Happy at Il Mercanti

One of my constant goals in life is to visit new places. At the very least, one new place for each year. 2011 has been very good to me in fulfilling this objective. I was able to see other places in my homeland and I was able to finally set foot to another country for the first time, ON MY OWN. If only my time and resources will permit, I am highly willing to venture and invest in traveling. I now realize the different value of experiences than shopping and malling. LOL The happiness in being able to reach new places is indeed priceless.

Before the much awaited Christmas break at work, I had this practice of inviting my small group of friends to see a new place or attraction in the city. Last year, I invited my colleagues turned friends, Abigail, Ate Weng and Terry to experience Banchetto in Ortigas. Banchetto is the pioneer in the trending food night market in Manila. After my trip to Taiwan, tons of teaching works were waiting for me so I forgot to organize an annual mini escapade for us. However, another friend was kind enough to invite me to try another food night market. A day after my birthday, we went to Il Mercanti.

Il Mercanti joins the bandwagon of the well loved food night market which was organized by a group of friends who are all food enthusiasts. It is located in the heart of Metrowalk in Pasig.  

Il Mercanti starts at 7 pm, earlier and better than other food night markets that make you wait until midnight.

The food selection at Il Mercanti may be not as extensive with that of other night markets such as Mercato and Banchetto. However, Il Mercanti compensates by providing more seats and wider dining area for the customers. Tables and seats are adequately provided. The dining atmopshere is also more relaxed and comfortable.

Some food exhibitors in Banchetto and Mercato are also found in Il Mercanti. Monster Burgers,  MedChef and Sweet Tums are among the few concessionaires I’ve found in other food night markets.

My personal favorite…..kill me now 😉

The only disadvantage I see in Il Mercanti is its location. Metrowalk is an area not favorable for commuters. The easiest mode of transportation is a cab or an FX taxi that routes to Ortigas Center. Although recently, I learned that the management  provides free shuttle services from the Raffles Corporate Center.

Il Mercanti targets mostly the group of young working professionals. However, since Il Mercanti is situated in a wider area, children can also enjoy the dining experience. It also operates as early as 7 pm so waiting long hours is not a problem.

I wasn’t by the way paid by Il Mercanti to write this post. My words here all resonate from my personal experience 😀

Have a great weekend to everyone. First weekend for 2012!

Thank you Josh and Mang Rogelio

If you have time, especially to my fellow Filipinos, please watch these videos. These are clips of BBC’s documentary, Toughest Place to be. This episode featured the lives of two people, Rogelio Castro, a Filipino jeepney driver, and Josh West, a London bus driver. The documentary however focused more on the life of Rogelio. The documentary in a nutshell made Josh try the life of Rogelio in six days. Josh actually became more than a jeepney driver. The experience brought Josh painful and touching realizations about being a hardworking Filipino driver.

The first video showed the typical life of Josh in London. How I wish the buses in the Philippines would became like Josh’s bus. Clean, comfortable seats and equipped with state of the art safety features.

This was Josh’s first time to meet Rogelio’s “boss” or his jeepney. Josh also had a first taste of Rogelio’s typical day. The everyday struggle of a Filipino driver and his family are shown in this part.

This part appeared very controversial. In one way or another, the negative effects of the absence of a national family planning program are presented. Reproductive Health Bill vs. the Catholic Church, you know?

To break the seriousness of the population issue, this episode gave me a great laugh. I am particularly referring to the Driving School Instructor. To some extent, I found Mang Rogelio as a better English communicator than the Driving Instructor. Josh’s first attempt to drive a jeepney is also shown in this part.

Sorry for being so mean, but the Instructor’s English made me laugh again. The undisciplined drivers and the dangerous highways of our country are unfortunately showcased here. Josh even said that driving in Manila is one of the scariest things he has tried in his entire life.

Gap between rich and the poor, absence of safety net or health insurance and the access to quality education for every Filipino are the sad realities presented here.

“No matter how hard I try, life seems not to be getting better for us.” I know Mang Rogelio is just one of the millions of hardworking Filipinos who are uttering this at the end of a tiring day..

Josh was given the opportunity to know Rogelio’s family in the province. It was in this part where Josh is exposed to a better environment.

“There’s no work. There’s no industry in the province. He works 12 hours a day to live in box. He can’t afford to live in a place which is better for him.” Thank you for this realization Josh… Thank you for understanding Rogelio’s situation. It’s like understanding the life of the millions of hardworking Filipino.

Another sad reality in the Philippines, the “pagpag” or recycled foods in Tondo. According to Josh, this was the worst experience in life he has ever witnessed…

This was the day! Finally, Josh becomes a Filipino jeepney driver. Could he make it? Watch the end of the documentary!

One of the saddest faces of reality, the truth hurts.. the most. Initially, the documentary appealed to me in a negative way. I felt frustrated because I know that the show will just shout to the world the poverty and harsh realities about the Philippines. We don’t need another Teri Hatcher and Claire Danes to insult us. But as I was watching it, I realized that in one way or another, the documentary highlighted some strengths possessed by Filipinos, represented by Mang Rogelio.

Filipinos could speak and understand English. We may not be equipped with the perfect and eloquent diction. But at the end of the day, we can comprehend and communicate the international language.

We are family oriented citizens. We love our family more than anything else. No matter how hard it takes, we will do everything for our family. Mang Rogelio’s life is not anymore about himself. Mang Rogelio have shown the Filipinos’ way of selfless love for the family.

Filipinos are honest and hardworking. Thank you Mang Rogelio for showing to the world that Filipinos still chose to live a decent and honorable life, despite poverty and the injustices of the society. We may be tagged as a poor nation. But the typical working Filipino lives with integrity and respect.

Not all Filipinos blame their fate to the Philippine government. In the entire documentary, Mang Rogelio never mentioned the failure of the government to support struggling citizens like him. He shed some tears of pity for his family. But Mang Rogelio still and continuously stood up to face his tomorrow.

The documentary is an eye opener. It reveals the best and worst in the Philippines. But most of the time, it showed the country’s face of poverty.

My hope is that people from all over the world who will be able to watch the documentary would be broad-minded enough to understand the situation in my country. The documentary is not all about poverty. It is a testament of how a typical hardworking Filipino deserves to be honored and respected.

My Beautiful Sunday Served with Great Food and Friendship

              My meet up with Anna was something I have been looking forward this week. The last time I met Anna was October of last year. I really miss my dear friend. A number of occasions have already passed. She may not know it but I miss our malling, eating and movie escapades.  But more importantly, I miss her, the entire her…

            Anna and Anne have been mentioning to me the delicious burgers sold near Anna’s place. I am one burger addict. I’d like to try out burgers of different fastfood chains and restaurants. This likewise reminds me of another friend Clara, who now explores life in Singapore. I hope you will be able to read this friend. This could equate to your Bongo Burgers! 

            I initially thought that the burgers, which Anna and Anne were referring, were sold in the typical burger stands. Perhaps, a homemade or a typical burger offered with a new twist. Their descriptions still did not excite me. It made me simply curious. 

              I finally got a taste of my friends’ most talked about burgers and to describe it in three words, I love it!!!!            

              I’ve already composed four paragraphs and I’ve noticed that I still failed to mention the name of the restaurant that sells this “I love it” burgers. It’s neither a burger stand nor a fastfood chain; it’s a coffee shop that goes by the name, Mama Chit’s Coffee House. 

            Mama Chit’s Coffee House joins the bandwagon of the Philippines’ booming coffee industry. However, my honest opinion is that Mama Chit’s is more than a coffee shop. In fact, I cannot anymore see it as a coffee house. It offers the typical coffee and fraps. However, it also extends its product offering to pasta, pizza, salads, finger foods (such as potato wedges, onion rings), and of course, burgers! If I would equate it to the existing coffee shops, Mama Chit’s is like Mocha Blends and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I have however noticed that Mama Chit’s is more known for its burgers than its coffee and fraps. More customers are ordering burgers than their coffee drinks. 

            Mama Chit’s Coffee House offers cheeseburger and hamburger in two sizes. The baby cheeseburger costs Php 55 ($ 1) while the bigger burger costs around Php 100 ($ 2). In my opinion, the prices are reasonable and affordable enough. For a start, I ordered the baby burger, which picture is shown below. 

 

            The burger fares well with Wham! and Brother’s Burgers. It has veggies and sauce mixture that blend and taste perfectly. Apart from the burgers, we also ordered a plate of Nachos. Their nachos are a bit different from Nacho King, Taco Bell and Wendy’s. Apart from the beef and veggies, it has carrot strips, pineapple chunks and apple slices. Does it seem to taste weird? Not really, the bits of pineapple and apples were able to balance beef and veggie overload.  A plate of nachos costs Php 120 ($2), which for me is affordable enough. 

            As  I browsed through their menu, I think their prices are reasonable and affordable enough. The servings are likewise sufficient enough to fare the prices. A budget of Php 500 ($ 10) for two individuals would already go a long way. 

            Apart from the great and affordable food at Mama Chit’s Coffee House, its interiors and set-up is another attraction. The coffee house was dressed somewhere in time. It’s elegantly and fascinatingly retro! Mama Chit’s Coffee House showcases different memorabilia that reminds me of circa 60s to 80s. It has framed black and white pictures of perhaps the family of the owner, frames of old cigarette advertisements, old paper labels of wines, old soda and beer cans, music plaques, an old telephone, and other antique pieces too. 

  

            

  

            When you dine  at Mama Chit’s Coffee House, you will be serenaded by no other than the lively music of  The Beatles and other foreign retro artists. When we were eating, Daniel Boone’s  Beautiful Sunday was playing which perfectly complemented the atmosphere. 

            We stayed at Mama Chit’s for less than an hour. However, I felt that I could manage to stay there longer. The place was built with a concept of somewhere in time theme.  However, it doesn’t give me an odd out of place feeling. Honestly, when I was there, I felt that I was in a Hollywood movie showcasing a county restaurant that temporarily sheltered a tired traveler. 

            Apart from reuniting with a dear friend, Mama Chit’s Coffee House made me sang (only in my mind:-p), my my my beautiful sunday.. this is my my my beautiful day! It was indeed a beautiful sunday, served with great food, and topped with a rekindled friendship.

Mama Chit’s Coffee House is located at J.P. Rizal St. Brgy. San Roque, Marikina City, Philippines. It’s a few steps from Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish and the  Marikina Shoe Museum. If you are taking a public transportation, a jeepney that routes to Calumpang Marikina City from Cubao or Katipunan LRT station would directly pass Mama Chit’s Coffee House.