It was 31 degrees C in the morning and the humidity was high when I walked to Adriatico Café in Adriatico Street, situated on the old public circle (they call it ‘square’) where a statue remains motionless, overlooking the ‘square’ bordered by leafy trees.
I sat outside the Café under a canopy surrounded by small trees to ensure some shade. Although they have air conditioning inside the Café it is too dark for me to make any drawings.
The fan under the canopy swivel the air gently to make a bit of a relief from the relentless hot air. It is a cozy secluded spot away from the roaring and groaning city traffic and shrill hooters.
Soft military march music spilt over the speaker reminding me of old Colonial days. My dad used to love military music. He was a military man. You can even spot his thumb clenched to his folded hand next to his trousers on old photo’s like a soldier should do when standing to attention. The only music that made him shed a tear was ‘The Last Post’, the mournful dirge played when soldiers are laid to rest.
At the table adjacent to me a Philippine family and friends were also having breakfast. The laconic and yet melodic Tagalog language marked with giggles and spontaneous bursts of laughter was the only other sound audible as I read through the menu:
Smoked sardines, garlic fried rice, mung beans sautéed with pork cracklings, served with salted egg & tomato salad and sweetened bananas (310 Philippine Pesos – PP)
Fried sweet pork Pampanga style, garlic fried rice, fried egg, tomato & coriander salad and banana fritter (also 310 PP)
A postwar favorite of spam, corned beef and sardines in olive oil served together with Pan Americano or steamed rice (265 PP: $1 (US)=40PP)
I thought of my Son-in-Grace, Donald, in Tennessee who still loves spam and corned beef, like a good soldier does! Yve has to cook it for him regularly! Nola is there with them at this time. She just loves their farm and all the animals on the farm. She helps with odd jobs where she is able to assist them. There is so much work to be done on a farm!
In the Commando’s in the SA army we used to get a tin of Bully Beef, a dog biscuit (a compact biscuit that expands when water is added) and a small dose of water per day on our route marches in the bush. What we did was to chuck it all together in one tin pan add some water and then cook it over a fire. We added ants for salt and leaves for spice! Then we would pass the pan around and everyone could take a spoonful – like a communal meal! But beware if someone took too much at a time! The other guys would let you know their displeasure immediately!
I spotted something on the reverse side of the Café menu: English bangers, beans and potato fritter with fried egg! For most days I only ate Philippine food (even cooked some on the two plate stove I had in my room) so it was a nice alternative to have for breakfast! It proved to be just small pork sausages and not the real English bangers & mash that we are used to.
Philippine dishes include pork sissig, sinigang, bulalo and chicken or pork adobo. The meals are mostly served in a broth of some kind with either rice or Chinese noodles. Spices are added according to taste but normally include chilies and garlic.
As I waited for my order, sipping hot coffee, sweat trickled down my neck. But I am used to these sultry conditions so it does not bother me at all. In fact I prefer it to the sweltering dry heat of Africa.
When the food arrived I noticed two lizards approaching my table, hoping for some crumbs dropped on purpose! Their timing proved to be perfect! They know their routine!
The orange juice was an Oros type of watery mix with a slice of orange dangling on the ice cubes in the glass.
The military music faded and was substituted with acoustic (soft nylon string) Spanish guitar music reminiscent of the Spanish rule over the Philippines that lasted more than 200 years. That is why Roman Catholicism is still so prominent in these parts. (I’m so glad that the Protestant Dutch Reformers settled in the Cape and not the Catholic Spanish or Portuguese explorers! Then the French Huguenots arrived and the British Settlers came to inhabit the Cape, as well!)
It is my last day in Manila. I drew two pictures of the Adriatico Café in my moleskine notebook. Tomorrow I am off to Kota Kinabalu in Saba, very early.
The Spanish guitar music suddenly ends with a flourished crescendo as I finish my breakfast. I almost felt like the conductor of the music with my knife and fork!
Clouds in the sky are building up again. It is the rainy season. There is no winter or summer here, only a rainy season and a dry season, but the climate remains the same, hot and humid.
I paid my bill and left a tip to the waitress, took my companion notebook and pen and walked back to my room.
Apostle André Pelser