Last Sunday, I woke up wanting to go to Ongpin, the Chinese Capital of the Philippines. As soon as I opened my eyes after a long and quiet sleep, my katawang lupa (flesh and corporeal being) just suddenly crave for the look, the noise and the smell of Ongpin.
Thanks to super friend Willie, he accompanied me and made my silly craving a reality. My longing was really plain and unchallenging. I just wanted to walk the super busy street of Ongpin, buy a snack and then leave. But thank goodness I was with itinerant Willie because he knows a very good eatery in this old and hoary part of Manila.
We dined at what is known as Estero. It is a non-air-conditioned diner that is right beside a creek and a tidal channel used as drainage canal in the overly populated area of Manila. I was at first so tentative and doubtful about the place. But when the gentle lady manning the eatery approached us and handed the menu, I knew that I was into some exciting gastronomic adventure.
estero (if I was the owner, i would call it “estuary” para sosyal)
classic yang chow rice and the surprisingly good hototay soup!
joyous version of their mung bean sprouts
buttered chicken is love
Estero is tagged as a fast food on the internet but it is unlike the usual fast food that items were pre-prepared and placed on a heater display. Estero food are only cooked upon ordering. Maybe the reason why it is called fast food is because the kitchen is equipped with high pressure burners and the cooks prepare their dishes so fast. In a haste, the server was already serving our freshly cooked Hototay and the surprisingly crunchy Stir-Fried Mung Bean Sprouts.
Aside from the very good food, Estero’s price was surprisingly cheap. Total bill of all the fantastic dishes we ordered was roughly around 8 (US) dollars.
I am a daily witness to the decaying City of Manila through the swarming and infestation of mendicants and homeless people on its streets as well as the unforgiving traffic jam you would encounter daily. Going to your destination via roads of City of Manila would agonizingly be delayed because of traffic. I am so sure that the speed of rumor is faster than the speed of your car’s speedometer when you are to drive on the streets of Manila.
But guess what? Last Friday it only took me 30 minutes to go to Manila Post Office building from my office in Malate to get a personal parcel then back. Within that 30-minute period, I was even able to shoot a few photos of the iconic Manila Post Office building. Going right at the center of City of Manila was a breeze. This is because of the new local government’s tightfisted drive and stingy ordinance of no longer allowing bedlam-causing buses in the city.
inside the majestic facade of manila post office
the soon-to-be-extinct profession
To further substantiate this surprising development, when I and my family went yesterday up north to Manaoag, Pangasinan, we decided to pass through the City of Manila. We passed the often-vehicle-filled Roxas Boulevard, the panic-infusing Lawton area, the traffic-choke-point Quiapo, the chaotic jumble streets of Dimasalang, Dangwa and La Loma. To our amazement, we were out of Manila and reached the north express way in less than 30 minutes.
Still further, when we came back to Metro Manila later in the day, we decided to pass through the often-dreadful and jaywalker-infested Taft Avenue. And still, we passed through Taft Avenue with so much ease. My sister could not contain herself and asked how much buses were eliminated for such a road to move vehicles at an unexpectedly speedy pace.
This truly is a very welcome development. Congratulations to the new City Mayor Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada and his Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno for growing some balls in disallowing those monstrous buses in the city.