My first apartment was at Blanco Center on Leviste Street in Salcedo Village, Makati. Apartment 914. I shared the place with two guys who toiled in the corporate universe. How we (and our respective egos) managed to cram into a railroad flat, I have no idea. For one thing our tastes in music diverged wildly. One liked music from before 1800, one liked showtunes and Madonna, I liked grunge. Yet we managed to coexist in relative peace.
A friend noted that our apartment looked like the one in David Lynch’s Eraserhead. (This is called foreshadowing.) There was even the occasional crackling lightbulb on the fritz in the hallway. I thought the architecture was very Soviet asylum. I imagined axe murderers lying in wait behind the heavy wooden doors. Of course I felt right at home.
Years after moved out, I started hanging out with people who had also lived in Blanco Center. We were next-door neighbors, except that we were there at different times. Literally Everyone has had a Blanco period. The other day Noel and I ran into his friend who had lived in my old apartment, 914. Blanco was truly the Vortex of the Universe.
Blanco Center is now the Picasso Suites serviced apartments. It has been thoroughly redone and is much, much grander than my old building; art exhibits are held on the ground floor and there is a good restaurant. When Patrice of the Volcanoes was in Manila he stayed at the Picasso and I had a peek. The rooms still have the railroad flat shape, but they don’t look like my old apartment at all.
In my last year at Blanco I was hit with a staggering rent increase. At first I thought all the tenants had gotten the same increase, then I found out that only I was paying more. Turns out that the landlord had read a magazine article I’d written in which I described the building’s Eraserhead ambience and Soviet asylum architecture.
I tried to explain that the description was meant fondly, and that I never mentioned the name of the building. He gave me the “Oh you young people when you get older you will learn that you can’t go around saying whatever you think” speech.
“But I like this building,” I pointed out. “I don’t think it’s ugly. You want ugly, look at that building across the street.”
“I own that building too,” the landlord said.
End of discussion.