San Juan at 6am

Life, Places  /   /  By Rica Espiritu  /  475 views

Last night I had an interesting conversation with a guy. We’re so immersed in our own environment that nothing stands out. From the weather to the traffic, everything is “typical”. We take the noise, the smells, the dust, the people for granted because those are things we complain about and would rather ignore. But what if those things are what makes each city unique?

Each city has its own personality. You just have to notice it. In this case, I am documenting it through this photo essay. This time, I brought my camera as I took my daily 20-minute walk around the neighbourhood here in San Juan.

San Juan at 6am - 01

The sky was clear, save for the usual thin screen of smog that turned the sky into a muted shade of orange. It was time to walk around the city. My city. San Juan. One would think that the world has just started to stir, but no. This city, just like any city on this end of the world, never sleeps.

San Juan at 6am - 02

Outside my place the wind was still cool. Summer doesn’t start until next week. You don’t get to hear anything except cars and motorcycles passing by.

San Juan at 6am - 06

Further down the road, a sweeper cleans the streets – cheerfully I might add. Even if he was shy about looking at the camera, he gamely smiled as he did his work.


San Juan at 6am - 08

Before the banks open, their parking spaces turn into areas where you can buy fresh vegetables and fruits. Most of them are on carts so that people can clear the area once people from the bank start coming in.

San Juan at 6am - 11

Technically you don’t have to go far to get the vegetables you need.

San Juan at 6am - 14

Yes, we Filipinos are a happy lot. There’s always a ready smile when a camera is spotted – even in the dark! The light here was created by a jeep that passed by.


San Juan at 6am - 17


This is our wet market. It is located at the basement of a supermarket. Filipinos value fresh food, which is why a lot of people would rather buy from these markets where goods are delivered from local farms as early as 3 – 4am.

San Juan at 6am - 22

This guy is almost done selling fishes.

San Juan at 6am - 23

Yes, you get to pick too. This guy is handpicking his shrimp.

San Juan at 6am - 30

This taho vendor stands at the corner of Blumentritt and N. Domingo everyday until the sun rises and he moves to a cooler area. He has loyal customers who take taho as breakfast. For those who don’t know what it is,  taho is made of fresh soft/silken tofu, arnibal (brown sugar and vanilla syrup), and pearl sago (similar to pearl tapioca). This staple comfort food is a signature sweet and can be found all over the country. The Indonesian and Malaysian equivalent of this snack is tauhue [wikipedia].


San Juan at 6am - 31

San Juan is full of tricycles. I just realized that now. Almost each area has its own tricycle group. This is a line of tricycles waiting for customers to come out of the wet market.

San Juan at 6am - 32

There are a lot of vendors selling local rice cakes, suman and other delicacies for breakfast. Most of them are found near the corner of each street hoping that those rushing to work would buy food for a quick breakfast.

San Juan at 6am - 33

She happens to be the only vendor selling fresh flowers in the entire market.

San Juan at 6am - 36

A grandfather accompanying his granddaughter  to school. Yes, where else can you find a high school uniform that stands out? Fuschia skirt!



San Juan at 6am - 38

Another group of tricycles waiting for students and their parents to bring them to school.

San Juan at 6am - 40

I noticed that there’s a new “meat shop” in town.

San Juan at 6am - 41


The meat’s freshly killed and chopped in front of you. You get to pick the part you want to buy.

San Juan at 6am - 43

Still a long way to go  – at least I am half way back.


San Juan at 6am - 44

This corner is where fresh coconuts are delivered daily.

San Juan at 6am - 47

You have the vendor chopping the coconut, pouring the juice into a plastic bag and the coconut meat into the other. The customer usually brings it home and transfers everything into a pitcher of water.

San Juan at 6am - 48

Yes, we still have our homeless and on this end, this homeless family is better off than most. How come? They have a blanket, a bed, a mat and a beach umbrella for privacy.

San Juan at 6am - 54

A school service jeep [or school jeep] waits outside a house.

San Juan at 6am - 59

This is also the time you will find mothers bringing out their babies to catch the morning sun. While our elders would often say that you should do this so that the babies can get their daily dose of vitamin D, I think that was just a reason they gave so that they could socialize with their neighbors after the kids and partners have left for school or work.

San Juan at 6am - 57

This homeless family uses the barrier to hang their clothes.

San Juan at 6am - 55


Somebody’s awake and folding their cardboard mat.

San Juan at 6am - 60

Sadly, one of the things you notice in San Juan are the piles of garbage in certain corners of the city. It’s like everybody snuck out in the middle of the night and threw their trash in this corner – hoping that the garbage truck passes by in the morning to shovel out the garbage.

San Juan at 6am - 63

Everyone’s doing their own chores. Here’s a guy washing his jeep.

San Juan at 6am - 62

You also have make shift food stalls that sell breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here’s a student with her mom, buying her “packed lunch”. Yup, our local ‘fast food’ service.

San Juan at 6am - 72

One  of the reasons why it’s challenging to walk around my neighbourhood is that it is not flat! At the top of this hill is an elementary school.

San Juan at 6am - 78

I was being followed by noisy kids. I turned around and took a pic of them. A few of the kids thought I was taking  a pic of something behind them.

San Juan at 6am - 82


This is their humble school.

San Juan at 6am - 85


It’s almost 6:30 am and the students are hanging around, waiting for class to start at 7:30am.

San Juan at 6am - 87

Beside the school is a “convenience store” that sells them everything they need. From junk food to “real food”. The small basket on that table is full of hard boiled eggs. For parents and students who would want a quick and filling snack before school starts.

San Juan at 6am - 90

I realized that this scene is very common here in San Juan. That is, houses that are converted into half commercial, half residential areas. The lower level becomes a business while the owners live on the second floor.

San Juan at 6am - 89

It’s 6:30am and the early morning rush hour traffic has started.

San Juan at 6am - 91

Still, Filipinos will have time to cram in a cup of 10 peso coffee at the local store.

San Juan at 6am - 93

One of the well known areas in San Juan where you can eat pares!

San Juan at 6am - 95


Am back on the main road. Am almost home and it’s a good thing. It’s no fun walking during early morning traffic.

And that’s all she wrote,





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