October 3, 2023

Rizal Monument Punong Barangay Gonzalo Ong, was one of the longest-serving punong barangays in the city and president of the Baguio Chinese Patriotic School. He was a simple unassuming person who would walk up and down Session Road and other major streets in his windbreaker and whenever he sees my father Art at the front lobby of Pines Theater, they would exchange tales for hours, in the old tradition of istambay at your friendly neighborhood sari-sari store. As a young boy, I would tag along with them as they went for coffee at Ah Kong’s Dainty Restaurant where they serve “plywood” a pineapple-laced cracker and “fried chicken” (ensaymada) while waiting for the jueteng results to be posted at the menu board. His being galante was a legend and he helped a lot of people in need. He set up his home at Otek Street where the now family-owned Fortune Restaurant and Paragon Hotel stand, managed by daughters Sally and Sherry.
The Chinese cuisine they offer is not only hěn hǎo (very good) but yōuliáng (excellent) especially their version of Peking roasted duck.
In History, Peking is the Romanized name of Beijing, as in Bag-iw is to Baguio.
In 2008, after the Olympics, my friend Chi Jian Li brought me and Bernie, in-laws Filoteo and Norma to the most notable restaurant in Beijing which serves the dish. Named Quanjude, it is a centuries-old establishment, which has become a household name all over China. It has a unique style as quanjude is known for using the hung oven roasting method. Kasla kinuday-style. Ducks bred specially for the dish are slaughtered after 65 days and seasoned before being roasted in a closed or hung oven. The meat is characterized by its thin, crisp skin, sliced in front of the diners by the cook. The restaurant designed like a Ming dynasty palace was full when we dined but it was worth the queue and the experience. After the meal, we were issued a certificate declaring that we had just devoured the 5,988,763 Peking duck quanjude served.
Back to Fortune, they serve “snowballs” for dessert, which is a favorite of Doc Willy, the favorite kinakapatid of Doc Sherry, and I am sure she calls me sakwa for saying this. But if one is yearning for goat meat, go to Golden Pine Restaurant, another Gonzalo Ong legacy and splurge on their kilawen, kaldereta, adobo, and sinampalukan. Medyo sosyal nga lang because they only slaughter goats with high school certificates.
The whole community was saddened by his early demise and thought that his philanthropic ways were gone. They thought wrong as his memory lives on through her sons and daughters who organized the Gonzalo and Charity Ong Foundation administered by Dr. Sherry Ong-Cunanan, one of the top medical practitioners and surgeons here.
The foundation renders assistance to indigent patients needing surgery through its project: “Bukol, bato, tumor handog ng seruhano sa Cordillera.”
In September, Doc Sherry who also wants to write a column she will call “Sherryvaried” operated on at least 34 patients for goiter, gallstone, tumors in the stomach, intestine, breast, hernia, and cleft lip. Of course, she had a helping hand from her fellow doctors, true to their Hippocratic Oath.
Christmas is around the corner and the spirit one learns from the story is for us to grab the chance and have awakening to share, be generous, kind, and loving to our fellowmen. Sigh.