Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Electronics paradise

by Allan Lazaro

QUEZON CITY, Philippines - The Raon Shopping Center was a place very easy to miss if one did not know what he was looking for. From the outside, Raon looks like the other aging and decrepit buildings along Quezon Boulevard . The large yellow sign outside does not prepare anyone for the seemingly ordered chaos inside.

As the electronics hub of Quiapo, the Raon Shopping Center houses a multitude of shops which sell all kinds of electronic appliances and gadgets. All the items being sold are very cheap as they are either second hand or imitation products.

I was looking to replace my broken tape recorder when I went there last weekend. My friend Ryan Chua has been there several times already so he was my guide that day. As we entered the building, it was easy to see that the place was a Wowowee stampede waiting to happen. Raon was cramped with throngs of people moving about, trying to find the best bargain amid the chaos.

Speakers and amplifiers were stacked up on one another beside one wall while stereo systems, television sets, mp3 players, video game consoles, and DVD players crowded the shops. Wooden or cardboard stands of pirated DVD’s and video games littered the narrow corridors. Customers went in and out of the various stores. No tape recorders were on display.

Ryan and I jostled our way through the crowd inside Raon, all the while trying to find a shop that could possibly be selling tape recorders. After a while, I followed Ryan inside a store selling telecommunication gadgets. We asked the sales lady if they had tape recorders but unfortunately they were out of stock.

We entered the next store which primarily sold DVD players and radios. At last, there were models of tape recorders on display in the glass stand inside. I immediately asked the lady behind the counter which model was the cheapest. She picked one box and took out a peach-colored tape recorder which looked very much like a baby’s toy.

As she proudly showed us the features of the gadget, I noticed to my horror that Diether Ocampo’ face was plastered on the sticker. Even if it only cost Php800, there was no way I would buy that model.

Disappointment all over my face, I asked the sales lady for their Sony models. She showed us the cheapest one which cost P1,200. To my surprise, it was a Sony TCM-150 which another friend of mine owned. I believe he bought his for P3,000 at SM. Since the TCM-150 looked genuine enough and included the how-to-use manual and all, I decided to buy it. A one week warranty was not bad, I thought, considering I bought it at Raon

We got out of the store into the milling mass of people in the corridors. For some reason, the cramped interior of the store was cooler than the outside even if there wasn’t any ventilation.

We exited toward Gonzalo Puyat St. which was as busy as Raon, if not more chaotic. It was amazing how vehicles were still allowed to pass through the street despite how both sides of it were littered with vendors with their carts and stalls. Other electronics shops also lined up the street.

On the street itself, vendors displayed their wares – clothes, accessories, microphones, antennas, and other electronic gadgets. Pirated CD’s and DVD’s were everywhere. I wondered if Raon’s management had a policy against porn movies because at that point, I realized that Raon only had local and Hollywood movies plus some anime titles. All the porn – straight, gay, lesbian, children, bestiality, Asian – were sold outside on the street. It was quite disturbing to see a father shopping for porn with his little daughter beside him tugging at his shirt.

Not far ahead, we could hear a vendor’s amplified voice marketing his product. The seller was wearing an improvised microphone, which had lots of electric tape, on his head. The man was selling what he called the “Master Cutter,” a pen-shaped glass and tile cutter for only P200. He was actually very good at what he was doing and his gadget seemed effective. Unfortunately, I didn’t see myself having the need to cut tiles anytime soon.

It was almost 3pm and Ryan and I were hungry from all the walking. As we neared the corner of Gonzalo Puyat St. and Evangelista St., we couldn’t help but notice the sweet smell of the muffin-like bread being sold by one of the vendors. Hungry as we were, Ryan and I bought two pieces of still steaming muffins for only P5 each. The muffin was actually made up of hotcake mix with chocolate syrup in the inside. The muffins were delicious so we bought another two pieces.

There were many food vendors on the intersection of Gonzalo Puyat St. and Evangelista St. Aside from the muffins, we also ate fried squid and chicken skin which sold for P3 apiece. Buko juice was P5 a glass. There were also vendors selling fried chicken, betamax, isaw, and fish balls.

With only P50 left in my wallet and my feet sore from walking all afternoon, I felt that it was time to go back home. Ryan said that there was a shortcut near Evangelista St. to the Recto Station of the LRT. After a few minutes of walking northwards and passing two closed and boarded up Ministop’s, we knew we were getting lost.

After a while, we finally found the busy intersection of Gonzalo Puyat St. and Evangelista St . I kidded Ryan that we were always due to get lost at least once whenever he was supposed to handle the directions. It turned out that we should have been going southward instead of northward on Evangelista St .

As we were about to enter Recto Station at around 430pm, Ryan went back and walked toward a man giving out flyers in front of Isetann. “Gusto mo punta muna tayo? (Do you want to go here first?)” he said while waving the flyer in front of me.

The flyer was for Snow White KTV Bar along Rizal Avenue, just the next street parallel to Evangelista St. Apparently, the live show would start at 5pm. Unfortunately, I already had what came for inside my backpack. That adventure would have to wait for another time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, pwede ka na maging travel writer!