When Faith originally mentioned the idea that we were going to meet up for dinner in Manila with a family she’d met on the Yahoo! adoption group, my first reaction was paranoia. I was pretty (legitimately, I think) concerned about meeting someone we didn’t really know in a foreign country. I had visions of being left for dead in a back alley as some thug made off with Faith, John, and my passport and wallet. Ugh! So, I was pretty funny drilling Faith about the “rules” of meeting with this family. Don’t get in a car with them. Stay in a public place. Insist on their meeting us within walking distance of our hotel. Etc.
Faith assured me that everything was on the up-and-up, though, because these people are evidently a fixture in the Philippine Yahoo group. They are a wonderful couple named Joel and Cherry Ramos – clearly wealthy by Philippine standards – and apparently make it their business to meet with families who are traveling through Manila for the purposes of adopting from the Philippines. We were the latest couple in a long list of Americans they have met up with and added a bit of spice to the journey of adoption.
Here’s a picture of all of us at dinner…
And here’s the story…
Faith had arranged for the Ramos family to meet us. They did, and we could tell immediately that everything was fine and that we were going to have a great time. We walked next store to one of the three malls which flank the Intercontinental Hotel in Makati – the one Faith and I hadn’t been to yet. Immediately we realized that we had been missing out. This was the mall with the massive grocery store. Right out of the gate, Joel and Cherry introduced us to a new fruit I still can’t remember or pronouce. But it was like a grapefruit, only sweeter. Funky afterbite, but very tasty. Both their daughter and John loved it, and it served as a great hold-them-over snack while we wandered the mall. They also introduced us to an awesome shop where we ended up doing much of our souvenir shopping the following day, called Kultura. After wandering around there for a while, we ended up at one of the Ramos’ favorite restaurants, called Max’s.
Before I get to dinner, let me tell you a little about Joel and Cherry. First, it was clear they were people of means in the Philippines. They have a live-in nany, who takes care of their daughter, and is like one of the family. That was really interesting and cool. Second, they both work in Makati, the financial district in Manila. They also spoke with better English than most Americans and knew WAY more about American pop culture than Faith and I did. It was pretty funny. Joel would routinely rattle off references to movies or music or use slang words or obscure contractions that shocked me. He was a storyteller too, so it was really fun to listen to him talk. Faith and I had a great time, and though I’m sure John was bored with the conversation, he was all about the food, so it was okay.
Speaking of the food…
They went crazy ordering food for us in this little restaurant. If Faith or I expressed even the slightest interest in a menu item, it was on the way to the table a second later. Of course, there were a number of dishes that they insisted we needed to try as well, so that was fun. Ultimately, there was way more food than we were ever going to get through in one sitting.
Faith’s big favorite was the chop suey … veggies that tasted amazing and looked fairly healthy until you realized that they were cooked with pork liver bits. Ah, the pork!
Jeff’s big favorite was a dish called Chicken Sisig … chunks of chicken mixed with chopped veggies and a spice with a bit of a kick to it. Very tasty. Here’s a blog post about the Sisig from Max’s. Interesting that I’m not the only sisigaholic.
John liked the soup broth. I think if he could have resurrected the digusting Tinenneb nga Paltat (translated: evil dead charcoaled catfish floating in broth) that we had at the Palazzo de Laoag hotel in Laoag City, he’d have been all over it.
After a long evening of conversation and way more food than any group of people should consume, we headed back to the hotel to call it a night. Of course, after Faith and John went to bed, I snuck off to the business center to get some alone time with the computer and my blog. Of course, this was not before a dreaded mishap was only barely avoided at the hotel. Check out my next entry for that story.
That fruit Jeff couldn’t remember is called Pomelo. You can get it hear in Chicagoland–just a lot smaller.
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Hi Jeff and Faith, what a pleasant surprise to find this entry online. Glad to learn you had a great time with us despite what Joel and I were chuckling post dinner was Jeff’s overly cautious mien. But of course, perfectly understandable, given the bad press the Philippines sadly gets. We presumed you have been told that we are a naturally hospitable people and hope we didn’t overwhelm you with our friendliness.
Just thought I should straight out some impressions before our other friends online get an idea we won the lotto. We are a very middle class family. Filipinos generelly can afford nannies more than they can afford a car. And since we live in the city center, we also tend to be more Westernized than our countrymen in the provinces.
My daughter is now in pre-school and sure hope John-John has grown a foot since we last saw each other. It’s such a delicious pleasure to be parents, isn’t it? And yes, Faith is right about the pomelo. But don’t you miss our mangoes yet? 🙂