Tuesday, March 27, 2007

43. Tonytol

Sometime after my appointment a Marketing Services Manager position was created and this was filled up by one of the marketing managers. Tony Tolentino or Tonytol as fondly called by friends, assumed the position. His role was to provide support to Bert Timbol who had his hands full with major brand development work and the launch of an international toothpaste brand as well as new variants of powdered detergents. Tonytol’s scope included promotions and media. The only services group that was not included in his aegis was market research, which by then had grown into a full service research unit and had a senior manager heading it reporting directly to the General Marketing Manager.

Tonytol was a very likeable person and was supportive of initiatives that I proposed to him. At about the same time a manager from Market Research, Ed Cruz, was appointed as my assistant. The three of us got along well together. It may have been the similarity of our temperaments that made us get along famously. One of our shared passions is eating. Often times we would have breakfast at Country Bake Shop ordering our favorite called “mestizo” which comprised of toasted “ensaymada” with “kesong puti” and marmalade. This was accompanied by strong “barako’ coffee or “tablea” hot chocolate drink. Country Bake Shop was popular with politicians and influential and highly acknowledged columnists who would commandeer a center set of tables where they would discuss and debate issues of the day. Sometimes a master columnist like Doroy Valencia or Joe Guevarra would hold court there to do their soliloquies in front of an enthralled audience. Patrons go there to eavesdrop on the loud conversations of the politicians and media men who were more than willing to share or plant rumors to their audience. We went there for the “mestizo”.

To satisfy our gustatory curiosity we used to scour China Town for the latest small hole in the wall restaurants that featured some great dishes but were completely devoid of ambience and would not have meritorious citations from the City Sanitary Inspector’s Office hanging on the wall.

For the China town sorties a regular group of adventurous street food connoisseurs would include Meng Lim from Market research, people from brand Angie de Villa Lacson, Dedette Gamboa, Tony Bautista, Ding Salvador and some guys from Technical and Commercial divisions like Tony Lorenzana, Manny Cusi and others.

These exotic holes in the walls discoveries in Ongpin and Gandara would only be a notch higher than a Chinaman’s corner sari-sari store that cooked and served food on the side. Before the mid sixties the Chinese corner sari-sari store that offered food was a ubiquitous sight in Manila’s street corners. By the seventies this example of Chinese business ingenuity was already on the wane.

Tonytol, Ed Roa, Angie Lacson, Freddie Lozano, Tony Lorenzana
There was one such holdout near PRC which was adjacent to the former Isaac Peral Bowling Lanes whose building was later used to house Unisearch. BJ as we named it (BJ for bejo, a name given to all Chinese then) was a sari-sari store that transformed itself into a small eating place at lunchtime serving all sorts of pancit, asados, pinsek prito and lechon kawali with the obligatory fried rice. BJ was a great cook. His mouthwatering entrees were quite an experience but you just had to ignore the sometimes “quaint” ways BJ cleaned his cooking ware. One time I saw him cleaning his wok with a “walis tingting”, a native broom mainly used for sweeping kitchen and bathroom floors. Even the most squeamish of the ladies in the marketing department had at one time or another sampled the celestial mandarin’s heavenly food. We ate there during lean days, which invariably were a few days before payday.

Tonytol, himself was a good cook. His version of chili con carne is legendary. When Tonytol played host for a poker game more than the maximum number of a poker quorum would come most of who would be there just to be able to sample Tonytol’s masterpiece. After retirement he opened a small eatery in the Green Hills commercial mall and called it “Chili”. I can only speculate why it failed. While he really had a super chili offering, the shop had limited alternative dishes in the menu. The chili dish by itself could not induce regular repeat visits from patrons.

Fishing was one of the passions of Tonytol and he organized regular weekend trips to Nasugbu in Batangas together with his brother in law and uncle. I frequently joined the fishing excursions. Ed Cruz would on occasion be with us. We would always have a grand time, catch or no catch, calm or rough seas sunny or stormy weather. We were not just fair weather friends so to speak.

2002 CDBL Visit
Front: Ferdie Baena, Chris Barber Lomax, Nilo Santos, Tony tol
Back: Joe Feliciano, Tony Marquez, Ernie del Castillo, Meckoy Quiogue, Ed Roa, Bert Timbol, Ding Camua

Tonytol is gone now but the memory of those days remain as vivid as a “tanigue’s” exuberant leap when struck or as insistent as the savory smell of “gawgaw” soup and Lomi in Delicious CafĂ©, a ptomaine-prone hole somewhere in Ongpin.

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