Dining out with Brother Andrew

It was the mid-1970s and I was about eight years old…

Because Brother Andrew [ Brother Andrew Benjamin Gonzalez, F.S.C. of De La Salle University;  my uncle, youngest brother of my father ] was amused with my suitably “Gonzalez” appetite, he would take me along whenever he and [ his older brother ] Tito Hector would dine out, usually on Saturday evenings, and sometimes midweek on Wednesday evenings as well.

“The Champagne room” at the Manila hotel.  At that time the Manila hotel — upon the initiative of the First Lady, Madame Imelda Romualdez Marcos — had just emerged from a dazzling redo by the American designer Dale Keller.  “The Champagne room” was “la Cote Ferdinand et Imelda.”  The diners at “the Champagne room” were the Marcos era “le tout,” “creme de la creme,” “gratin,” high society whathaveyou.  The food was as good as it was expensive.  And the string music by Joe Nicolas and his ensemble was so pleasant to the senses.  Dining there was always an entirely beautiful experience.

It was always my idea of a nice living room.  It had such nice Beaux- Arts proportions [ I would have hung three immense Baccarat crystal chandeliers ] and such beautiful grillwork.  And it opened to a nice garden facing the sea.  How close to “Palm Beach” could you get???

I thought it was the height of elegance…

“L’Hirondelle” at the Manila Mandarin.  It was an elegant but rather quiet restaurant.

We ordered classical French dishes but Brother Andrew really preferred more unusual fare…

My young and unrefined tastebuds did not find the French dishes memorable.

I was most amused with the beautifully packaged box of chocolates [ “mignardises” ] that was presented to me by the maitre d’ at the end of the meal.  I wouldn’t eat the chocolates for days because the whole package was always so pretty.

“The Prince Albert” rotisserie at the Hotel Intercontinental.  It looked so… “1970s [ or even 1960s ] Victorian.”  But I sensed the tone of the place.  The diners were mostly businessmen; the ladies were elegant.  And Brother Andrew was usually greeted by several important-looking people before we reached the usual reserved corner table.  The food was very good and the prices reasonable.

Brother Andrew always liked that silverplated cart where the prime rib was kept.  He promised himself that he would look for one at the “Silver Vaults” in London for his own use back home.  But he never got around to it.  He was amazed when he saw one such cart — made by a local silversmith — at Dona Rosario “Charing” Escudero’s own house at the Villa Escudero.  He thought it was straight out of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

“Tivoli” at the Manila Mandarin.

The Mandarin always had such “tone”…

“Cowrie Grill” at the Manila hotel.  I always found the cascading seashells interesting.  Brother Andrew was very amused that ten year old li’l me could finish a whole U.S. T-Bone steak with all the side dishes, soup, salad, and dessert to boot!!!

In the 1980s…

“Allegro” at The Regent hotel.  It was the chicest restaurant when it was new:  it was all the rage.  Everyone was fascinated with the pastel colors of its revolutionary interiors by designer Sonia Santiago-Olivares.

Our most lasting memory of “Allegro” was its sorbet that tasted like some cream from “Shiseido”…

“The Prince Albert” rotisserie at the Hotel Intercontinental.  As young adults with enormous appetites, we already had a visceral appreciation of good food and we automatically ordered everything from “soup to nuts” — including “panfried foie gras” and “prime rib” — without any prodding from Brother Andrew.  We also ordered the other expensive items.  And the young men already appreciated fine wines, so that added to the expense.  Brother Andrew jokingly threatened that we would have to pay the bill the next time!!!  [ There were many other times afterwards but he never made good on his threat. ]

“Jade Garden” Chinese restaurant, Makati.  When it was new, Brother Andrew liked to assemble the family in the big function room there [ the “Lotus Room”? ] during his 29 February [ 1940 ] birthday and Tito Hector’s 02 January [ 1937 ] birthday.  But he also enjoyed dining there with just Tito Hector and I.  That way we could eat, nay gorge, on all the “steamed shrimps” and all the “Peking duck” we wanted without having to think of the other people at the table…

When “McDonald’s” finally arrived in Manila in late 1981, Brother Andrew took Tito Hector and I for “merienda” [ afternoon snack ].  I will never forget that time because Brother Andrew ordered four “Big Macs,” four “Filet-o-Fish,” three french fries, and three large “root beers” for himself and another four “Big Macs,” four “Filet-o-Fish,” four french fries, and four large “Root Beers” for [ the hefty ] Tito Hector!!!???!!!  The “McDonald’s” staff was incredulous…!!!  Li’l ol’ me only ordered a “Big Mac,” french fries, and a large “Root Beer.”  And oh, Brother Andrew also ordered four chocolate sundaes for himself and another two chocolate and two strawberry sundaes for Tito Hector.  I only ordered a strawberry sundae.  I will never forget the incredulous stares and the amused glances at our table that time!!!  I overheard one lady say:  “Ang takaw naman ng mga dambuhalang iyan!!!” [ “What big appetites those huge men have!!!” ]   Bwahahahahah!!!

Those were Brother Andrew’s “little joys.”  He wanted the family to eat well — very well.   That was how Brother Andrew used a small part of the money his rich parents had left him.  The big part he continually gave to charity…

And since he couldn’t finish his inheritance, he gave it all to charity through the De La Salle University.

*unfinished*

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5 Comments

  1. gartenzwerg said,

    June 4, 2008 at 11:07 am

    this is a bit late…but I really admired Bro. Andrew. He took a chance with my cousin, agreeing to let him enroll in La Salle instead of St. Benilde. My cousin is deaf and mute and wanted to go to a normal school. My cousin didn’t fail him, he left La Salle with a degree in engineering.

    I only saw Bro. Andrew a number of times at my aunt’s parties held whenever she came home.

  2. January 31, 2007 at 4:57 pm

    Bambina:

    Hahahah!!!

    Toto Gonzalez

  3. Bambina Olivares Wise said,

    January 31, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    toto: ne t’inqiuetes pas. i think you’re safe!

  4. January 25, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Bambina:

    Woops!!! I should have known better!!! It’s just that Brother Andrew kept on blabbing about E**** O******* and that’s why the memory stuck.

    On hindsight, it did have more of Tita Ning’s sensibilities!!!

    Will Maja and Hannah “kill” me for that???

    Toto Gonzalez

  5. Bambina Olivares Wise said,

    January 25, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    toto, correction. allegro, and the interiors of the rest of the regent, was designed by sonia santiago-olivares, not edith oliveros. common mistake!


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