There was time long before I started going to school when I would wake up very early in the mornings, at the same time my father did at around five, just so I can go with him to his favourite bakery to buy our family’s daily bag of fresh pandesal.
The bakery was owned by Ka Andong, a friend of my father’s from Batangas. It was open twenty-four hours a day, selling baked bread and sweet delicacies daily. The glass showcases are always full of freshly baked goodies: coconut filled pan de cocos, dense cakes called kababayan, custard-filled egg or pies, kalihim, the bread with a bright red centre layer also called commonwealth for some reason, pan de limon, mamon, light and fluffy sponge cakes, monay, sliced white bread called tasty and many more all lined up on the glass shelves.
It was an extremely popular place, but more so during the very early morning hours when a large crowd of customers would always be in front of the counter. For it is only this time of the day that the bakery turns out hundred and hundreds of pandesal, freshly baked and hot from the oven. The demand for these breakfast bread is so huge that often the bakers cannot keep up, but customers wait nevertheless for the next batch to come out, only to be gone again in a matter of minutes. It was amazing to see the sellers counting these little rolls into brown paper bags, their hands moving lightning-fast, trying to keep up with the customers patiently waiting for their turn to buy a bag.
My father, as a daily customer and friend of the owner, of course never had to wait in line. For Ka Andong almost instinctively knew when my father would show up, and a bag of his regular order, twenty pieces of pandesal for one peso, would always be reserved and ready for pick up at just the right time.
Occasionally my father would turn to me and ask me if I wanted anything else, but knowing that there’s a chance late in the day that someone in my family will be back at the bakery for some afternoon snack, I would always shake my head no. For what I really wanted, and the real reason for getting up at dawn to walk with him await just around the corner: where only very early in the mornings and at no other time, a man sets up a temporary griddle stand and makes hotcakes: large, airy pancakes liberally spread with melting margarine and sprinkled with sugar.
My father always knew that’s just what I wanted; for he would make it a point to stop at the griddle stand, and even without me asking, buy one, sometimes two, one for me and one for him. Then off towards home we would go, me cuddling a warm bag of fresh pandesal in the early morning chill, happily munching away my special treat, walking beside my dear generous father.
© August 2007