Old Zamboanga is gone PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 12 March 2016 13:54

Table Talk

BY Mike S Apostol

 

The other night, a neighbor of mine invited me for a drink or two at Savory restaurant in San Jose Gusu. The pork chicharon was very crispy and the beer very cold. The television set was convertible, it can be used for videoke too. Since it was early evening, we listened to news while the rest of the customers were still not “fully charge”. What is new is everybody is a stranger, unlike those days, when almost all customers in a restaurant in Zamboanga City is an acquaintance or at least a familiar face and almost everybody was talking in “chavacano”. Not anymore today. All waitresses and cooks, speak “Cebuano” and obviously are out of towners, working in Zamboanga City and bringing with them their habits and characters, good and bad. Giggling heartily and eating their diner ration in an empty customer’ss table, texting on their cellpones like nobody’s business and a customer has to raise a voice or stand up to be noticed if you have an order to make. A far, far cry  from the waiters and waitresses of old Zamboanga during those days where everybody speaks “chavacano” and waiters and waitresses have their place in the restaurant separate from customers. Remember City lunch? Plaza Restaurant? or Hover Restaurant? or maybe Goldirose and Magnolia Kiosk? or the classy Swiss Bar? Woodpecker” or Laura’s Bake Shop”? or the open air restobar in Cawa-Cawa Boulevard, the Solis and Canlas Bar- B- Q Plaza and live band by the Denisons with Enteng de la Pena? The ambience was not so great but the service always comes with a smile with the slightest motion of you fingers to have an order. Gone are those happy days.

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As the night grew late, customers were now restless and talking loudly, in “Cebuano” “Tagalog” and “Tausug” dialects and when they asked the waitress for the microphone, I whispered to my neighbor, it is time to leave and look for another place because when the singing starts, we cannot talk softly. So we left and went to another place nearby, a corner store that sells beer and booze for 24 hours, without tables but customers have to stand in one corner of the store in taking your beer with a steel screen infront of you, separating the salesgirls from the customers. There again, the salesgirls talk to you in “Cebuano” without even a smile when you order for a beer as if you will not pay for those beers. Worst, when you try to open up a conversation with one of them, they answer you sarcastically without even a tint of courtesy. My neighbor inquired from one of the girls tenderly in a manner of respect, as to what part of the Peninsula they came from? He got an insulting answer “Liloy, Zamboanga Del Norte, so what” in Cebuano it is “ Sa Liloy, Zamboanga Del Norte, ngano man diay?” At this point, my ego was touched as a “barrio boy” myself and since the beer I was drinking was the fifth bottle and also since my neighbor cannot speak “Cebuano”, a retired but unassuming Marine Officer (Navy Captain) from Pangasinan, I came to his rescue and said to the sales girl in “Cebuano”  in a rude manner. I said “hibalo ka day, imong dagway sama ra sa imong kina-iya”, Table Talk speaks “Cebuano” fluently. She blushed and moved farther from us, my neighbor asked me, what did I tell her? I said it is very simple, “you know what miss, your face is like your character”.  Table Talk believes that is the best way to tame an arrogant shrew. As simple as that, the message goes direct to your senses.

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Table Talk cannot believe, how Zamboanga has changed today. This does not happen at Hanazono Japanese Restaurant or Garden Orchid’s Lobby Bar or at Lantaka Bar or at Samurai and East Side restaurant, the places I frequently go but only in “walk in” street corner drinking joints. The place is very ordinary and makes things unfit for unwinding up after a grueling day and made more stressful by the arrogance and discourtesy of waitresses and salesgirls coming from uptown. Surprisingly, it should be those waitresses and waiters in classy joints that should be “characters” because of their good looks and educational attainment serving successful people, but sometimes illiterate. But, it is the reverse, the unpleasing personalities of the mediocre are the “characters” even working in “honky-tonk” joints. There should be a law on this reverse disparity.

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During those times of old Zamboaga, restaurants and joints have employed uptown lasses or from the city’s barangays because Hotel and Restaurant Management (HRM) graduates are a rarity those days. But even with that inadequacy, waiters, waitresses and salesgirls are courteous, smilling faces and good mannered. Because outlets before, select their employees who will serve the public, they are trained by a headwaiter or the manager himself, to be an excellent host. Street joints and corner stores attended by salesgirls where they don’t have even a little training, act by themselves with sheer raw knowledge of “good manners and right conduct”, they learned from their elementary schools and even if they are paid measly but honestly. Today almost all restaurants and joints hire without the necessary requirement of public service training, for as long as they can be utilized to do the job at the lowest monthly rate  Frankly most businessmen on this line are profit oriented and are more on “service quantity” rather than “quality service”. This is the result of “mental corruption” and “exploitation”. This must be corrected before it becomes a social interaction and order, the bane of discipline and manners. It is not surprising why many in Zamboanga City Today do not respect authority anymore. An illiterate farmer can insult a lawyer-politician during a campaign sortie or an unschooled “trisicad” driver treats discourteously his passenger like nobody’s business. Perhaps, schools should revive the early lessons of “good manners and right conduct” today, because even “kasambahays” with a law to protect them, interprets the the new law as “God given rights” and treat themselves as blood family members in their place of work with no inhibitions to do anything they wish, instead of acting as paid employees with house rules to follow.

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Scoop: Zamboanga City today has several  technical schools and institutions offering Hotel Restaurant Management course, but few of their graduates are hired by our local restaurateurs and other allied business. They prefer to hire elementary and high school graduates to handle their food service and joints, to save on cost.  Bad thing is sometimes their prices are almost at par with those business and joints that hired HRM graduates. This is unfair and unjust to paying customers and the government. Agree or disagree.