Mall Food.

Jill: If we learned one thing about travel on our trip to the Philippines, it’s that plans don’t always work out. We did plenty of research prior to flying across the Pacific Ocean; sometimes that research aided us in our journeys, sometimes it didn’t. We planned to spend one day in Manila, guided by a friend of a friend of Maya’s, a foodie and filmmaker.

Maya: One of the occupational hazards of traveling in a less than organized fashion: As our itinerary was far from set in stone, the day we’d intended to spend in Manila shifted, and my friend’s friend wasn’t in town when we arrived. Thank goodness for text messages, though: He sent us numerous recommendations during our bus ride from Caba to the country’s capital. We chose Via Mare in Greenbelt—it had a nice ring to it. I envisioned a farmer’s market (the word “green” did it), or a collection of food stalls, maybe.

Jill: When we arrived at his suggested eatery, we were surprised to find it in a mall. Bethany had warned us that Filipinos loved indoor shopping. (This was actually our second visit to one in Manila; my camera lens broke on the bus ride from Caba, and we ordered by our friends to find a replacement at the giant indoor air conditioned city that is the Mall of Asia). At any rate, it took me getting over my mall-food prejudices to accept that we were eating in one on purpose. (Seeing that they had beer available did help.)

Maya: To tell you the truth, I had less of an issue with the idea of mall food than I did with the discovery, in retrospect, that we thoroughly enjoyed the food at what is very possibly the Red Lobster of the Philippines. No matter. We ordered a bowl of lomi, which proved to have restorative powers. Though it benefited from a squeeze of calamansi and a dash of soy, the soup, thick with egg noodles and heavy with shrimp, squid balls and pork liver, was just what we needed after a long bus ride. We split the serving, mainly so we could justify a second meal elsewhere, of course.

Jill: For our second dinner, we passed on our local expert’s suggestions and tried one from the guidebook. It must have been our day for cheesy chain dining: We ended up at the Philippine’s equivalent of a T.G.I. Friday’s, where we may have made decisions that are warned against in said guidebooks.

Maya: Let’s just say that a bucket of San Mig Light, formerly sailor-suit-clad waitstaff, and videoke were involved, and leave it at that.

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