We were a bunch of hungry high school kids from La Consolacion College in need of a filling post-school treat that our meager allowances could afford. The place that offers the most bang for the buck fare guaranteed to quell a group of adolescent’s insatiable appetites is Apollo Restaurant at the top floor of the good old Plaza Mart in downtown Bacolod.
We ascend on escalators to feast on one item – lomi, a Chinese-ish dish of noodles, meatballs which are more like flourballs, and slivers of chicken and vegetables in a soup of very thick consistency. We never ordered anything else and the seasoned waiters already know that it will be useless and futile to present a menu to a group of high schoolers. We only dreamed and salivated on thoughts of a more diverse feast but never ordered morisqueta, lumpia shanghai, pancit guisado, sweet and sour pork, drunken shrimp, lechon macau, or pata tim. It was just the budget-conforming lomi.
The rambunctious chattering decreases to a near hush when the waiters arrive with trays of our orders. The huge bowls are set on a lazy susan on top of a round table covered in a red tablecloth. Each one of us will have our fill, slurp away with no care in the world, and will always have second or third servings. Apollo’s lomi is so thick and filling that it will sit in our gut like a sack of sand and render us immobile and in a food coma. A post-meal discomfort is always bound to happen but we still gorge ourselves over and over again. Bread from D’Bakers is the usual accompaniment to sop up the savory slurry. On a side note, I belonged to an era where the now famous hard crust and Spanish roll were not yet part of this iconic bakery’s selection.
After we regain our senses, we split the bill with everyone pitching in with whatever we can squeeze out of our pockets. A birthday celebrant would often take care of the tab. After the meal, we descend and stroll along boutiques, parlors, video gaming centers, and stare at the models of photo studios plastered on their glass walls. We eventually split up heading to jeepney terminals that would lead us home. The requisite hike towards the paradahan helped pre-digest the heavy slurry and ease the load we carry in our bellies.
In hindsight the Apollo experience was not just about getting our fill but also a rite of passage for some of us teens, an 80’s version of adulting. It was one of the first restaurants we went to independently without our parents. It was where we first gave the waiters a rectangle hand air signal to request for the bill. It was also were we experienced breaking bread (which was of course dipped in lomi) and creating lasting bonds with friends
Disclaimer: The author was not paid for by Apollo Restaurant neither in cash nor soup.