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By: Jullie Y. Daza

KALOOKAN or Caloocan, so near and yet so far. There was a time when Caloocan’s fame or infamy came and went with its mayors, who had a tendency to be quite colorful in their public and private lives, so colorful that they overshadowed everything else their city had to offer.

Some years ago, a candidate for mayor was asked by a cynical journalist, “What is your platform of government?” and the candidate replied, “The city is so poor I could not begin to put together a platform or agenda or whatever you call it.”

He lost the election, and still succeeding winners could not cobble the semblance of a program to urge Caloocan to stand out from MMDA’s pool of cities. Going north, Caloocan sits right next to Quezon City, but why can’t Caloocan have its own identity? Why lump it with Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela to form CaMaNaVa, like the name of a set of quadruplets?

Those of us who live in QC have not deciphered why our neighbor is so near and yet so far. Has anybody heard of substantial investments by the titans of business – do they even have a swanky casino there? – nor does it figure in DU30’s Build! mantra. What are their landmarks, other than the Cry of Balintawak?

These days it’s the city made notorious by, of all people, its policemen. After figuring in the much publicized killings of three teenagers, they were exposed for barging into an elderly lady’s home and taking her things. (By sheer coincidence, a prime suspect in the hazing death of a law student is a Caloocan resident.) Next came the sacking of the city’s entire police force for conduct unbecoming, followed immediately by the ignominy of Davao City refusing to accept any of them for reassignment there. Davao cops are needed to secure the President whenever he’s there, but the real reason could be that Mayor Sarah Duterte won’t take the risk of rotten apples poisoning the sweet ones.

Suddenly a silver lining appears out of nowhere. Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan plans to plant 10,000 fire trees “to add beauty, provide shade, clean the air.” If he’s serious, then Caloocan is destined to be the city of fire trees! What a lovely thought for now.