Mall to rise in old jai-alai site

ABOUT two weeks ago, Manny Mier saw some construction workers fencing off the compound where the old jai alai building is situated.

He later learned that a mall will rise and will replace the building on C. Padilla St., Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City that formed part of his personal history.

Jai-alai originates from Spain’s Basque region and it is played in a court with a hard rubber ball that is caught and thrown with a cesta.

The game has spawned the illegal numbers game masiao that the police are still trying to eradicate.

“Anha mi sa una magtambay (My friends and I used to idle inside that place),” said Mier, 43. “Bugnaw kaayo sa sulod (It’s cool inside).”

Cash-strapped friends, he said, also brought their girlfriends inside the building after it was abandoned in the 1990s. They just pay the security guard with P10 or P20.

Some of his neighbors slept on benches at night and defecate at the back of the building. A neighbor, he recalled, raised a school of freshwater fish inside the compound.

He further said initiation rites of gangs and pot session of his junkie-friends also occurred inside the building.

“Naa gani ko’y amigo nga nadunggaban kay among gihadlok tong mga batan-on nga gikan nag-hazing (I have a friend who got stabbed after we scared off a group of teenagers),” said Mier.

These activities were put to halt when a Christian group rented the place, said Mier.

His neighbor Jaime Got-uy, 53, wonders if the company that owns a chain of stores in Cebu will include jai alai in the soon-to-rise mall’s name.

Got-uy and Mier agreed that the public will not forget the name jai alai even if the mall is already operating.

They said jai alai transcended the name of the building, which occupies a portion of Sitio Alaska.

“Mahug ang jai alai na’y ngan sa barrio (Jai alai could mean the name of the place),” said Mier.

Jeepney driver Rodolfo Colon, 52, learned about the building when he arrived in Cebu City from Ormoc City in 1979.

He said he will not change the signboard even if the jai alai building will disappear soon. His jeepney passes by the building every day.

“Mao na man gud nay nabatasan sa Pinoy basta kon naandan na di na gyod malimtan (It has become a way of the Filipinos that when they get used to it, they can no longer forget it),” said Colon, who plies the route Basak Pardo-Colon St. via C. Padilla St.

Jerome Lasala, a social sciences instructor at the Cebu Normal University, said the public tends not to forget places and long-gone buildings because of their “historical” significance.

“They have become historical landmarks or heritage sites,” he said. Engr. Melchisedech Encabo VI, in a separate interview, said a mall will be built in the compound.

The mall may be finished next year, he said.

Businesswoman Frina Contratista said one of her two eateries that stands in the lot owned by the jai alai building owner will be demolished.

She is afraid that the sales of her roasted pigs will spiral down once the mall is finished.

In the 1980s, her earnings skyrocketed because several jai alai aficionados flocked to her eateries.

From outside of the jai alai compound, Mier and Got-uy heard the noise of a hydraulic excavator that broke the concrete floor. They also saw backhoe piling up debris.

Construction workers collected slabs and twisted iron bars inside the building.

Red curtains darkened by dusts still hang on the wall on the left side of the court (Cancha).

A Spanish inscription-”El Fallo del Juez es inapelable”-is still clear on the upper portion of the court’s front wall.

The message in English reads: “The judge’s decision is final.” Got-uy said he can do no more than reminisce about the building’s fate.

“Wa na tay mahimo ana kay ila man nang negosyo (We can’t do anything about that because that’s their business),” he said.


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