From the LRT station in Cubao, we took LRT2 train to Recto and walked almost a quarter of a kilometer to LRT1 in Doroteo Jose which is a station away from Carriedo, the nearest station located a few blocks from the entrance of Binondo facing Quiapo. The night before that we searched on the web for places where we could have a taste of Chinese cuisine. Something which we did not really expect to be authentic but more of a fusion, since the addition of Filipino flavors is already a part of the equation.
However, we did an unforgivable mistake of going there on a Sunday as most shops in Chinatown open at 8 and close at 2 o’clock in the afternoon during Sundays. When we arrived there at around 30 minutes past three we were greeted by almost desolate streets and shops that were about to close.
But not wanting to miss on the opportunity, we strolled along the narrow alleys of Chinatown. Using the guide my friend found on the internet, we looked for those eating places. Only one of the seven places in our list was open. I couldn’t anymore remember the name but they specialize in fresh dumplings made from leeks, cabbage, and meat. The dainty restaurant is on a lane perpendicular to Ongpin street several meters away from Binondo Church.
There were two women inside the restaurant that did not really look like a restaurant. It was more of a recently-cleaned up store room. One woman stood up, greeted us, and waited for us. The other one continued kneading the dough. Although we already know why most of the stores were closed, we still asked them that question just to spark a conversation. The answer was what we expected. After giving us the menu and the service tea which did not taste bad at all, she went back to her place and helped the other woman knead the rest of the weekend dough. They did it almost methodically, very expertly.
The dumplings I was accustomed to are those salty ones with distinctively peppery taste and are strongly seasoned; the ones they served us were different. They looked like they were boiled more than steamed for the shells were watery. The taste was mild and delicate. The filling, made from a mixture of leeks and a little meat, was not overpowering.
Our conversation focused more on our ability to judge a good dumpling, a good wine, a good pasta, a good pizza, a good orange juice, and a good coffee. I related to him that years of gulping instant coffee dulled my taste buds so that they cannot anymore differentiate between good brew from a synthetic one. For me, as long as caffeine kicks, a coffee’s aroma, texture, and whatever value added by the marketing team of a brand of coffee are immaterial. And then our conversation proceeded to defining cosmopolitanism. We went on arguing as to which is more cosmopolitan: Makati or Manila. I vouched for old Manila because of its diversity; he said it’s Makati because of its modernity.
We decided to walk around again and eventually watched Ded na si Lolo, a film directed by Soxie Topacio in SM Manila. But before that we had to brave the throng of pedestrians and devouts swarming in the Vicinity of Quiapo Church.
It was a perfect place to plant a bomb, I thought, if the object is to kill as many civilians as possible.
Walking from Sta. Maria church to Plaza Miranda, which is around 200 meters, took us almost thirty minutes of snail paced walk. The place was a pandemonium; everything was in utter disarray.
I guess, storytelling need not be profound much less high brow. Storytelling is simply telling the events in the simplest possible way with no other aim but to relate the events. We went home that evening tired but sated.