Pinoy cuisine on a Pasay sidewalk

Manila, Philippines --- Nanay Angeling and a street food cart standing at the corner of Roxas Blvd. and Salud Streets in Pasay City serve what many swear are the best home-cooked Beef Mechado and Adobong Pusit - with a strong flavor of good-old "nanay" heroism.

Now 72, Angelita Manosca Francisco (Nanay Angeling), has been cooking that and many Pinoy popular dishes for 40 years. Hard work has rewarded her with two college graduates. Her children - Cherry, 38, finished a course in Hotel and Restaurant Management from St. Scholastica's College; and Chito has a Bachelor of Science in Education, major in Math, degree from Letran College.

Nanay's husband, Nicanor, passed away years ago, due to illness, leaving her as the sole breadwinner.

Cooking became her livelihood and Pinoy cuisine her products. She is well-known for the Beef Mechado and Adobong Pusit cooked in its natural ink, and also for Paksiw na Lechon and Tortang Giniling (Eggplant Omelet with Ground Pork).

Those are the main products that have seen her through, and sent two children to school. Her "restaurant" is a 2x2 meter space created from a small food cart. There, she cooks and serves customers who delight in the flavor and the price (P85 per order) of the food. The strong aroma of Pinoy cuisine hangs in the air, attracting passers-by, and adding to the flavor of comfort food.

Work for Nanay Angeling starts at 3:30 p.m., when she starts to cook for the customers who pass by after work. Most of them take-out food for dinner at home; others sit around to enjoy the company of friends. Thus, Nanay Angeling keeps the food coming until the customers thin out at early morning.

According to Nanay, the good days are when customers take-out most of what she cooks, so she closes at 10 p.m. when what is left behind is consumed.

If you think that the usual customers are drivers of jeepney and taxi drivers, you are wrong. Councilors, heads of government agencies based in Pasay City, members of the Press are among those who frequent the small food stand. Most of them are there to buy - you guessed it -Adobong Pusit and Beef Mechado -for their dinners at home. One of Nanay's favorite customers, who she praised for being kind, was the late Senator Robert Barbers.

She has also received offers to expand from her businessman-customers. Some offered her help to put up a restaurant along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City, while others offered her employment. She refused, opting to stay independent with her simple needs.

"Hindi ako naghahangad ng malaking kita. Wala akong pera sa banko, Gusto ko ang simpleng pamumuhay na ibinigay sa akin ng ating Panginoon," (I do not seek large profits. I don't have money in the bank. I just want to make a simple living out of what Our Lord has given me.) - she said.

Her simple needs come from a simple life. She finished elementary education and took on a job in a factory when she was still very young. Her husband, Nicanor, stopped her from working in the factory, and diverted her efforts to cooking Adobong Pusit and Beef Mechado that eventually paid off.

Today, Nanay proudly talks about her children and where they are now. Cherry is now a manager at a Japanese restaurant while Chito opted to work as a call center agent.

Although her children now want her to stop working, she refuses because it will make her weak. She said cooking now is leisure to her and it makes her happy to see customers continue to come in for her Adobong Pusit and Beef Mechado. "This is my life," she said of her cooking.

But it is also Nanay's generous nature that keeps her going. She now cooks to earn a living to take care of two sisters - Saturnina, 78 and Juanita,74. Saturnina washes the dishes, while Juanita does the marketing.