30 Jan2007

A weird combination title for a post, I will grant you that. But read on and you will understand. We had to attend a funeral this morning at Loyola Memorial Park, Marikina. We had never been there before so we went pretty early to ensure we were there with lots of time to spare. We got there half an hour early and parked under the shade of a large tree, turned off the engine (don’t you just hate folks who keep their engines running while parked?) and lowered the car windows. I was truly enjoying the breeze and the wonderful 75 degree temperature and somewhat cloudy/sunny skies. The park, at first glance seemed like such a serene place to be laid to rest, and I was lulled into a feeling of great comfort that anyone placed here would be happy forever. If the temperature in Manila were like this year round, I would think I had died and gone to heaven. At any rate, as we were sitting there, we were taking in the landscape and watching the incredible amount of activity in the immediate area… After several minutes, I decided the memorial park was instead an incredible microcosm of many of the things that make this country such a basketcase in so many ways… Instead of a flat sea of green grass marked by noble uniform white tombstones, the landscape was, to say the least, a bit lubak-lubak or uneven. And I don’t mean rolling terrain, I mean unnaturally uneven and ankle twisting material. Worse, the fields had two kinds of grass, nicely manicured Bermuda over interred bodies that obviously were willing to pay for it, and carabao grass allowed to grow wild for either empty plots of owners who obviously weren’t willing to pay an extra fee or empty plots… So what you get is a checkerboard effect of lush verdant plots against nearly brown and dying ones. From far above, one would be forgiven if he mistook the place as prosperous haciendas next to blighted farms.

You would think that for the sake of aesthetics and consistency and marketability of future lot sales, the managers of the park would ensure that this kind of sod discrimination would be avoided. Worse, all the groundskeepers in the place were there predominantly to water each and every plot that had apparently paid for maintenance services. And since they did NOT have the simple foresight to put spigots for water anywhere near the plots, the groundskeepers would go in bicycles with sidecars to fetch water in plastic containers before transferring them to watering cans and going to each and every plot and watering the grass one plot at a time! Good grief! What an utter waste of time and resources. How ridiculously inefficient can it get? I wonder if you paid first class prices would they de-weed your ancestor’s plot more carefully than others??? Does anyone see the absurdity of this scene??? When you buy a cemetery plot for 5-10x the price of a housing lot, shouldn’t the cemetery management set aside a substantial fund for maintenance? For watering? For eternity??? And just in case you think I am asking for the impossible, have you been to the American cemetery in Fort Bonifacio lately? It is immaculately manicured, the trees stately, the sprinkler system works, and you don’t have little kids and dozens of workers having their merienda quite literally on your tombstone while a cat takes a leisurely poop on the unkempt carabao grass in the plot literally next door! The funeral itself was very nicely executed and I must say Loyola did a great job with that event. But I go back to the fact that when the soil and grass is returned…there is a great deal to be improved to ensure that the soil regains an even feel. No. This was not right. And I am appalled that descendants of plot residents don’t raise a stink. Now I really know I want to be cooked at high heat when I kick the bucket, scooped into an urn and interred at a crypt.

After the funeral, we decided to head back to the Makati area and on the way decided to stop at the bustling Libis area since I had never been there and had never eaten at a restaurant there. I think I was also drawn there because the person at Shittybank who I have been dealing with is possibly working near that area and since she hasn’t bothered to get me an answer to the recent credit card issues despite two weeks of waiting, I thought I would eat in the vicinity hoping I would catch a glimpse of her or at least send irritated vibes her way. We were famished and the first restaurant outside our parking area was called the Shanghai Bistro, so we got a table there. Our waiter was a bit pushy, no, I correct that, very pushy and kept trying to sell us expensive specials as though his paycheque depended on it. So while we politely declined the special soup of the day (a two-day soup I think), I drew the line and cut him off curtly after he tried to sell the live lapu-lapu, the imported scallops or abalone, etc. I told him I could read and if he just waited, I would be able to place a full order without his assistance. We ordered 3 dimsums (ha-kao, soimai and stewed spareribs) ostensibly as starters (though I will admit that is a VERY un-Chinese thing to do), then ordered sweet and sour pork, green beans, a squid dish and yang chow fried rice.

The sweet and sour pork arrived first and rapidly got cold. After an inquiry from a passing waiter, the ha-kao arrived several minutes later. We finished that and twiddled our thumbs and asked for the rest of our dim sum. None appeared. Instead our squid arrived, followed by our rice. As we started to eat, I noticed we had no soy sauce or chili sauce and had to ask for that. Then we had no rice bowls so we had to ask for those as well. At this point I asked the waitress to follow up our dim sum and vegetables. The rice arrived. Then the spareribs. Then the siomai a full 25 minutes AFTER the first dish arrived. The vegetables were nowhere to be found so I cancelled the order and asked for the bill. I have to say, the food tasted pretty good. Definitely a notch above the Chinese fast food restaurants and it was well presented. The cook was doing his job, clearly. But the pacing of the arrival of dishes was unacceptable and the service was downright SLOW and haphazard. A reader, M, of this blog happened to be at the next table and when she got up to leave, she dropped by our table to say hello. She told us the restaurant was owned by Andrew Tan (the big man of Megaworld) himself who found the chef somewhere, which explained why there was in fact competence in the cooking. But she missed the last half of our meal where it got there in starts and spurts.

Now did the first waiter who took our order ever come back to check on things? No. Did he ever try to let us know what was going on? No. Was it clear to me that our green beans had been delivered to a neighboring table and they ATE it? YES. And so when I got my bill and they issued a credit card slip, it turns out they forgot to remove the cancelled order of green beans and they had to re-do the bill. Surprisingly, I remained calm through all of this and waited patiently as they re-did the bill, cancelled my first charge, and they approached the next table to tell them they had to pay for the beans, etc. The entire meal cost roughly PHP1,500 for three people. Not bad for the food. But I must reiterate that the service was a deal breaker. It SUCKED. And I would never return to a restaurant that didn’t have the good sense to pay attention to its service levels. And I didn’t see a manager of any sort watching the room as you would expect at a restaurant that wasn’t labelling itself fast food. I don’t mind screw-ups, but fix them when you can for goodness sakes! I liked the food; maybe would eat it if it was take-away, but for now, would never go back to that restaurant again. When, oh when, will we all realize that efficiency and service are indeed possible… first the cemetery, then this… Maybe that waiter can apply for a managerial job at the cemetery where the clients aren’t in a hurry. Yikes.

 

COMMENTS:

  1. wysgal says:

    On funeral plots … I’d actually want to have my ashes shot into space a la Gene Roddenberry. Or in the interest of not using up too much energy on my death, maybe have my ashes sprinkled at sea.

    On resto service … I generally prefer mediocre food + good service over good food + bad service.

    Jan 30, 2007 | 5:26 pm

     
  2. millet says:

    “Maybe that waiter can apply for a managerial job at the cemetery where the clients aren’t in a hurry.” – thanks, MM, for giving me my HAHAHA moment of the week!

    Jan 30, 2007 | 9:14 pm

     
  3. ntgerald says:

    I am willing to pay for good food and good service.

    Generally I complain more when the service is bad. When the service is good I may come back especially if the food is also good.

    When the service stinks, I never come back.

    Jan 30, 2007 | 9:51 pm

     
  4. tetet says:

    Deja vu or coincidence…

    Just last December 2006, we visited my friend in Loyola Memorial for his 40th day, and went straight to Shanghai Bistro afterwards…

    On the resto… I had a similar bad service experience, but I still keep on coming back but only for takeouts! MM, you should have tried their boneless bangus in garlic sauce and deep-fried crispy duck Breast with delicious plum sauce.

    What to do if service is bad but food is great????…..

    Jan 30, 2007 | 10:30 pm

     
  5. spanx says:

    sorry MM,

    it seems that the Shittybank lady
    won this round and was somehow able
    to send bad vibes down Shanghai Bistro way…

    well,
    she had homecourt advantage after all.

    Jan 30, 2007 | 10:54 pm

     
  6. renee says:

    Unfortunately i’ve eaten in 2 branches of shanghai bistro(eastwood and paseo makati) and the service is exactly as you said. Have you tried the emperor restaurant in wilson? imho, they are cheaper and service is much better. They have the best cooked dimsum too, not soggy and does not have that raw flour taste (i am not related to them ;-)

    Jan 31, 2007 | 12:19 am

     
  7. Maria Clara says:

    I totally agree with you when the memorial park company sells you the plot it should include endowment plan for long term maintenance of the area including its common area hence the name final resting place. We are paying PH400 each plot every month for my parents’ plot for maintenance and upcoming. Here’s another trick of the caretaker at the park, some family members have to visit at least once a month otherwise the caretaker will not do their job. The caretaker comes to you every month to collect their fees for services.

    Jan 31, 2007 | 1:44 am

     
  8. emz says:

    ^same here. my mom pays a caretaker in Loyola Marikina to water and weed out not just my dad’s plot but my lolo’s and aunt’s too. if you don’t get a caretaker, your loved ones’ plots will turn ugly and neglected. a lot of the neglected plots in loyola marikina have brown grass some of them don’t have any grass at all. i’ve seen a few with sunken or eneven tombstones. this is such a hassle because we have to go every month to the cemetery to pay the caretaker. otherwise, as Maria Clara said, they won’t do their job.

    Jan 31, 2007 | 2:19 am

     
  9. Ted says:

    I cannot believe that Loyola Memorial park does not have sprinkler systems in their lot. What are they thinking? My Dad passed away in 1992 and was buried at a memorial park here in the SFO bay area, we paid a single lump sum for the burial which includes the lifetime maintenance of the ground he is buried in. I must admit i only go to my Dad’s plot maybe 3x a year, but everytime I’m there the grounds are always kept the way they were when he was first buried.

    Why can’t this happen at Loyola?

    Jan 31, 2007 | 3:27 am

     
  10. Lei says:

    The same situation applies for our cemetery plots in Manila Memorial Park. It is a failure on the management of the memorial parks to let this wrong practice to continue. My mother once stopped paying to those caretakers and do you know what they did, they pulled-out all the bermuda grass. And to add to the agony, they even burned all those remaining few grasses so the plot was so brown and really ugly!!! It was really so terrible that my mother really felt bad going there the first few months seeing her parents plots’ being wreaked by those caretakers who supposedly are paid by management to take care of the entire park. So sad.

    Jan 31, 2007 | 10:13 am

     
  11. Mila says:

    I’m all for cremation and being poured back into the ground, ashes to ashes. The whole idea of having to worry about the upkeep of a cemetary plot seems like a waste of resources.

    As for Shanghai Bistro, I have only been to the branch at Paseo Center, found the food too salty, but the service at the time wasn’t too horrible. Restaurants become too complacent with the important details like service once they’ve passed the 1 year mark.

    Jan 31, 2007 | 10:14 am

     
  12. marga says:

    Service in Shanghai Bistro sucks bigtime. I was so annoyed with the waiter who served us. he was pushy with the more expensive dishes when all we wanted was simple authentic Chinese food. We were not out to celebrate something. When he realized that we were “ordinary” people with “ordinary” tastes he was not altogether happy serving us. In fact he was nowhere to be found. I have never returned to that resto. To think that I even informed a family member of the lousy service hoping that they would look into it. I guess not!

    Jan 31, 2007 | 11:05 am

     
  13. Crissy says:

    I know what you mean about cemeteries. When our Grandpy (lolo) passed away, the lot they gave us was literally in their sidewalk. Hay naku…Then when our uncle passed away 2 weeks ago, the lot was very uneven. When he was being buried, I left like I was about to go on a downhill slope while standing up. ok, that sounded weird…

    We once ate in Shanghai Bistro Paseo Center, I admit their service is slower than others although I agree on the food.

    Jan 31, 2007 | 1:20 pm

     
  14. Katrina says:

    I know this is practically sacrilegous to say in this country, but I personally think cemeteries are a huge waste of precious land and money. Those are just bones and ashes underground; not living beings. They shouldn’t take up space and require so much resources anymore. I dislike going to the cemetery every November to “visit” dead relatives, as it seems useless to me. Remembering our dead doesn’t have to mean going to where their bodies were buried; we could think of them and pray for them wherever we are. I agree with Mila — ashes to ashes.

    Jan 31, 2007 | 3:43 pm

     
  15. maret Follosco Bautista says:

    We also had major problems with the service. But the roasted pigeon was really so good!!!

    Jan 31, 2007 | 4:32 pm

     
  16. kb says:

    I too would like to be zapped and fried. Can’t take the bugs :–)

    Jan 31, 2007 | 9:00 pm

     
  17. sha says:

    ashes to ashes…along the coastline in the med…

    Jan 31, 2007 | 9:17 pm

     
  18. edel says:

    on restos:

    waiters and resto managers are more attentive to celebrities, politicians

    had a not so nice experience at fish & co a few months ago. i used to frequent this resto with a celeb friend and we always get good service.. then one time i happen to drop by alone.. and what did i get but a crappy service.. with the waitress whispering loudly to another waiter that i prefer warm water (its what i usually order) with my food! i’m proud to say that i’ve boycotted that resto eversince and even told my friends about that incident

    Feb 1, 2007 | 12:22 am

     
  19. Grazia says:

    Hello! I just received the Feb 2007 of Saveur. I thought that you would love to know that “Philippine Food” was mentioned as no. 28 on the top 100 food/people we love (Thomas Keller was voted no. 2). The article mentioned fried mackerel and pinakbet, and writes that Philippine cooking actually requires ‘cooking’ rather than quick stir-frying, thus giving it a depth that distinguishes it from other Asian cuisines.

    Feb 1, 2007 | 3:12 am

     
  20. Marketman says:

    Grazia, yes, thanks for that heads up. Several readers have emailed and I bought the magazine on a recent trip to HK. I am so proud for our food! Was planning a post on the issue soon…

    Feb 1, 2007 | 5:53 am

     
  21. hchie says:

    Haha! Good one millet :)

    Feb 1, 2007 | 9:15 pm

     
  22. HD says:

    This was explained to me by someone who works for Manila Memorial Park, Paranaque, they do have sprinkler systems. But the default grass that they use is carabao grass. There is some sort of maintenance which is limited to watering, and mowing.

    They will not immediately nurture the grass should it get damaged. It gets damaged when there are funerals near your beloved’s lot, trucks containing the soil to be used to fill the grave might pass on it, or if it’s too near, they will be damaged by the funeral goers.

    In our grandma’s case, there was a time that absolutely no grass was left. A combination of those things and bad soil conditions happened. We had to pay for a caretaker to re fill the soil with good one, and to maintain the lot. Fortunately, he accepts late payments, we rarely visit, we don’t even visit on November. But when we do visit, we pay the debt plus we give a couple of months advance plus bonus.

    Feb 1, 2007 | 11:39 pm

     
  23. RT says:

    Yo Guys,

    MM, great to see you at Salcedo Market this morning. Anyway, it was a blast to see all your comments regarding Loyola Park. Incidentally, my wife works for Loyola Group Sales & Marketing inc. Aridelos is correct, Loyola is run by different divisions, one for the sales, one for the plans, one for the parks and one for the chapels. My wife will forward this discussion to her immediate boss and let us see what happens.

    Feb 3, 2007 | 9:47 pm

     
  24. starbuxadix says:

    My hubby and I recently ate at SB’s Eastwood Branch last month, indeed the pacing was very poor considering we didnt get any appetizer and went to get just a main meal. The yang chow fried rice wasnt warm when it was served and both the viands we ordered came 15 minutes later. The service would have been acceptable if we didnt have to keep asking for things like chopsticks, bowls, saucers, etc, but i’ll give their service an easy go because the fish fillet in salted egg yolk coating is delicious. And, fortunately though, we were spared from the waiter’s “pushing” coz of my british accent which possibly gave him the idea that i wouldnt understand anythin that he says in tagalog.

    The service in Paseo branch was better, either it naturally is or they’ve mistaken my hubby to be a chinese national and seated us in what i now call VIP area (read: cushioned comfy chairs, nicer table cloth, table napkins, water goblets and the works) I even felt that the waitress would be amenable to shove the food into my mouth if ask so. Our SB Paseo visit would have been quite pleasant if only we didnt over hear a chinese guest rude remarks to his companion that it was unacceptable that a chinese marries a ‘filipina house helper’, I so wanted to send him straight to his grave but then again decided to take the higher road.

    Feb 28, 2007 | 7:57 am

     
  25. jampackedbear says:

    Good thing I found your blog about Shanghai Bistro. We were close to considering this as an event venue. But I have to agree that the food is good. Bummer on the service quality.

    Apr 14, 2007 | 1:16 pm

     
  26. Blaise Fortuna says:

    Had a company training there about two years ago, yes their service sucks, but the good thing about it is that I am always in touch with the Marketing / Accounts Officer (I was the ne who scheduled the training there, cheaper than a hotel definitely), so I could easily tell her that the waiter is not paying attention despite of that I already mentioned twice to remove the lamp in the middle of the room.. the food is very good though, the chef is from Shanghai, China, but when I tried their siao long bao, it was rather dry..

    Aug 6, 2007 | 2:53 pm

     
 

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