Jones to Divi

Published November 14, 2019, 12:23 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Jullie Y. Daza
Jullie Y. Daza

The story of a bridge and a school, serendipitously.

On our way to Tiong Se Academy’s 120th anniversary fete, my friend’s driver made a detour to give me a better view in daylight of Jones bridge’s newly installed lamp posts. My impression was that they were too close together, but what the heck, the bridge has become a selfie-worthy destination.

In minutes the car arrived in Tiong Se, the Philippines’ first and oldest Chinese school which was established by the Chinese consul general in 1899. Today the land on which it has stood forever  is sandwiched between Divisoria’s biggest malls, 168 and Lucky Chinatown Plaza. Property prices in this neighborhood are in the range of P500,000 sqm. Strictly speaking, Chinatown is no larger than one square kilometer, according to Andrew Tan’s Chinatown Museum.

I’m tempted to say that Chinatown is not a place, not with the ascendancy of Greenhills and New Manila as an extension of the “old” Chinatown. TSA is not about to move out from its original site, however. Once a crummy two-story wooden shack, it’s now a thoroughly modern four-story building with airconditioning even in the gym and canteen. Twenty students per class is the norm, which puts it in the same class as those expensive schools catering to children of different nationalities.

A genuine TSA alumnus is James Dy, whose name is synonymous with Chinese General Hospital (of which he is chairman); he is TSA honorary chairman. Not a TSA alumnus but its principal fundraiser since 2012 is Carlos Chung, president of the board of trustees despite his ties to Xavier School “all the way.” Principal Margarita Chua Gutierrez is tireless, innovative, also not  TSA-bred. Lolita Ching of Chinatown TV heads TSA Alumni.

By the time we were out of Divisoria and back on Jones, I had learned that Eugene Ang was the sponsor of those lamps that the mayor of Manila describes as Parisian-looking. The story goes that when Yorme asked for donations from the Chinese community, Eugene told him to save his breath, he would donate the whole amount of P20 million. From there Yorme tapped Gerry Acuzar to hire the carvers of Paete. Overheard: How would the bridge look with Chinese lanterns?