Stories of Christmas Past: AMBOS MUNDOS RESTAURANT ANECDOTES Sixth of a Series

9:08 PM

Stories of Christmas Past may bring joy or melancholy. Sometimes for me, I feel both at the same time, not really quite sure if I'd feel this way or that. But always never being able to totally avoid sentimental moments especially when I think of Ambos Mundos Restaurant and Christmas in the same breathe.


My parents at the height of Ambos Mundos Restaurant's popularity
























Ghost of Christmas Past

Much like the character "Ghost of Christmas Past" from the popular novel "A Christmas Carol", my own Christmas Past stories will always come to haunt and taunt me at this time of the year, not because it was bad but precisely because it was so good that my heart would literally ache with the memories that now seem so far away. Life was a lot easier and simpler then. We had a family and we had Ambos Mundos safe in our family.

What Do You Eat for Noche Buena?

This is a question my friends would often ask me, wondering what else we would bother preparing with the assortment of food we can have daily in the restaurant. For our family, the Noche Buena fare would usually consist of rellenong bangus, chicken galantina, morcon, and pancit molo prepared with extra special ingredients by the Ambos Mundos Restaurant cook. My mother never failed to make her favorite laing which I remembered was so filled with shrimps that we would jokingly call it "shrimps with laing" instead of the other way around.

Since half of our life then was spent in Quiapo because of the location of our restaurant, we have been accustomed to buying and having the famous Excelente Ham as part of our Noche Buena.  Castanas or roasted chestnuts are a must have. From the time I was able to help around the house, it became my duty to make the Buko Salad. Mind you, my arms would literally ache with the effort as I had to fill a container so big similar to a witch's cauldron, but I never felt happier in my life. Why this big? Because we expect many guests during Christmas Day itself.

Where Do You Buy What You Wear?

This is another common question posed to me by my friends. Believe it or not, I was actually a fashionista during my younger days (LOL). My secret sources of fashion treasure then was the unknown ShoeMart located in front of Ambos Mundos Restaurant in Estero Cegado and The Good Earth Emporium in Avenida. Syvel's in Escolta was my ultimate favorite shoe store. ShoeMart is now more known of course as SM or the SM Malls while Good Earth and Syvel's faded from the scene in time.

The boys in our family preferred going to Cartimar and Zurbaran for their Christmas shopping. Before ShoeMart came to be, my mother and I would go to Divisoria to buy textile and have our Christmas dresses made by the neighborhood dressmaker or modista. Textile was actually a common gift given and received during those times and I still remember the smell of textile to this day as I waited for my mother to finish her shopping for several hours to give to relatives and customers. No complaints from me though as long as I get my favorite palabok and halo-halo after.

Christmas at Ambos Mundos Restaurant

Christmas Day is business as usual for Ambos Mundos Restaurant. Our family would hear mass either at Quiapo Church or Sta. Cruz Church which were both of walking distance from the restaurant. My father would take a quick look over the restaurant and then we're home bound to be ready for visiting relatives and friends. Sometimes, it wouldn't be as quick as we children hoped for as Christmas well-wishers to my father never seem to stop coming.

Christmas Day is one of the few days that my father would willingly leave Ambos Mundos Restaurant to be with us at home the rest of the day. Most of the time, he will just take a quick rest at home and it would be back to work for him. My father never failed to remind us that we have so much to be thankful for to Ambos Mundos. It took me some time to fully understand that. More than the material things my parents were able to provide through hard work and the food that was always there for the taking, there was the legacy of a family business name that made its mark on its own.

My Say

Thank you Ambos Mundos for being part of many of my past Christmases. Though I cannot help but feel sad at times because of the present situation, it can never be enough to erase the good memories as you took care of our family. You were actually part of the family.

That said, till we see each other again on some Christmas Day in the future...

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