After doing chemo in the cancer unit I discovered that Shakey’s Lipa is open. There were no customers inside but the huge HOT PIZZA marquee was on, and the crew was busy fixing up orders for delivery. I rushed home and ate a couple of slices of Manager’s Choice! I then realized that the expected excitement from prolonged pizza deprivation… wasn’t really there. There were no fireworks, no warm explosion in my mouth. I realized that sadly, I didn’t really miss it.
Weeks of eating home cooked meals have apparently weaned me off vapid, greasy fast food as well as pretentious, pricey restaurant food. I remember frequenting Cafe Adriatico last January and eating mediocre rice meals that cost P400 each, but at that time I didn’t seem to mind as long as there was alcohol. Across the street, Lee Holmes Balwani and I tried Bistro Remedios a rustic restaurant featuring Pinoy cuisine with a twist— we have been victimized by the “with a twist” twist so many times that at some point we have just turned into willing victims. Because truly, what further twists could you implement on food that we order specifically to taste the familiar? On the other hand, sometimes food could be so familiar, like the ginisang munggo in the rather deluxe Mabini’s, that we would have a hard time differentiating it from the fantastic ginisang munggo in COOP. Another favorite food in COOP back in 2005 was the rich, sour Dinuguan that contained mystery meat. Smoketh, Mrs. T, Roxy, Len-Len, and I would lounge around the interns’ corner in the Rehab Ward watching all the dismemberment in Saw II while slurping thick dinuguan. It was only 35 pesos.
I used to rent an apartment in Nakpil for five years in med school, and at the time Malate was the place to be. On Fridays the whole street would be occupied by the party-going yuppie crowd, jamming to the music of Ashanti and Ja Rule. As an impoverished med student I would walk around at night during study breaks in my pambahay to buy fishballs, watching party people get wasted on the streets because all the restaurants were overpriced. At the street corner was Red Banana, with a gigantic blinking red neon banana on the roof. Eventually Nakpil lost much of its luster, and establishments would die and live and die again. Red Banana has mutated into so many different establishments, until mostly recently a panaderya was now in that location. “That panaderya is a front. People are still sucking each other’s dicks in the back,” Jason theorized. Recently Korean Restaurants were all the rage in Malate.
“I hate Samgyupsal,” I would tell Samgyupsal junkee Lee Holmes Balwani. As someone who would rather skip dinner than wash so many dishes, I find Samgyupsal to be a total chore. I would explain my hate away by saying it’s too costly or it caters to gluttony and the concept of excess, but at the root of it all is pure katamaran. Specially now with the financial realizations brought about by unemployment, I’m thankful that I didn’t spend P1,000 to cook meat. Also, as my snooty friend Chelsea would snootily say, Instagram Storying yourself grilling meat is so, like, 2016.
The issue of value for money is more underscored during vacations. I usually don’t convert, but the primitive hellow-ship poverty gyri of my brain would automatically kick in and compute and tell me you could have eaten something like this for this price in the middle of eating the meal, which is not helpful at all. One of the worst I could remember was when I joined the bandwagon and lined up for the then-recently opened Nutella Cafe in Chicago.The store was so recently opened that the crew were still very polite and still very lost. I got myself some pancakes with Nutella and it tasted exactly like that, not that I was expecting something complex.
When the ECQ is finally converted to GQ I don’t think people would be flocking to the restaurants just yet, and rightfully so, but hungry people would finally get the chance to buy something they feel deprived of. Strangely I am not craving for anything fancy. All I want is isaw near Ilang-Ilang Dorm in UP Diliman, but I guess they have to create a sterile system of dipping in those vinegar bottles.