Sunday, November 05, 2006


I’ve been with SPi for almost three years now and I’ve never really given the food stalls along Pascor Drive much thought until I had the craving for something fried during a graveyard shift. Dreading the idea of having to eat the cyclic hotdog-and-egg breakfast at the concessionaire, I mustered the courage to venture into the darkness one quiet morning. I chanced upon one stall – MJ Canteen, methinks, with the tag line “Filipino Favorites” – already up and about.

In one corner, something fishy was cooking. Indeed it was fish and a really huge one at that. I was told it was called torsillo and it smelled really good. I believe it will metamorphose as sarciado later for which it will be sold for php 25 per order. I also espied a new batch of pakbet (Php 15) about to be displayed. I could write my name on the glass of the display cabinet, where the moisture from the hot viands has formed nice circles.

Even before I could say lactobacillishirotastrain, breakfast was served in no time. The breaded pork chop (Php 15) was very tender and the coating just right – not too thick to mislead you as to its real size. The rice was moist, warm and generous (Php 5). The Ma-Ling slices are strangely bigger (sliced from the round top instead of the usual rectangular blocks) and cheaper (Php 10.00). Other choices include pork adobo, giniling with potatoes in tomato sauce, and fried eggplant.

This is the typical Pinoy turo-turo (literally “point-point”). You point to the server what you like and it is quickly served to you and to the hungry masses converging upon these stalls. Workers from nearby courier companies surrounding SPi form the bulk of breakfast regulars.

Hot coffee and pan de sal – the latter delivered regularly and on the dot, the former preferably with evaporada – are perennial favorites. For those whose tummies need more pampering, there is always pansit bihon to go with the bread.

Observing all these, I often wonder who the philosopher Henry David Thoreau meant when he wrote, ”The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.” but a combination of food, conversations about life and hard-working people at 4 in the morning makes you realize that it’s worth coming here, that you really belong. After all, Thoreau advocated simple living. People make their own prisons, he argued. Others choose to break free. Who says we have to spend so much on basic needs such as a filling breakfast?

You do not have to have an I.Q. of a fire hydrant to know that dining here is so much economical; although there really is a need for caution. To begin with, you may want to stick to soda or at the very least bring your own drinking water. Otherwise, the glasses are clean and the utensils are kept submerged in hot water. If it bothers you to be served food on plastic plates, I pity you.

So, why bother paying the stalls a visit? The idea really boils down to this: people on a tight budget will never have to run out of options ever again. Remember…“that man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.”

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