In my head is a map of Manila with no parks or roads, no trees or central business districts—only landfills overflowing with discarded memories. In Manila: crumpled snapshots from my first job, incredible chicken from an eatery named Daddy’s, and the corpse of my idealism. In Makati: keepsakes from consulting, .pptxes and .keynotes, pixelated .jpegs of all the Uber drivers who told me about their graduating children.
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In Quezon City—Katipunan, specifically: some of the most important ones. Memories of a first love. Joy, discovery, arguments. Accounting, poetry, fashion.
What Katipunan has done differently is it’s given each of these memories an identity. Each moment of joy is a Cello’s doughnut; each argument a condemned building where a favorite hole-in-the-wall once hid. Sometimes, if you listen closely enough, you taste a bit of your youth. You’re almost happy. It almost hurts.
Admit it. We all know that saying: “Drew’s tayo!” is code for “Let us gather and make poor life decisions.” But there was a time when we didn’t know. The drinks were sweet, secretly and generously seasoned with off-brand Ajinomoto; and the girl I was in love with—in the most graceful way possible—threw up in the toilet.
“I’d kiss you, but I just puked,” she says. No, none of my friends had mints. Yes, I asked.
2. Papus and Mamus
“I’m going to Fashion Chef,” she says.
I knew exactly what she was referring to. I just wanted her to say it.
“The one in Xavierville!”
“I don’t think there’s a Fashion Chef in Xavierville…?”
“It says Fashion Chef on the second floor!”
“What’s on the first floor?”
“You know exactly what I’m talking about, stop pretending!”
Of course I knew. She thought Fashion Chef sounded better. But it was Papus and Mamus. The former Chicken Boy—of the monobloc chairs, the cheap beer, and the cold war for the AUX Cable. That’s how you make it last, they say. Never fight, but always bicker.
Xocolat has been on its last month of operations for the last 120 months—a genius stratagem to make every visit meaningful. The business’s uncertain future can be attributed to couples like us, who shared one cup of hot chocolate—basking in each other’s aura, satellites guided by each other’s gravity in the universe of our PDA, admiring the bright yellow light of the Ken Afford across the street.
4. Jollibee Petron
“Why don’t you ever take me on dates?” she asked. But I always thought that was for people who made their own money. So I found an SEO Writing job. Five articles about Sussex, England at 800 words each. Three about betting on horses. Thirty centavos per word. After a few weeks, I take her to Jollibee Petron and I tell her—with a billionaire’s smug grin—“Order whatever you want.”
5. Sweet Inspirations
We must have thought we were so smart, talking about actual Mongolian cuisine in a Mongolian BBQ place. Little did we know that the Wikipedia page for Mongolian cuisine literally says: “not to be confused with Mongolian barbecue.”
There is no yak, no sheep, no camel, no horse in Sweet Inspirations. There is a bowl with rice, meat, vegetables, and sauce—a warm, honest meal developed dishonestly in Taiwan. The inventor, Wu Zhaonan, wanted to call it “Beijing barbecue,” but changed it to “Mongolian barbecue” because it was easier to offend the Mongolians than the mainland Chinese. This means Beijing barbecue is not trademarked, and can be used to describe Philippine foreign policy.
She was the only one who ordered cheese flautas—the same price as a bucket of beer. It was Tia Maria, not Cantina. Her mom liked Tia Maria, she says, and disliked me. But it didn’t matter. Our friends were getting wasted in Coastnet and asking us to follow. We were in love. Anything could go wrong, and we would still make it.
In a relationship context, Blueskies does not spark joy. Blueskies is the text message marinating on your phone: “Where are you?” The five missed calls. The “Don’t tell me you’ve started smoking!” If life is fair, we will see our stats when we die. The kilometers we’ve walked, the times we’ve fallen in love, and the number of relationships ruined by Blueskies.
It was never as good after they fixed the typo. I forget what we even talked about, but those afternoons in Perspolis taught us a valuable life lesson: parking in impossible spaces. She always took my grilled tomatoes, burnt just right, meaninglessly resembling Mars. There was a curse downstairs. The space beside Flaming Wings had a new restaurant opening every six months. A conga line of bankruptcies and soft openings—we didn’t know if we were surrounded by celebration or by failure. A conundrum. An impossible space.
9. Mag:net Café
I am the kind of person who reads poetry on stage, and she was the kind of girlfriend who preferred watching five minutes of poetry instead of sitting through three hours of mediocre basketball.
There was the Rustan’s nearby that contributed to Mag:net’s demise. We bought Red Horses, sat down on the steps outside the café, watched 18-wheelers make U-turns in Katipunan, and found different sentences we could use to express how cool we were.
I read my poem entitled “Memories” on stage for poetry night, and my professor in the audience asks her: “Do you like the poem?” She answers: “Do I have a choice?”