Lying almost parallel to the iconic oblation in Diliman, Quezon City, was a piece of land that was hardly noticed by passers-by nearly two decades ago. I never gave it much thought either. It was simply grassy land that jeepney riders passed by closely coming from Fairview and peripherally see on the way to Commonwealth or Fairview. Stories I heard told of illegal residents having appropriated the land and calling it their home. These illegal residents, referred to as squatters in local parlance, locked horns with the owners when demolition and eviction notices were served. I could just imagine the fight that would have gone down in attempts of the squatters to protect their home and people to rid the land of the squatters.
Philcoa, at that time, was the hub for most students and faculty members with its convenient fast food joints (Jollibee was the most popular choice for dining), pastry stores (rivals Goldilocks and Red Ribbon set up camp too) and other stores. An unofficial jeepney stop was set up for jeepneys plying the UP-Philcoa route to peacefully and safely get passengers to fill up the seats. Philcoa was a hub or place to meet and eat at CASAA – a canteen with various kiosks peddling all kinds of food from pasta to meat dishes located opposite the main library – or the old small Diliman Shopping Centre at the other side of campus. Alternatively, people went to the hub of the Blue Eagles on Katipunan Avenue with its lines of shops and eating places.
But a piece of land can’t lie idle for long when it can be turned into a revenue- generating avenue, which was what the affluent and entrepreneurial Ayalas probably thought. Gone were the days when students and faculty alike met in less-than-posh places like CASAA, Diliman Shopping Centre or Jollibee at Philcoa.
The piece of grassy land had been transformed into the UP-Ayala Technohub punctuated by offices at the back and rows of eating places and other businesses, split into two floors, at the forefront. It also features a huge space with a park-like place for weary souls and ilk to sit and get lost in their thoughts or to sift through their thoughts for possible future moves. Meeting places now mean Starbucks or The Coffee Bean or any new eating place that offer novel menus and, like hotels, Wi-Fi access. UP Ayala Technohub has found a captured market with their roster of restaurants such as Le Ching for Chinese dim sum and noodles; Red Kimono for Japanese; Reyes Barbecue for grilled chicken, chicken ass and fish; Kanin Club for classic Filipino cuisine; Flapjacks for pancakes, waffles and international dishes; the ubiquitous KFC and Yellow Cab pizza. Inserted in between the dining places are the video arcade Time Zone, National Bookstore and a computer store.
Idle lands are prime targets of entrepreneurs with the Midas touch, turning them into hubs that provide convenience to people. They’re also the trademarks of progress in this day of globalization. Now I wonder if these enterprising entrepreneurs can ever take their eyes off the profit margin for a second and redirect their gaze to something else. Can’t a hub be less capital-driven and be more people-oriented? Hubs can be places that people can go to simply sit and shoot the breeze, exercise or whatever they feel like doing that enhances their well-being. I’m thinking along the lines of a huge garden with one or two food & beverage kiosks woven into the landscape. If not a park, how about a sports hub? The soccer field, for the instance, at the back of the Mass Communication building and the decrepit Sunken Garden can be renovated for starters followed by other facilities that need refurbishing. Add in a few sports programs, reading programs and environment-friendly shuttles around the campus and tracts of land can be pocket-friendly hubs.