I was posted at Parola Dock in Iloilo City waiting for The Tom Cat, my American expat friend from Guimaras, and his main squeeze, LenLen. We were on a sojourn to Buenavista, a town located at the northern tip of Guimaras Island, to visit the VeneZia Bistro, a restaurant/bar operated by our crusty British colleague, Keith. Sporadic showers slapped me in the face as I dove for cover underneath a battered, corrugated metal roof that looked like it had gone 12 rounds with Brock Lesnar and lost.
Tom and LenLen, one of my asawa’s legion of relatives, soon disembarked from the Super Parola Jeepney. We scouted the wharf looking for a venue to quaff a bottle or two of cold San Miguel Pale Pilsen as we waited for the rain to abate. But the former eateries and sari sari stores that once lined the decrepit dock were demolished. Looked like the construction of the new, much-needed, P260-million Iloilo-Guimaras Ferry Terminal, had begun.
We drifted towards the pump boat ticket office for Buenavista and I asked the Coast Guard officer on duty where we could purchase a cold bottle of our favorite beverage. He smiled and pointed to an eatery adjoining the pump boat ticket booth.
My lanky American amigo asked the lola (grandma) standing nearby if she served “cold bottles of Pilsen.” She did not seem to understand. I repeated the question but added “cold bottles of San Miguel Pale Pilsen.” She understood and nodded “yes.” We ordered two and sat down on the concrete embankment surrounding the dock. LenLen passed on any liquid refreshment at the time.
After downing a bottle, Tom consulted with his girlfriend to see if we should make a dash for the boat and head to our destination. It was only 4:30 pm. We had time to kill. Keith’s establishment opened at 6 pm. Though it was still raining, it wasn’t at the torrential downpour level…yet… so we made our move. I paid our bill, only 50 pesos, P25 a bottle, 58¢, and made our way to the ticket booth.
Purchased three tickets at P14 each (32¢) and somehow managed to maneuver the narrow, wet plank walkway to the vessel (see next photo.) I clung to the ropes tighter than a monkey strung out on shabu, as I slowly edged my way across.
Thankfully, I had only consumed one bottle of San Miguel at this point. The boats to Buenavista are much smaller than the pump boats from Ortiz Dock in Iloilo to the Jordan Wharf in Guimaras. But the quickest and cheapest way from Iloilo to Keith’s place was via this much smaller passenger boat.
My own lovely asawa stayed at home in Iloilo. For some reason, sitting around and watching me drink beer and shoveling out copious amounts of verbal cow manure does not particularly appeal to her. I really can’t comprehend why. But I planned to stay overnight at “The Farm” with my expat colleague and meet my wife the next day in Guimaras where she was to drop off some supplies for her family in San Miguel, about 30-35 minutes from Buenavista.
Tom, LenLen and I took a 60 peso, 1.39 USD, trike ride from the Buenavista wharf to the plaza in beautiful downtown Buenavista. We were still an hour away from “The Bistro’s” 6 o’clock opening and after eating ice cream from our favorite ice cream stand on the town plaza, we strolled inside a local joint that served our favorite Filipino beer.
We downed three bottles each of decently chilled Pale Pilsen and then the downpour started. Tom and I split the bill. Only 168 pesos for six bottles, P28 each. It was past six, so we hailed a trike driver to “The Bistro” and made our way to Keith’s establishment.
At “The Bistro,” along with Brits Paul and Keith, the owner, (seen in the next photo with “The Tom Cat”), you’ll meet guys from Switzerland, Germany and other far flung places. Of course, you might also encounter a couple of American expats, like The Tom Cat and I, along with a flock of Filipino’s.
(Keith and “The Tom Cat”)
“The Bistro” had a decent crowd that Friday night. Despite the torrential rain, a good mix of Westerners and Filipinos had made it for the party. We greeted our host and owner and I expressed my unbridled admiration for Great Britain’s Queen. Queen Elizabeth recently marked the 60th anniversary of her coronation.
Keith wondered how many beers I had already consumed. “Only four” I replied, and promptly ordered a Guinness, a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guiness in 1759 at St. James Gate in Dublin. It was my first bottle of Guinness ever. Worlds apart from my usual San Miguel Pale Pilsen, but the goal tonight was to sample a wide variety of beers found throughout the world. My British expat friend had a eclectic assortment of brews to sample.
Ordered a Murphy’s, another Irish beer, after the Guinness, upon Keith’s recommendation. I believe a palette cleanser bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen followed that. I made my way to the bar and announced to the whole assemblage of expats, that I dearly loved and admired the Queen. I then went back to my two platters of french fries and homemade chicken nuggets. Excellent bar food.
While at the bar, Keith made mention of hiring a bar maid, but his vivacious Filipina wife, Vivian, was opposed to that idea. I thought it an excellent idea (as did many of the males lingering around) but Keith informed me his spouse was firmly opposed to the plan.
I spoke to Vivian later and expressed my opinion that an attractive Filipina bar maid could increase beer sales. No offense to Keith, but I believe most of the male beer drinkers would rather gaze at a pretty pinay than a Brit in his 60’s, even though the majority of expats were happily married to some wonderful ladies from the Philippines. I asked Vivian to at least consider the idea but doubt that I made any headway.
(Staff members at “The Bistro” from a previous visit)
Remarked to Keith that I had spoken to his wife regarding the bar maid issue and his response was something that I cannot publish on this website. A young Filipino man was also working at the bar, but again, no offense, I don’t think his presence is going to generate any more business unless a bevy of lady boys begin hanging out at the establishment.
(Keith and “The Kano.” Photo courtesy of “The Tom Cat.”)
Tom, LenLen and I were soon approached by a foreigner that neither of us had met before. The stranger and Tom began conversing about snorkeling on Guimaras when the gentleman stuck out his hand and introduced himself as “Mark.” “Mark,” an American who now resides in Buenavista, used to follow my first website, “The Rooster Crows at 4am!”
I recalled Mark’s name from previous comments that he had left on my first blog and chatted with him for a few minutes. It was quite a pleasure meeting him and hope to see him on future visits to “The Bistro.”
(Keith and I were talking about our wives, but don’t tell them. Photo courtesy of “The Tom Cat.”)
After finishing a beer from Oregon, the name I cannot recall, Tom decided it was time to head back to “The Farm” in San Miguel. His contact back at “The Farm,” a trike driver, due to the inclement weather, had cancelled on his promise to go to Buenavista and bring us home. Tom went to the nearby Plaza to try and locate a local tricycle driver that would take us home, but none could be found. No one wanted to venture out in the heavy rain.
LenLen began to get worried. My American expat friend hadn’t been seen in awhile. She was going to locate him. I stayed behind and continued to work on my beer. A few minutes later Tom came barging through the front door and loudly announced he had a ride home for us. I cannot divulge the source of our transportation but I am very grateful to them and to Tom. We arrived at “The Farm,” safe and dry, and rode in air con comfort all the way.
Keith offers traditional Filipino fare and Western dishes on his reasonably priced menu along with good values on imported beers. The menu changes weekly as does the supply of imported beers in stock.
(The effects of one too many beers. Photo courtesy of “The Tom Cat.”)
If you’re interested in visiting “The Bistro”, please contact Keith at the following email address: email@example.com
He’ll send you a copy of the week’s food and bar menu and advise you if his establishment will be open the particular Friday night you plan to visit.
Update information: Per Keith’s comment on this post, make sure you give the trike drivers the following information: “If you’re proposing a visit, tricycle drivers will not relate to Dave’s terminology. The place he’s talking about is called CALINGAO (“callin-gow”) which is within the Municipality of Buenavista – the place itself is NOT called Buenavista, unless you’re bladdered on Pilsen Wazz. The locals do not know the central grass area as “the plaza” so far as I’m aware.”
And thanks to Keith for the following pictures that were taken the night of our visit. Hope to see you at our next visit to “The Bistro.”
(The well-stocked bar at Keith’s fine establishment)
Alan and company at “The Bistro.” Keith, help me out. Is this Alan’s wife sitting next to him? Remember, I was not in any sort of condition to remember much of anything.
Alan and Paul enjoying a good time with some fellow expats. If Paul looks like he is falling asleep, that is only because I had chatting with him for awhile.
Alan getting the royal treatment. Live like a king in the Philippines.
The Kano, along with some of the patrons, at “The Bistro” that Friday evening.