I wasn’t there during their birth, but I was there when they died.

I’m talking, of course, about Video Stores in Bacolod, a sight unseen to most Gen Z’ers, a memory lost to those of old age. All the forms of physical media made their way into the city (Laser Discs, VCDs, DVDs, etc.) but ask anybody now what “Betamax” means, and they’ll tell you about some congealed blood thing cooked on rusty grills. These stores deserve a better remembrance, a more-than-passing mention in some random Facebook nostalgia group. Why? Because they were an integral part of growing up for my generation and me.

As a kid of the 90s, I was there during their heyday. I remember getting lost in the cavernous halls of Quad Tech near Plaza Mart, accompanying my father as he gleefully showed me all his favorite movies such as the unheralded classic Dogs of War (1980), to staple genre fare like the James Bond movies, even exploitation and horror films like The Exterminator (1980), and Necronomicon (1993). The box covers were spare and menacing, inviting you to take a chance on the hidden goodness (or sometimes awfulness) inside.

But video stores were not just entertainment for my family and me; they also helped me in school life. I remember a video screening of Balloon Farm (1999) when I was in fifth grade and being asked to make a reaction paper. Alas, we couldn’t finish the movie due to some technical difficulties. Our teacher made us comply sans finishing the movie. How could I possibly deliver?

When I told my father about this incident, he was fuming mad. I assured him of a solution; I knew where the Balloon Farm VHS was in Quad Tech Plaza Mart. The week after, I was the only one who got a perfect score.

The stores were doing okay circa 2004-2008, but suddenly, they faced competition: the cheapie pirated DVDs that flooded the market all over the Philippines. Why rent a movie when you can own THREE movies for P100? For the economically-conscious Bacolodnons, there was never a saner choice. Soon, the ACA and MIRU video stores began losing customers to street DVD vendors, usually just outside or a street away from their locations.

Even the allure of the adult section of the Video Stores was not enough, as ubiquitous pirated DVD hawkers all had a copy of the latest sex scandals.

And they soon gave up. I was there when all the video stores in Bacolod shut down, buying all the DVDs they owned for a quarter of the original price. The DVD of Ravenous (1999) that I once rented? A memento of the bygone days of discovering the latest disturbing horror movie. I was happy to get the movie, but I was sad I lost the store.

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? The video stores are a sight unseen, an experience lost to time. But I was there: I saw them, and they formed me (and maybe countless others) into the men and women we are now, for better or worse.

Tomas Gerardo T. Araneta’s passion in life is writing about what interests him the most. Those things include movies, books, and other unnoticed social phenomena.

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Jottings is a new segment by SunStar Bacolod’s Opinion section. It features short and personal essays. To submit, kindly send an essay between 300-500 words. Please include a two-sentence bio note and email them to sunstarbacoloddesk@gmail.com.