action Movies laid down his ground rules in responding to
a challenge from another presidential candidate, former senator Raul
Roco. Poe also said he preferred to debate in Pilipino, which is a
Responding to the movie actor, President Arroyo said she was willing
to engage her strongest rival to a debate in Tondo to suit his
demands, even if it meant bending the rules.
She apparently sees Tondo through the same prism used by Poe.
The candidates' attitude reflects a benighted public perception that
Tondo is an unsafe, downtrodden underbelly of the city; that the place
is thick with crime, vice and disease.
Manileņos who were born or were raised in Tondo, as well as thoughtful
Filipinos, will see these arguments as a kind of place-bashing.
Tondo occupies a niche in history. Before it was carved out and
certain areas parceled out to neighboring Binondo, Tondo hosted
historic events and was home to many distinguished families.
Here Lakandula founded his kingdom and the Katipunan had its first
meetings. The great Tondo Church summoned the faithful. Plaza Moriones
was once the best option to Quiapo's Plaza Miranda. Torres High was
one of the best secondary schools in the nation, producing eminent
graduates who excelled in journalism, literature and public service.
Name-places like Gagalangin, Bangkusay, Moriones, Juan Luna, Tayuman,
Pritil and Balut were homes to venerable families: the Arcellanas,
Malays, Aprietos, Cristobals, Cruzes, Saenzes, the Hernandezes and
Tondo is a community of the hardworking, ambitious middle-class. There
are pockets of poverty and lawlessness, such as the Smoky Mountain
area, the North Harbor slums and the Dagat-Dagatan grounds. The
district itself takes pride in its history, culture and its
possibilities. Many political parties and candidates however see
Tondo only in terms of votes.
They haven't read the work of the late Tondo-born writer Andres
Cristobal-Cruz, who loved to tell the world that, "Tondo Man, May