Your Intrepid Editor Dines Italiano While Typhoon Namandol Bludgeons Manila
The Pollo Diavalo was, to be honest, superb! The Maple Butter that covered the succulent breast of chicken spread its’ tasty treats onto the accompanying vegetables, the bread was still warm and the butter spread itself without complaint. I was thoroughly enjoying the meal, and the old guy on the grand piano running through a medley of old standards.
The Jameson’s Irish Whiskey was a nice surprise, not many places even in Makati carry much in the way of whiskies other than Johnny Walker or J&B, even getting a decent bourbon can be an iffy proposition. Somehow, the meal, the malt and the mood were just right. I felt decadent, just like the Manila social set dancing, dining and drinking the night away as the army pulled out and Macarthur declared Manila an open city over 62 years ago.
The rain was literally lashing the windows of the Italian restaurant on Tomas Morato Avenue, Quezon City. Outside it was black, bleak, wet and windswept but “for awhile” I could sit back and enjoy the ambience of the restaurant and the pianist and just enjoy myself. I rarely enjoy a meal in a restaurant here in the Philippines as much as I was savouring this one. Admittedly the staff had to leave the plates just that little bit too long before being reminded to clear them away and for some reason my Jameson had taken rather longer to arrive than you would think, given the proximity of my table to the bar, but this is the Philippines.
If you want perfect service of a standard you would expect in a western restaurant, go to the west! At least the waitresses were pretty, friendly and tried their best. If you don’t grow up in an environment that values and demonstrates efficiency then you can hardly be expected to have any idea of what proper silver service is all about. I called for the bill and after a fairly lengthy delay it arrived. Three Jameson’s and two cokes plus the superb chicken? About fifteen bucks! I’m not normally this extravagant but what the hey, there’s a typhoon coming!
My meal over with, I decided to head up to Mickey Dee’s for my favourite dessert, a caramel sundae. Forget the fancy Tiramisu’s and Gelati, give me good old vanilla soft serve ice cream with caramel flavouring any day! I even bypassed Seattle’s Best Coffee, Starbucks’, Figaro, Liberia, Mocha Blends, Gloria Jeans’ and Baang! on my way to the Golden Arches! Two of them had already closed to give their staff a chance to fight their way home in the typhoon and the others offered overpriced brews I am seriously trying to give up. Paying half a Dong’s daily salary for a cup of java does seem a little decadent when you start to do it on a daily basis and get rather blas about the whole thing.
A bunch of Dong’s were huddled in the rain around a Corolla, trying to jigger the door open. The driver was looking desperate, probably Ma’am or Sir were due back from their dinner and would be mightily upset that their limo had swallowed its own keys. I knew from experience they would be hard pressed to open the car with just a wire coat hanger, you really need a brazing rod or something stiffer. If I had my trusty old Slim Jim with me I could have had her open in a jiffy, but “going about equipped” is probably an offense here too, just like back home.
I had learnt the trade when I was a Military Policeman and had used it numerous times to my own advantage as much as anyone else’s so I know how dumb you feel when you lock the keys inside. I also know the sweet relief as the door pops open but for this driver it was not to be. Pretty soon the Dongs drifted away, but not without trying me out with a tentative “Merry Christmas Sir” plea for a handout. After what I had just spent on a meal and a few drinks for one person, I wasn’t up for a spot of charity, never mind the weather!
My umbrella played hide and seek with itself all the way up the street, the tall buildings making the wind veer and wander so you couldn’t keep your brolly head to wind. More than once I rounded up like my old sailboat on Sydney Harbour in a southerly just to save the umbrella spokes from terminally twisting themselves inside out. The rain came in horizontally under the brolly that I had to hold in front of me leaving me walking blindly along the soaked sidewalk. I had a few close calls with fellow pedestrians before I made it into the sanctuary of Macca’s.
I finished the caramel sundae, said goodbye to the clown and returned to the wind swept, rain soaked street and cast about for a jeepney to get me back to my room. Two jeepneys roared past, ignoring my signal and naturally, empty. Finally a very full jeepney came to a halt in front of me and I went to the back to clamber in. Even though I hadn’t spotted anywhere to sit I scrambled aboard, knowing from experience a place would magically appear as I needed it. It did and I plonked myself down with what little dignity I had left. Trying to get my bear size bulk into these cut down sardine tins is an exercise in wishful thinking sometimes. At least it was so windy and cool outside I was appreciative of the muggy warmth inside the vehicle.
What I didn’t cotton to was the smell. It was like clinging to the collar of a giant, wet dog. That damp dog smell, the one you get a whiff of just before he shakes four gallons of water onto you and your new carpet. That’s the smell! I hoped it wasn’t me and since the girls squeezed in either side of me didn’t seem to be squirming too much, I figured it came with the jeepney.
Getting from the jeepney stop to my lodgings proved to be another challenge in keeping my umbrella alive and me more or less dry at the same time. We both made it without further loss or injury and I basically just settled in for what I knew would be a long, wet, windy night. I gave thanks that I was nice and dry and warm and not wet, freezing and homeless like many would be that night. Only the other day Tropical Depression “Winnie” had claimed over 300 lives. I wondered what the butcher’s bill would be for this little spat Mother Nature was giving us? I called the wife and made sure she and the kids were safe and well, then went to bed. After all, once you’ve battened down your hatches, there’s not much else you can do in a Typhoon, Nature pretty much has her own agenda!