First, I read that Harrison Plaza was closing for good. Then came the news that Crossover 105.1 was gone forever. I kind of knew these changes were coming, but nothing prepared me for the shock of learning that the Jollibee Champ had been phased out. (Three tearful emojis) As 2019 bowed out, it took with it at least three generational markers all at once as if Thanos had snapped his fat fingers again; and suddenly I felt lost, adrift and alone.
Seems like we keep suffering end-of-an-era losses. Blink, turn around, and something else is gone. It’s not just the little but no less heartbreaking things like Luk Yuen dropping Lapu Lapu Congee from its menu. It’s Fiesta Carnival, Big Bang sa Alabang, Payanig sa Pasig and the memories that went with them. We mourn the disappearance of the Intercon hotel, the home of the Jeepney coffee shop and Where Else disco, with almost as much emotion as those guys (not me) who wept copiously when the Maalikaya Health Complex was demolished. I miss the chicken salad at Pancake House, Chinese New Year at Tin Hau, the aviary at Greenbelt, and chuleton at Gaudi. I also miss flipping through LPs at The House of Stereo, watching TV shows one episode per week, and wearing jeans that gave my ample body room to breathe. So many things.
What’s next? The Tropical Cheese Burger? Ali Mall? ABS-CBN?
In the seventies, after watching an international tennis match at Rizal Memorial, my dad and I had lunch at a small restaurant at Harrison Plaza. I remember Dad said, “Mom’s chicken is better than this.” (How would I know? Mommy cooked fried chicken for my big sister while I was supposed to like fish.) Still, any restaurant at Harrison Plaza—even a place that should only have been called an eatery—was better than the mami noodle house my father favored along Buendia. Harrison after all was a mall. I had never been to a mall before. I was a mall virgin and Harrison Plaza was my first.
My first memory of Jollibee also goes back to the seventies. A friend of mine who knows everything, including the strangely relevant. longest word in the English dictionary: pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, knew of an ice cream parlor that served pretty good hamburgers and spaghetti along Aurora Boulevard. This was before the word “foodie” was coined but he had a VW Beetle and we had lots of time so we went, and the rest is history.
The Champ didn’t become available until the eighties, but the top-of-line, bigger-than-a quarterpounder, messy, juicy burger became my favorite as soon as it came out. A Yumburger is about nutrition, while a Jollibee Champ was a celebration. While a Big Mac gave you a slice of America, a Champ was your Filipino-ness in a sandwich. (Humahagulhol na emoji.)
I’m so depressed now I can’t bring myself to say anything about Crossover other than it played my music. To my friends in the radio business, I’m sorry but I simply don’t like talk, news, or noise . . .
Endings are inevitable. Walang forever, ‘ika nga. And all endings are sad. There’s really no such thing as a happy ending, except for those weeping guys mentioned earlier. As Angelina Jolie put it: Happy endings are only stories that haven’t finished yet.
How best to handle them then? My philosophy has always been to cut quickly and cut
cleanly. Whether it’s the ending of a job, a friendship or a book, take one look back and move on. The end of an era is not the end of the world. People in countries with long-lasting monarchies handle it best—“The King is dead. Long live the King.” Not that it’s quite the same thing, but goodbye, Harrison Plaza; hello, Estancia Mall. Adios, Crossover; woohoo, Spotify.
With one exception: There will always be a place in my stomach for a giant Jollibee burger just in case, like that other pride of these Philippine Islands Manny Pacquiao, the Champ makes a comeback.