Valentine on a Budget

Am not much of a mall person but this Sunday I finally took a long trip to Cubao, Quezon City all the way from  from Alabang, Muntinlupa.  The obvious occasion was a Valentine lunch for the family at the newly opened Uncle Cheffy restaurant. I cant resist the invitation of good friends Larry  Cortez and Chef Mau Arjona on their opening week. What with a 50% discount on all food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Long way from home but truly worth the trip

Growing up near the Balete Drive area in Quezon City, Ali Mall is a special place for me.   Its a homecoming of sorts for I moved to the south side of the metropolis  after getting married. I  rarely come to Cubao.

During my days of youth,   I could stand on the roof of our house and see the Araneta Coliseum in the distance with nary a tall building to block one’s view.  Today, the place is teeming with people and new buildings. It makes one dizzy just standing in the corner while a great mass of humanity pass in front of you.

EDSA was still a two lane asphalt road and was called HIghway 54. Farmers Market along Edsa was already there, it was however still not considered a mall.

Ali Mall, truly was the first real Mall in the Philippines. Its opening coincided with the now famous “Thrilla in Manila”, the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight.

Time has been kind to Ali Mall. It still is as I remembered it. Gone are the old tenants and the typical stores in most malls now occupy most of the leased spaces.

My favorite companion in Ali Mall before was my  “Lolo Atong” Growing up in the company of my grandfather, he would regale me with stories of how much value “isang pera” (one centavo) was worth before. He inculcated in me a sense of thrift and the importance of saving money. I learned those lessons from him when my daily school allowance was only “diyes centimos” (ten centavos).

The ten cents could pay for jeepney fare to and from school and if I saved the change, I could buy a chocolate coated “pinipig crunch” by Friday.

Once a year, we would go shopping in Cubao for shoes. I don’t think shoemakers knew the meaning of comfort back then. My poor crooked toes are a testament to that. I only had one pair for the year and it was what I used for going to school, playing basketball and going to formal events. Midway through the year, the sole has become paper thin and i had to resort to putting cardboard cut-outs inside the shoe to protect my already suffering feet. I cant help but chuckle when I remember those times.

Life was simpler then. Or was it really simpler and cheaper then?

It dawned on me that it is wrong to say that those good times are long gone.

If you look closely at how things work, the more change comes, the more it stays the same.

We have been running in the treadmill of life, constantly chasing our tail until on our last days, we realized its all for naught.

Consider the merry-go-round of increasing food prices due to inflation. With the increasing cost of living, the workers ask for more wages. When granted, the increase in wages then make producing the food more expensive. Then the worker asks for more wages. The vicious cycle continues through the years until that “isang pera”  finally becomes worthless.

The essence of living a happy life therefore lies in carefully managing one’s financial resources and saving enough money for the many aspirations we have.

The lessons of  my Ilocano grandfather rings true until today. Going out with the family for dinner need not be an expensive affair. If you plan well ahead of time and set a reasonable budget, the bonding experience need not break the bank.

With those lessons on simplicity and adequacy, we went out for our family valentine lunch at Uncle Cheffy. All told, the average bill per person came out to only PP250.

On the drive back home, I cant help but smile for I know my Grandpop is up there in heaven smiling back at me, his Ilocano grandson. Happy Valentines day everyone!

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