Goodbye, Noli. October 7, 2011Posted by Richard Bolisay in Oh You Know.
A six-year-old kid growing up with toy trains and hand-me-down books could only look forward to the weekend with an exceptionally hopeful pair of eyes. Weekends meant freedom, doing things I was not allowed to do from Mondays to Fridays: sleep late, wake up late, play outside, listen to the radio, watch television, invite friends over, disappear from the house. Saturdays were reserved for household chores, helping my sisters clean the house, tagging along with my brother to buy merienda, running errands that only a six-year-old kid could do. On the other hand, Sundays were far more special: we wear our best clothes, we go out, we eat out, we watch movies.
To be honest, it wasn’t exactly the movies that made me wet with excitement back then. I didn’t care about movies. I didn’t care about stars. I didn’t care about buttered popcorn and Coke in can. The prospect of watching movies every Sunday, a family habit that continued for more than a year before it stopped because we had to cut expenses, filled me with happiness because it meant I’d be passing by the store located near the theater, a small establishment that sold local comics. While my siblings were looking at film posters and arguing about petty things, I’d sneak out of their sight and into the store, browsing through cheap collections, checking out the new issues most especially. My mother would eventually find out where I was, and after endless promises of studying hard at school, she’d buy me a copy of Funny Komiks and I’d shut up, holding a key to another world where my sisters and brother could not enter.
The theater is called Noli. It’s located at the corner of Laguna Street and Rizal Avenue, facing a busy intersection where tricycles and jeepneys load and unload passengers. At first I thought Noli only showed local movies, but there was a time when we went there and my parents said we couldn’t watch the film, apparently because of me. I didn’t ask why but I remember the film was Schindler’s List. We had no choice but to leave. My mother promised that we’d be back next time, but that next time never happened. It was the last time we went there together as a family.
Noli closed down several years ago. In the late nineties its owners tried to save the business and screened sexually provocative films. It didn’t prosper. Its seats remained cold and empty. Its floors were never swept clean again. Its lights were no longer lit. The small store beside it that sold comics also disappeared. The restaurants we used to frequent had been replaced by salons and lotto outlets. I vaguely remember how Noli looked inside—I’m pretty sure it’s nothing special—but its proximity to the places I found special endeared me to it. One weekend I went to the place where it used to stand. I stared at its decrepit state, and it never felt the same.
*This article is part of the Hidden Skyline Competition, sponsored by the British Council. Along with other shortlisted entries, it will be exhibited in the Future Memory Pavilion at the National Museum of Singapore from October 18 to November 19. Learn more about Writing the City here.