Red Book - Childhood Chow

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Back then, if there's one thing I sucked at more than Math, Art, Science and pretty much all school subjects in general, it's the ability to not lose my lunch kit. From the first grade up until senior highschool, I probably lost enough Tupperwares and Colemans to send the children of a house-to-house salesman to a college somewhere in England. After a while my mom kind of wised up and thought it more cost effective if I just bought food in school for lunch. This post is my recollection of the places where I spent those lunches in (whenever I hadn't unwisely spent/saved my lunchmoney for other things stupid kids waste money on).

Chirlay - Chirlay sold affordable tapsilog, longsilog, and tocilog meals. From what I recall, at one point in time, the franchise was successful enough to have two branches. The branch where we ate, however, was a bit more special due to its location. While the place itself was decently clean, it was situated strategically beside the ParaƱaque river, which gladly gave us the entertainment of guessing what kind of dead animal was floating by (it seems we saw at least one everytime we tried) or what kind of garbage was nearby basing solely on the putrid smell emanating from the waterway. The damn place was beside something that was less of a body of water than an open canal so that was kind of expected. The tapa was good though, and when you're a kid looking for a decent budget eatin', that's about all that matters.

Ka Pabeng - On the grounds of bang for buck, Ka Pabeng has to be the cheapest. Even as late as 1999, Ka Pabeng offered a heaven of a lunch for a paltry 35 pesos. You get one viand, which is often touted as catering-quality, a cup of sopas (albeit the sopas tasted like water with macaroni bits - which my friend Chris fondly called "sagmaw" or water used for washing rice), and unlimited rice. Read that. Unlimited RICE. They'd serve a plateful of rice on your table and everybody around you could get their fill. When the plate goes empty, they replace it with more. If you were early enough, that rice could also be fried rice. I'm not sure you remember for your case, but if you're adolescent, it seems that your body requires you enough calories to run a steam locomotive. Giving a teenager unlimited rice is like throwing water into a nuclear meltdown. It will help, but you're going to need assloads. I'm not sure if this place is still around, or if teenagers like me have cleaned the place up. You never bet against the appetite of a teenager. Never.

Palengke TakeOut - Admittedly the shop does not have any name, and this is about as close as a name as I can give it. Located on one of the aisles of the old La Huerta fleamarket, the PTO offers meals packed into one styrofoam, which in my humble opinion, is a generous amount of serving already - and at the vice-friendly price of less than 25 pesos. PTO proved essential during those times that you needed to take your lunch somewhere away from school due to lunchbreak play practices, newspaper collection drives, and simulated prison breaks. Best item on their list is the everpresent spaghetti which includes half a tasty slice. The sauce doesnt taste like spaghetti sauce any more than the bread tastes like garlic bread, and the color seems to be caused by Achuete, but for some reason I really liked it.

Minute Burger/Burger Machine - You know something that's surprising about Burger machine and minute burger? Their bulilit burger back in 1998 costs about 10 pesos for two pieces. This is at about the same time as when a regular yum costs 15 pesos. Now the regular yum costs about 40 pesos, while the bulilit burger is 20 a pair. It's still damn cheap - as it was back then, which greatly enabled us to save money for other shit like playing computer games at rental shops until our eyes turned red from exhaustion.

Bahay ni Mrs. Andrade - One of the more seasonal places where we ate - our grade five adviser managed to convinced us to eat at her house, which was a stone's throw away from our school. Even then, we knew she was a widow and that it'd help boost her household income, and she knew what exactly we undernourished kids needed - academic leverage. It was the ultimate combomeal. You got food on your table, and plus points on your exams. If you're a kid struggling with grades like me, that's what a real happy meal is all about. Of course there's always that weird vibe of having to eat inside a stranger's house complete with the literal teacher's pet DOG whose only wish in life is to TEAR THE HUMANITY OUT OF YOU with its MONSTROUS CANINE TEETH. But then again, the embotido of Mrs. Andrade was barking awesome so it was a well-offset risk.

Sol-Anne's - Back in the early ninety's, two women Sol and Anne decided to stop working for hotel establishments and just start their bakery for god knows what reason. This became what was to be known as Sol-Anne's. The meals in Sol Anne's was anything but cheap. Even in 1996, a meal there would fetch you 40-60 pesos, and the servings was just enough. The cheapest meal we knew there was the Lumpiang Ubod with rice, which is probably the best vegetarian meal that my young finicky self accepted, not counting cheese curls and other junkfood. For its price though, you get treated to really awesome tasting food, and sightings of lots of Paulinians (students from the all-girls school across ours). Even to this day, if you ask me where to find the best tasting versions of certain viands, I'd point that place out. Even after they relocated to somewhere further, I gladly walked fifteen minutes just to get dem good eatin.

Airport City Mall - This has to be the ultimate dining experience for me back in highschool. Airport City Mall is not a restaurant. It's a freaking mall. It's also worth noting that it's situated 1.5 kilometers away from school, whereas every other entry in this list is no more than 200 meters away. In exchange of course, at my time ACM was the only place there was a Jollibee, a decent arcade, a cinema, and cheap shit merchandise. Its very existence was like a gauntlet thrown at the faces students. Adding to the difficulty of distance, jeeps only passed by the place when they're going towards it. Going back means walking about 300 meters before you can ride a jeep. It was always a dare to go there, at risk of being late, to reap eating regular Yum and playing arcade. The only safe way you could go there without cutting classes was to rely on the "shortened period" system which is so complex that I'd rather not explain here. Short version of it is you get to have a lunch longer than one hour so you get more time to go there. But not us of course. We beat the game, managed to go there, eat lunch at Jollibee, play an entire playthrough of Soul Edge, and run back to school with just enough time to catch our breaths before the school bell rang. It's a power lunch story I'd be so proud to share even to my grandkids one day - but they'd probably be able to play arcade from their brains with their neural implants, and tell me I'm just making shit up to sound like I had it hard. At which point, by the powers bestowed by the Republic to aging people, bitchslap them until they start believing in my story and in the Second Coming at the same time.

But I digress.

You're probably wondering why, for all the horrors and complaints that I have on these establishments, I still end up eating there anyway. The answer is quite simple - the better known alternative, which is staying in school and eating canteen food, is still far worse in my opinion. We've always thought that the only difference between our all-boys school and prison is that at the end of the day we got to go home, while they on the other hand got to eat better.


Anonymous said...

Goddamit make more of this now! Wait till I get my hands back to SEO and see how I can spread your childhood carendiria gallivanting nothing less like herpes in a teenager's barely brushed mouth and until my eyes turn red in exhaustion too. Fave books and movies should be written something about here too.


LOL. Thanks for dropping by Anon.

Anonymous said...

by gosh, i remember that minute burger buy 1 get 1 LOL...a suitor bought one for me but i returned it... i now apologize to that guy LOL


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