One morning, I found myself hungry and in the middle of the commercial area of barangay Carmen near Liceo de Cagayan University and SSS. This is a very fortunate part of the city to find yourself hungry in because, after all, its proximity to a school and a government office meant that it would be easy to buy food even early in the morning.
I wasn’t bringing a lot of money with me at the time, mainstream fastfood (read: Jolibee) was out of the question and I decided to settle for one of the carenderias lining the street.
One of them looked particularly full so I might have skipped it had the security guard not noticed that I was peering inside. “Naa pa’y ingkuranan sa sulod, ma’am,” he informed me in a friendly voice.
So I decided to give it a shot.
Now, the food was really good. And I do mean, really good. I ordered this pork thing cooked almost adobo-style with potatoes and onions (sorry, I’m awful at names), a cup of rice and a small bottle of 7-up. The ulam itself was pleasantly savory and sour not in a harsh way, but as if, perhaps, it had gotten a sprinkling of calamansi. (disclaimer: I am not a food blogger and that was probably the worst description of the food possible.)
But there was another thing that made the food taste extra good. It was that the people there were remarkably kind.
Perhaps it was the way the workers there were casually chatting about Be Careful With My Heart. Or maybe it was because the lady behind the counter had a pleasant voice and took my order with the smile. Or maybe because she was following up missed orders clearly and patiently. Or maybe because everyone was helping each other (even the security guard was clearing the dishes). Or maybe it was a combination of all these things.
Now that I think of it, I don’t even know what was it exactly that made me say that everyone there was unusually kind. But I left the place feeling light an trying to put a finger to why exactly because this is not the sort of thing I have experienced anywhere ever.
Not even in fancy restaurants, mostly because service there tends to be forced and mechanical. That’s not meant to put anyone down, though. I’ve eaten in many places that have pleasant service, but usually it’s attributed to one particular server. I suppose this one time was unusual because it seemed that everyone was part of the experience.
It’s a shame I might not be eating there again any time soon because being hungry in the middle of Carmen is just not part of my usual routine. But one thing’s for sure, the next time I try to cook something, I’ll try thinking of happy thoughts and smiling all the way through it. You know, just to see if it will taste better that way.