Minority Report

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This building, beneath the billboard, is one of the older buildings in Dumaguete. Historical records are hard to come by here, but I believe that it was built before the second world war. The lettering on the front says “Teves”, so it must be the “Teves Building”- although which one of the many prominent Teves families it names isn’t clear.

The building sits on Perdices Street, across from the Lee Plaza department store, and it’s old enough to have been built when the street was still named “Alphonso XIII”, after the king of Spain. Elderly residents still use that name nostalgically, as similar residents of Manila still refer to Roxas Boulevard as “Dewey Boulevard”, after the American Admiral who sank the Spanish Fleet in Manila Bay.

The building could be called “historic” in some sense- it has seen the ebb and flow of Dumaguete life through many generations; it has housed banks, restaurants, department stores, and even the beginnings of a university: Foundation University, which began here in rented rooms as “Foundation College” in 1947.

It’s a building that’s unavoidable in the downtown district. But, historic as it may be, most people pass it by without a glance. And it’s not hard to see why.

It’s old-fashioned and dilapidated looking now- but even if it were spruced up with a fresh coat of paint it could hardly be called memorable. It’s not “Spanish”, or “Art Deco”, or “Bauhaus”, or any other particular style; it’s just: “that old building” —with no style at all.

The billboard above the roof is a totally different story: it’s all style- American Advertising Style: bold, brash and brightly colored. A huge red mouth, bright teeth and tongue, about to close on a gigantic, erotically juicy cheeseburger- it’s a screaming image, impossible to ignore, even from blocks away.

And it’s not a picture of pancit, or adobo, or a plate of rice; it’s an American Cheeseburger image, totally at odds with the ordinary eating habits here. Only the Pinoy movie star mouth, about to bite the meat, gives it local flavor. It’s just another sign of modern times in Dumaguete.

This “bright modern” look is everywhere here in daily life- in the style of packaging, clothing and motorcycles; but it doesn’t last for long.

The billboard is long gone now, scrapped; but the dull Teves Building that it sat on still remains, boring, backward– and permanent.

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