If there’s one place here in Metro Manila where nothing really changes, it would be the Quiapo area, including Chinatown.  After more than a decade, I was back in the innards of Quiapo and Sta. Cruz.  For the first time ever, I went with my dad to buy Chinese ham at Excelente.  He used to do it by himself since I was little.  Oh, I have been to Excelente with my parents at other times, but never during the Christmas season.  It’s a family tradition dating back to the time of my grandfather.  We were supposed to buy the ham last Christmas Eve (the only time we both had), but didn’t want to brave the mass of people that would surely be there.

Since we were going to Quiapo anyway, I asked my dad if we could also pass by Ongpin in Chinatown to get my favorite pork mahu and Eng Bee Tin hopia.  The first thing I noticed was that nothing much has changed in Ongpin since the last time I was there, which was 3 years ago.  We then went inside Sta. Cruz church for a while, then it was on to Carlos Palanca street for the Excelente ham.

It was a nostalgia trip for us.  I can’t count the number of times I came to this area with my parents when I was a kid.  My parents loved going to Chinatown and visiting their wedding godfather, the owner of Besa Shoes at Escolta.  Then we would usually end up at Carlos Palanca, which was then called Echague, to buy ham and bread.  Ah…those pre-mall years. 😀  My dad knows the area like the back of his hand since this was where he stayed when he first came to Manila as a college freshman up to the time he married my mom.  Even he attested that very little has changed.  Sure, some things looked newer, but that was it.  While walking along Carlos Palanca, I saw a sign that said ‘Vienna Bakery’.  That looked oddly familiar.  And when we finally passed it, I saw that it was indeed our favorite bakery.  One peek and I saw that nothing inside had changed!  It looked exactly as I remembered it from more than ten years ago.  It even smelled the same!  It was the same thing when we reached Excelente.  It was like the only change was that we’re older now…and I’m the one paying for the ham, haha!  When I told my dad about Vienna Bakery later on, he confirmed that it was indeed where we liked to buy bread before…and that it was also my grandfather who introduced that tradition.

Yesterday was a good day – a blast from the past to mark the days leading to a new year.  Sorry there are no pictures.  I was scared to whip out my cell phone, much more a digicam, hehe.  But it’s good to experience the best and worst of exotic Manila.  I swear I felt like a tourist. 😀

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