Sunday, October 23, 2005

Girls' Night Out

A dog-lover friend of ours invited Almond, Tim and myself to a benefit dinner for the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) last night. The event was at a small watering hole near Almond's house in Quezon City, and had a tribal theme. The ticket price of PhP 300 covered dinner, a drink and a free oracular reading of any kind. Unfortunately dinner turned out to be two pathetic sticks of pork barbecue and a cup of rice, and nothing else. The drink was a choice of either beer or iced tea. The free oracular reading was, to put it kindly, unsatisfactory in the sense that the readers were either inexperienced (one was still consulting a book! which we could have hypothetically bought and consulted ourselves!) or sounded like they were reciting from a pre-prepared script. Neither Tim nor Almond were impressed. Also, neither girl eats red meat, only seafood and vegetables, so they were in a quandary. The organizer was a wiccan who was promoting alternative lifestyle practices, so the two girls were under the impression that there some vegetarian food would be available.

"Serving vegetables would have been cheaper for them!"

"Do Wiccans eat vegetables?"

"But that Wiccan smokes!"

As for me, I wanted to get the most out of my PhP 300, so I grimly ate my two sticks of barbecue and washed down a couple of spoonfuls of rice, which was very dry, with the watery iced tea. I also wanted my evening to be more interesting, so I hied over the henna artists booth and looked over their catalog. The smallest size of henna tattoo was priced at PhP 50. When I asked if they could do certain designs in what I thought was the dainty fifty-peso size, to my dismay I was told that the tattoo stencils were actually bigger than the "clip art" size I wanted. Still, I was determined. Besides, the design would eventually wash away after several days.

I finally found a design that appealed to me, a rampant wyvern with wings outstretched, its tail curling like a seahorse's. A wyvern is a magical beast, the type you find emblazoned on coats of arms and other heraldic artifacts. It's actually a little dragon, but whereas the western-style dragon has wings, two front paws and two back paws, a wyvern's wings ARE its front limbs. Like a bat. Once upon a time, in a previous, physically fitter life I had been pointman for an assault squad of airsoft players in a team called Wyvern. The symbolism, you know, had to relate to something in my personal life and identity. I had it done, all three vertical inches of it, in the center of the small of my back, just above the waistband of my jeans. In fact, it took a while to dry. I sat near where a percussion band played tribal drums with my t-shirt taped up in the back to avoid stains for 45 minutes. I was chagrined that Tim and Almond were getting hungrier and hungrier while I waited for my henna to dry, but there was no help for it. In the meantime they moved around, successfully eluding the chainsmoking wiccan who wanted to sell them some colored magic love salt to dissolve in their bath.

When the henna dried and we piled in the car to go, Tim mentioned that she wanted us to try a restaurant called Spoon owned by newscaster Ces Orena-Drilon. She'd just read about it in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It was near the ABS-CBN compound in Quezon City, not too far away. We finally found Spoon, amusingly enough, located right next to a place called Dish, which was actually some sort of nightclub. Alas, it was full and there was a long waiting list. Tim and Almond were delirious with hunger, but we decided to walk around till we found a restaurant that served seafood and vegetables, in a nice, family-type place not too dark or noisy. Parking was hard to come by, and we were damned if we were going to give up the slot we found just to look for a worthy restaurant.

Serendipity led us to Sangkalan, which is a Filipino restaurant and grill in the famous Trellis tradition on 27 Scout Albano St. It was newly renovated, too. It being the Halloween weekend they had booked an acoustic band to play later at night. Even I still felt a little hungry after the two little barbecues. So we ordered a sumptuous feast of sizzling tahong (mussels) in red chilli garlic sauce, chop suey with buco, grilled squid, deep-fried oysters in a salsa of mango, kamias and red onion. Silence reigned as we gulped and chewed. My ice-cold buco sherbet even arrived served in the coconut! The dishes looked wonderful and tasted wonderful. They erased the nasty memories of the mean little barbecues and watery iced tea. All our orders were winners! Even the acoustic band didn't sound too bad. We are definitely going there again. Serendipity indeed!