The real thing

I usually have not had dinner yet when I arrive home from the office at nine or ten in the evening. My son Josh usually waits up for me unless he's really plastered from the day's activities. He likes it when we share a late night meal, talking about his day and mine, usually serenaded by music he had just downloaded into his music player. We like cream cheese on bagel, black pepper spam sandwich, and Lucky Me instant no-cook noodles, La Paz Batchoy flavor.

This is why I missed Josh during the late lunch I had today. Dad's and my first stop in Iloilo after we had unloaded our bags in our respective hotel rooms was Deco's Batchoy House right at the heart of La Paz Market. The restaurant was not fancy, much like the inexpensive eateries with colorful plastic pitchers and forks and spoons served submerged in a glass half full to customers. Other Batchoy houses in the area had modernized, adopting a fastfood-like atmosphere complete with the counter and the bright colors, but Deco's looked like it came out of a sixties movie. That was part of the charm.

We ordered, what else, La Paz Batchoy and two servings of 3 puto pieces wrapped in banana leaves. There was a method to enjoying this dish in the very city where it originated, Dad said. You sip the clear soup while munching on the puto. Before long I was dunking the puto in the soup. When all the liquid is gone, you tackle the noodles and the innards. I attacked only the noodles though. And then I asked for more soup,which was bottomless. The chicharon was still crisp. The puto disappeared. All this as Dad and I caught up on the days and months and years we had missed.

When I get back to Manila, and next time I come home late to a waiting – and hungry – Josh, I will bring puto along with the noodle soup package. It may not be the real thing, but I am sure it will taste just as great.