In the 1980s, when I used to visit friends living in the Barangays of Concepcion and Marikina Heights, I often sense that the locals felt neglected by the city government, as the roads to these areas were undeveloped and the traffic getting there was terrible. After the radical programs enacted by mayors Bayani and Marides Fernando, these Barangay have transformed into vibrant communities.
Travelling down the main road of A. Bonifacio Avenue, upon crossing the Marikina River take a sharp right to J.P. Rizal Avenue to get to the Barangay Parang. Still moving down J.P. Rizal Avenue, turn right at the intersection of Bayan-bayan Avenue, and you are now in the Concepcion area. The first thing you will notice is the Immaculate Conception Parish, which was constructed in the 1980s.
Nearby is the Concepcion Elementary School, where my high school classmates and I used to give tutorials in Mathematics and Science to the 6th Grade students, which was part of the Tulong Dunong (Learning Aid) program of the our school, the Ateneo de Manila.
Driving along Bayan-bayan Avenue, one will notice some statues of different types of workers, entitled “Naghihintay ng Bayani” (Waiting for a Hero), which are monuments to the everyday worker. These were designed by Arch. Ernesto ‘Bong’ Leaño, during the term of Mayor Bayani Fernando (1992-2001). Although these statues are found all over the city, most of these sculptures can be found in the Concepcion and Marikina Heights areas. In Barangay Sta. Elena, the “Naghihintay ng Bayani” statue features a teacher and his student. In front of the Marikina Healthy Center is the “Naghihintay ng Bayani”statue of a doctor washing a child. In front of the Meralco (electrical utilities provider) office of Barangay Concepcion is a statue of electrical post maintenance crew.
The largest collection of these “Naghihintay ng Bayani” statues can be found along Kalayaan Avenue, in Barangay Marikina Heights. The last of these sculptures were installed by 2002, under the governance of Mayor Marides Fernando. I have no information about the artists behind these works, but friends in the sculpture community suggest that local artisans were hired for this project.
At the end Bayan-bayan Avenue is a rotunda with a park in the middle. This is Marikina-Brampton Friendship Park, which was named after the 2005 signing of sister cities partnership between Marikina and Brampton in the United Kingdom. In the part is a large gazebo, which serves as an open-aired multi-functional hall for the residents.
Turning left at the Marikina-Brampton Friendship Park, one enters Barangay Marikina Heights. I was surprise how green the whole area is, and how health conscious is the populace. In the heart of the Barangay is the Marikina-Yeongdo Friendship Park, which was named after the 2013 signing of the sister city pact between Marikina and Yeongdo in Pusan, South Korea.
At one end of the park is the PEFTOK Memorial (Phil. Expeditionary Force to Korea), which commemorates the Philippine soldiers who served during the Korean War (1950-53). All around the monument are plaques to the different military units that toured in the war:
20th Battalion Combat Team / We Lead
19th Battalion Combat Team / Bloodhounds
14th Battalion Combat Team / The Avengers
10th Battalion Combat Team . Motorized
2nd Battalion Combat Team / The Peacemakers
The memorial was installed in 2005.
All over the park, there are families promenading and children playing, while individuals go about jogging or doing calisthenics around the statues of a herd of concrete dairy cows.
At the Marikina Heights Multi-Purpose Hall, local residents engage in aerobic exercises such as zumba and dance sport, with classical sculptures adorn the garden outside.
Around the multi-purpose hall, there are a couple of junk sculptures that resemble robots. These were created by Mark David O. Cerezo in 2007. During that time, these sculptures were found all around Marikina, with the program called “Robot City” to entice more visitors. Now they have been relegated to a few key areas in Marikina Heights.
Mark David O. Cerezo (born 1984) is a stalwart advocate of positive development in Marikina City. Nicknamed the ‘Rubberman’ by some locals, Cerezo was first recognized for his creativity in creating toys and costumes out of scrap rubber. Cerezo has used his talents in educating the youth on environmental awareness, as well as developing alternative sources of livelihood using waste materials. Although Cerezo has focused most of his efforts to the people of Marikina, he has also extended his developmental work to the towns in Leyte and Samar, after the devastation of Typhoon Yolanda, in 2013. Because of his unwavering sense of Bayanihan, Cerezo has been recognized by various institutions, and has been honored as the 2011 Best Innovative Employee of Metro Manila; 2011 Ten Outstanding Employee of Metro Manila; 2011 Most Outstanding Public Servant in Administrative and General Support of Marikina; 2012 Cobra Pinoy Hero awardees; 2013 Model Employee of Marikina; National Awardee of the 2014 Most Outstanding Volunteer of the Philippines and featured as one of the 2015 Tapat Dapat Modern Day Heroes of Champion Detergent Soap.
Exploring these areas after more than a decade makes me think of transferring back to Marikina. If the other cities could fix their traffic problem, returning to Marikina might be something for the near future.