Thursday, July 24

The Nagtahan Mabini Bridge

This year, in honor of the Mabini Sesquicentennial, the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) has recommended to rename Nagtahan Bridge to Mabini Bridge. 

Nagtahan when it was just a pile of wood across the Pasig River.

It's not so much as a renaming but going back to what it's been officially called decades ago. Apparently, Nagtahan's official name really was "Mabini Bridge," after Marcos's Proclamation of 1967. But we know what happened with that effort. Since it was built in 1945, and rebuilt in the 1960s after a barge rammed into the wooden piles, the bridge on Nagtahan Street has always been called Nagtahan and nothing else.* Presidential proclamations notwithstanding. The Malacanan briefer has this to say: "However, little notice was made of this, and in time the name was forgotten." 

And so they try one more time. They even had the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) change all pertinent road signs to read as such. 

This bridge shall now be called Mabini, okay? 

Even in Ingress, the portal that exists is not the bridge per se, but the image of Apolinario Mabini near the top of the bridge's crest, in the general area of where the Mabini Shrine used to be. 

Ohai, Apolinario Mabini! 
Maybe this time, Mabini Bridge will stick around.  

*It's the same way with Otis, now known as Paz Guanzon. All the bus signs still say Otis. Even all the establishments along that road refer to it as Otis. Some names have a way of staying "sticky" that even several generations and name changes later, people still know it by the name they have always known. 

Thursday, July 17

The game as tourist guidebook

Chris Suellentrop's review of Ingress for the New York Times had me nodding:
Video games are a spatial medium, filled with words like “map” and “world” and “travel,” but in the physical realm, most games are played indoors by stationary players who sit in basements and living rooms in front of TV screens and computer monitors. 
Instead, my favorite way to use Ingress is as tourist guidebook. Beyond that vampire grave in Rhode Island, Ingress also led me to a home on the Upper West Side where Babe Ruth once lived and to the site of Thomas Paine’s death in Greenwich Village...Even so, I discovered plenty of plaques and markers that I didn’t know existed.
Because this is also my favorite way of using Ingress. Yes, part of the motivation of visiting as many portals as possible to score the Explorer badges. But I take the exploring seriously (but in a fun, geeky way). 

My favorite, mostly accidental finds include the house where the body of Jose Rizal was hidden after his execution, the birthplace marker for a top Filipino poet I stumbled upon as I shuffled from one campus to another, and this fantastic graffiti in a parking lot. 

I'm sure there will be more to discover. As soon as I get off my lazy ass and start walking around again. 

Sunday, July 13

Pandacan Pho

Sometimes, when I feel under the weather or need to cheer up, a steaming bowl of pho is the way to go. Since the bridge is still under repair, I haven't really passed by that area. So imagine my surprise when I saw the signage for what appears to be a Vietnamese food place.

There used to be a Cebu lechon place there that I never got to try. But since I was in a rush to get a cab to get to Diliman to join the really long line of people waiting for possibly their last chance for a taste of Beach House barbecue before it closes down, I only got to check it out a couple of days later, when I had some errands to run. 
The first thing that greeted me upon entering Nguyen Food House was the chatter from a table of Vietnamese aunties by the door. There must have been five or six of them, all talking excitedly with each other. The shop assistant gave me a menu and I asked what their specialty was, and she pointed to the bowl of pho. I asked for the steak and tendon kind.

She came back with a bowl of thinly sliced meat ("steak," I assume) and beef balls with a generous heap of spring onions and a tub of togue and calamansi. There's also some hoisin sauce and hot sauce--I don't think it's rooster sriracha. This has obviously worked with what is available in the area. So don't expect lemon wedges or big stemmed supermarket beat sprouts. You're looking for "locally sourced," here you go--togue kung togue. 

But a slurp of the broth confirms that a bowl of pho is a bowl of pho. Yes, this is slightly different from what we have been used to from the mall-based Vietnamese food we have been used to. Aside from using local ingredients, this bowl is also about 20% cheaper. What it has going for it is that it is made by a Vietnamese mommy. I asked her where she's from and she said she lives in the Nagtahan area. Again, you can't go any more local than that. I also assume that the owner's friends live nearby for them to hang out in her store. 

It's also a nice addition to the sort of eats one can have. If you want Indian food, it's only a few minutes away from Assad's in the UN Avenue/Otis area. And now we have pho. Really, what this town needs is a decent coffee shop. There was a cafe in that building area once, but it didn't last long and the space is now occupied by a spa. So maybe people want a massage more than they want coffee. 

A bowl of noodles that cost Php199 (but can be comfortably shared by two people) is probably expensive by the town's standards. Perhaps they can have a sampler or "merienda bowl" at Php99--you know, just so the people in the area can try out the noodles and get used to it and make it an alternative to the mami that they know. I just want the place to stay open for a really long time. 

Nguyen Food House is on the ground floor of Residencias de Manila, Jesus Street, Pandacan.