After Quiapo and Divisoria in Manila, and Baclaran in Pasay City, the Philippine capital’s post-independence commercial center was at Cubao in Quezon City, specifically Araneta Center on the southeast quadrant of the intersection of Aurora Boulevard and EDSA (once known as Circumferential Road 4 or C-4).
There are photos from the 1960s of that flat parcel of land where only the Araneta Coliseum once stood all alone. It was at the time the biggest domed arena in Asia and still is among Southeast Asia’s biggest enclosed spaces; it still gets regularly filled up by basketball and concert fans.
Fifty years onward, Araneta Center is undergoing a facelift to make it as flashy and as trendy as the other newer shopping centers that had sprouted in the intervening decades.
The once-popular Little Quiapo and Ma Mon Luk restaurants along Aurora Boulevard are now gone, along with the row of movie houses but in their place are newly built interconnected malls topped by high-rise condominiums and hotels.
Located at the crossroads connecting the City of Manila to various points east (Marikina City, Cainta, Pasig City, Montalban, Antipolo City, Taytay, Angono, and even further), Cubao is the nexus that hordes of commuters traverse every working day when going to Makati City, Manila, and/or Caloocan City. Taking the Light Rail Transit Line 2, the Metro Rail Transit, or the buses and jeepneys from Fairview or Rosario, the daily flow of people going through Araneta Center runs in the hundreds of thousands.
Most people now pass through the elevated walkways connecting the malls and shopping arcades along Aurora Boulevard to the one along EDSA, almost a one-kilometer hike. Those who are headed out of town (as far away as Bicol, Leyte, Panay, or Mindanao) usually aim for the large bus terminal in the middle of the shopping district. Two-way traffic along broad streets doesn’t let the traffic pile up except unavoidably along Aurora Boulevard and EDSA with their never-ending pileup of public utility vehicles.
Several office buildings and call centers are already in full operation, with more to come. Many plush hotels are now under construction but several two- and three-star economy hotels are already in place to give travelers a chance to rest and shop around, or even to stay for good.
Cubao residents and commuters can shop for groceries at a number of supermarkets, at smaller specialized or bargain shops in between, or at a modern wet and dry market that is refilled each day and night with the freshest fish, meat, fruits, vegetables, and flowers.
Specialty restaurants abound, and some are open 24-hours to cater to the call center workers. Moviegoers usually head for the modern Cineplexes on the top floors of the malls. More shops are scheduled to open later as the new buildings now under construction are finished.
Araneta Center is undergoing a building boom that by Yuletide 2013 should draw in large crowds of nearby residents, shoppers, and visitors. In fact, it’s hard to avoid passing through it.
By Selwyn Clyde M. Alojipan