Banishing, Vanishing Streets?
This mission of mine started as a curiosity; it has now become an expedition. If you were following up on my previous columns in this regional paper, you must have noted how I had been passionate, relentless even, about the names our streets bear.
These streets are really created by man. Sure, the primary elements of soil and rocks were there all the time. But for that piece of land to assume a long, straight line, or, in many cases, to curve and meander as if following a river, human societies had to be there.
When did we affix the names to that path or road is for historians to verify. Anthropologists step in to sort of gather why the names got stuck and, in the case of those areas whose ways to them were brought about by laws, explain the reason why communities feel at ease with or are accepting of the new labels.
Indeed, as the name of my column says it all – the following data are part of a fieldwork and presently constitute field notes.
Along the way, a force was urging me to study the streets in our city, fearful as I was, like many of you, that there is dangerous force out there that compels local leaders to change street names with the immediacy of a false tsunami warning, and honor individuals whose brilliance and fortune may be even suspect. For some reason also, I was anxious that we would run out of streets to banish in terms of names. Or, that, those older, quirky names – Dayangdang, Calauag, Tinago, Pacol, even Queborac (the spelling looks contrived) – be replaced by names of flowers.
Oh, yes, we do have a street called “Mayflower.” It is quite a long street that bisects Leon Sa. Aureus, named after the first Mayor of this city, and ends somewhere near Mayon Chapel. Now, is “Mayflower” a flower? Or is it a transliteration of Flores de Mayo?
According to Mary H. Dyer, “Mayflower plant (Epigaea repens) is a trailing plant with fuzzy stems and clusters of sweet-smelling pink or white blooms. This unusual wildflower grows from a specific type of fungus that nourishes the roots. The seeds of the plant are dispersed by ants, but the plant rarely produces fruit and trailing arbutus wildflowers are nearly impossible to transplant.”
That solves partly our problem with Mayflower Street, but a question remains: with so many flowers abundant in our midst, do we need a foreign plant to bestow blessing upon a street? Given our keen knowledge about American history (from our Naga Parochial School days and years reading books donated by Jesuit schools in Maryland and New York), could this “Mayflower’ refer to the ship that sailed from England to the New World in 1620?
How significant is a ship that brought the English language to the present U.S. of A.? Not significant. There is also a possibility of distortion that can take place with the presence of Mayflower in our geography. Remember that the ship carried the “Pilgrims.” Imagine what a wag or a pretentious cultural worker can do if the word “pilgrim” is connected to the status of the city as a Pilgrim City. Ora mismo, change that name please.
Somewhere near the docking area of Mayflower Street in Mayon, there is J. Miranda Avenue, named after the war hero. It passes by Bicol Medical Center, an institution that has named the road paralleling J. Miranda into BMC road. Hmmm, that sounds like a good candidate for name replacement – give and take the fury of Dr. Mary Jane Guazon-Uy.
Let us leave the hospital and turn academic: when you move from J. Miranda towards Magsaysay, you will pass by Princeton, a short street that curves by its lonesome until you stumble upon other streets named after Harvard and Fordham.
Now, who really cares about these universities? The street will remain dank and dirty in whatever academic nomenclature you subject them to.
There seems to be hope in Calauag Street, which, at its terminus, leads us gently to short and sweet streets named Matuninong, Magalang, Dayupot, Mamumuton, and, yes, Mahamison.
When I was scanning the maps online, I realized the name of Atty. General is bigger than the names “Capilihan” and “Calauag.” Is this a sign from the universe that my good friend, Louie, should move for the renaming of Calauag or Capilihan, at least, to “General Street”? Just thinking again.
Farther away from Calauag, semi-precious stones litter the area: Garnet, Sapphire, Opal… Then a street named Gemelina beckons. The tree, which is known for its varied medicinal uses, should be spelled Gmelina. Near it is a street honoring “Papua.” Please explain that.