With the popularity of cafes and pastry shops with today’s generation, it gets more and more rare to find establishments that serve traditional (a.k.a. old-fashioned) fare. In Metro Manila, the only places where snacks of rice cakes and traditional breads are still served are (1) restaurants that cater to tourists and balikbayans and (2) carinderias in more humble parts of the city especially those in or around public markets.
Those that fall under the first category are often too expensive for the average diner. Those that fall under the second category are far cheaper but are either not too pretty, not too comfortable or not too sanitary, or all of that. So, when I get a craving for good old Filipino merienda, I prefer to prepare it at home. One of the most satisfying combos I know consists of ground pork stew, menudo style, stuffed inside split pan de sal.
This very Filipino mid-afternoon snack kind of echoed the theme for all our meals over the last four days. My brother and his family stayed with us, my sister-in-law and I alternated with the cooking, and it was a parade of grilled meat, sinigang, suman, fresh ripe mangoes, maiz con hielo, fried tilapia, vegetables stewed in coconut cream, sisig, baked mac, roast chicken…
The weekend was a riot, in more ways than one. What my brother originally envisioned as an overnight stay stretched to four days, at the end of which he said it was like a free vacation (from their house in the city to our house in the suburb, it is technically an out-of-town trip, after all). Dynamics are so different when you have teenaged girls (mine) AND boys (my brother’s) under the same roof. It still amazes me how boys can eat so much more than girls. How do they burn all those calories?
Of course, there was some tension and awkward moments too — Sam did not care to play with the “children” although she liked sitting with us adults for those extended after-meal chats. The boys liked hiding in the shadows outside Alex’s bathroom and scaring her when she got out (the screaming that ensued was ear-splitting). They re-arranged Alex’s bedroom and she was livid. My brother’s youngest boy (he’s 9) whom no one included in the games, had to entertain himself by going swimming (supervised, naturally), and bathing and walking the dog. When we asked later which part of their stay he enjoyed the most, he said, without hesitation, that it was the dog experience.
And then there was the school thing. My brother and I went to U.P., his sons go to Ateneo (Speedy did too), Sam and Alex go to THAT school in Manila with the coño reputation — the three schools in this country that have long been competing with each other for supreme glory and recognition, academic and otherwise. Alex and Speedy insisted that the bird on the U.P. seal is a parrot (it is not — it is an American eagle); my brother claimed that the Ateneo bird is not an eagle but is really a scrawny chicken.
So, it was like that… Over coffee and tea last night, we made plans for their next visit. Speedy said we’d go to restaurants in the Rizal area that my brother and his family had never been to nor ever heard of before. It will be months and months before everyone goes on vacation at the same time, Sam and Alex don’t have proper sem breaks because their school observes the trimestral system, so, “next time” would probably be the Christmas holidays.
With the long weekend over, things are back to “normal” which means Speedy drove the girls back to the condo this morning since their very short summer break does not start until next week. I am here at home and feeling the strangeness of the silence except for the occasional barking of a dog in some faraway house.