What could one think of to make the pandemic go away, at least in the minds of people?
Food, of course, plenty of yummy food. Of course, there is the “Bernie Cooks lasagna,” the mouth-watering desserts “mahadera,” the same family heirloom concocted generations ago perfected through time; and the “Cathedral window,” not really original, but Menggay’s version is just so good that it would leave you wanting for more, but that is another story.
If you ever want some home-cooked Baguio dishes and happen to pass through the holy gates of the Bonifacio exit of Saint Louis University, then go to my SLU Boys High ‘75 batchmate’s place called Soledad’s, named in honor of his wife Sol. It’s been there since 1987 or earlier and catered to Louisians, faculty, employees, and students.
Then and now, people from all walks of life – traffic police and enforcers, cab and jeepney drivers, and Slaughterhouse habitués who opt to go to a more accessible venue, especially now that the Sto. Niño barangay has been in lockdown for over a month or two, go over and get to taste a wide variety of home-cooked meals – heirloom dishes too: the kinigtot, monggo, pancit canton, lomi, and their bestseller pork chops. While waiting for no longer than two minutes, fast service guaranteed, one can peek at the food preparation and be assured that above health standard protocols are observed.
Gene and Sol, when they are not travelling abroad, man the counter and you can tell them or their assistants your order, go to the table, and be served in a jiffy. For the regulars, they just step in and Gene knows what they want, similar to the old Dainty Restaurant of Ng Ah Chin (Ah Kong), where you just sit down and your choice of half-half, light coffee coupled with plywood or “fried chicken (ensaymada)” is automatically vested on you. Together with the dish is the labas for the jueteng draw, which the waiter whispers in your ear or posted in the menu blackboard near the coffee maker (the secret ingredient being glazed with marijuana or gin, as the legend goes).
Dishes that were available at the old Rabbit Terminal ran by the Fernandez family from Tagudin, Ilocos Sur are now served at Soledad’s. Simple, staple, and home-cooked, seeming common foods that are the stuff of childhood memories, said one obviously satisfied regular.
Happy for the husband and wife team, a combination of Boys High and Baguio Patriotic Chinese School products. Happier that their children Annjelica, who is married to Dr. Jose Beswilan, a cardiologist at Notre Dame de Chartres Hospital; Genelyn Cheong de Leon and son Gene Michael “Mike” have been supporting their parents. To keep up in these modern times, they set up the online delivery system.
By the way, Johann Kyler Beswilan, the seven-year-old son of Annjelica and Dr. Jose, is a multi-talented online voice student of Musar and a lot of viewers were impressed when he did his act during the 1st Online Recital on Aug. 12. It was not his first time to perform live though, as when I guested once in a legal segment of the defunct ABS-CBN’s “Naimbag nga Morning, Kapamilya,” he was there too performing. Manang mana kay lolo Gene! She has a sister who is even prouder. Anyway, for those who are a little up to the throat for fancy food, go to Soledad’s and your cravings will be fully filled. Sigh!