While I am reminiscing about the ‘good old days’ in Manila Philippines in the 1980s, let me remember some of the not so positive things that today are mere distant memories. First of all, cold beer. It was always icy cold in the foreigner run bars and hotels. You could even find places that had it on tap and served it in chilled, frosty glasses. But you might also have to drink it with ice.
The locals preferred their beer served at room temperature with a bucket of ice and some glasses. They would make a big show of pouring the beer into the glass, leaving just enough room on the top for the two or three ice cubes they would then plop in. As the beer chilled to a drinkable temperature, the ice would melt and water down the beer, but that didn’t bother Dong and his barkada (group of friends), they believed they were getting more beer for their money! Even if the beer was served cold, correct temperature is 4C, by the way, Filipino guys always seemed to prefer it with ice.
If you were one of the few of us who ventured away from the red-light districts of Ermita, Makati, Olongapo or Angeles City, the odds of having to drink your beer as the locals liked to increased proportionately the further from the last kano seen you got. I recall a pub crawl down the main highway from Mariveles to Limay on Bataan that had our 1975 clapped out Ford Cortina stopping at every roadside sari sari store that sold beer (and there are lots of them and they all sell beer). They always served it barely cool but with some of the dodgiest looking ice chunks ever chipped off a giant block on a dirty sidewalk. Fortunately, the palutan (snacks eaten when drinking) killed any germs as there is something about grilled chicken feet and BBQ dog that brings warm beer into true focus.
I spent many a month roughing it in da probince with Filipino friends as I traveled to learn Arnis, the Filipino martial art and at least officially, national sport. I would go weeks without seeing another kano and pretty much had to do the ‘when in Rome’ thing. I learned never to drink Tuba, the local firewater made from coconut juice and unleaded petrol, if the taste is anything to go by. I didn’t mind the Tanduay Rum but found most locals drank it with Sprite rather than Coke and again, the mixer would be warm and the dodgy ice would be called upon to do it’s cooling magic act.
I never once, in many years of drinking ‘yello’, as they call ice, got the runs. I have seen it being chipped on a dirty sidewalk next to a decaying pile of fur and flies and still never succumbed to the ‘Manila Folder’ so named because it ‘doubles you up’. Maybe, just maybe, the locals have a valid point about drinking beer with ice but frankly, I prefer the way it is today with far better refrigeration available just about anywhere you would be going. And if anyone asks, my favourite is San Miguel Light, followed by Super Dry and the new ‘San Miguel and Lemon’ flavoured beer.