Earlier this month I started working as a writer for Valenzuela City’s public information office. One of the nice things about this job is that the city hall is near our house and this means I can save on expenses by walking to and from the workplace every day. It also saves me from the stress of regularly commuting to Makati. Not to mention that I’m not totally confined inside the office since I sometimes get sent on assignments.
The downside is that this job keeps me in Valenzuela most of the time. Let’s be honest; while the city has seen significant improvements especially in the business sector in the past decade, it still has a long way to go to becoming a legitimate destination. There aren’t really many interesting spots for the average visitor and the dining scene won’t be soon giving places like Kapitolyo in Pasig or Maginhawa Street in Quezon City a run for their money.
It’s not to say that there’s nothing happening in the city. In fact, last week, Valenzuela celebrated its 391st foundation day, and there was a series of activities held mostly around Barangay Polo in the western part of the city. The city traces its beginning as a town in Bulacan known as Polo, which was carved from the town of Catanghalan and established as a separate town in November 12, 1623. This pretty much remained the same until 1975, when the town, then already known as Valenzuela, was removed from the province of Bulacan and incorporated under the administration of Metro Manila. In 1998, Valenzuela gained city status and has since then seen a steady, if somewhat slow, progress.
Part of this year’s foundation day celebrations was a cooking contest involving the putong pulo, a local delicacy made by steaming rice cakes and mixing them with achuete to give them their distinctive reddish-brown color. Contestants had to come up with one dish that would go well with the puto, and Betchay Lim, a kagawad from neighboring Barangay Mabolo, gained the approval of the judges with her kinulob na manok, a dish made from chicken, chicken intestine and rice mixed with chicken blood.
Such events allow me to experience a side of the city I hadn’t bothered experiencing before, despite having lived here for most of my life. It’s ironic, in fact, that I take great lengths in getting to know the history and culture of the places I visit but take my hometown for granted. Hopefully, this job will allow me to explore more of the place where I grew up and in the process, maybe it will help me get to know myself more.
Perhaps spending a lot of time in Valenzuela these days isn’t a downside, after all.