Remember what introduced Alice Dixson to showbiz in the Philippines? Yep, the “I can feel it” ad of some shampoo, which made her so popular that she – eventually – ended up getting the Dyesebel fins. What about Ate Guy’s first love team? “Guy and Pip” was big even before we learned merging names, e.g. Glee’s “Klaine” or the power couple “Brangelina”. And remember things we played with in the past? Before we started just sitting in front of computers to just click, click, click (or tap, tap, tap), we used to have actual toys – such as those (ugly-ish) dolls that came in threes (the smiling, the frowning, and the crying).
These are, basically, “old” stuff.
And these are all on display in this tiny tapsilogan (an eatery) in Tutuban Mall in Divisoria in the City of Manila: Bentot’s.
For those who do not know (i.e. non-Filipinos), a tapsilogan [a conjugation of tapa, sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (egg) – among the food that Filipinos eat for breakfast] is an eatery that is, if not cheap, at least affordable. Because it is a tapsilogan, Bentot’s has that somewhat-cheap karinderya (eatery) vibe, though “elevated” by the decors.
Yes, you basically come here for the decors. There are the memorabilia from way back – e.g. the aforementioned posters of Dixson; photos of Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz; discarded old, old typewriters; old Coke bottles; discontinued toys. These, definitely, give the place a unique feel, so that it’s almost like a “living baul (treasure chest)”.
Interestingly, the “old feel” continues in the furniture pieces. Remember those heavy wooden tables of old houses (before IKEA and IKEA imitations became the “norm”)? You’d find one here. And then there’s that bathtub that, with a glass top, now serves as a dining table, too. It’s almost like the owner just can’t throw things away, and decided to stuff everything here…
WHY GO THERE
By now you’d (rightly) assume that this place is worth checking if only to see what’s there. Particularly, I should say, if you’re a pre-Millennial. For a somewhat small place, there’s many to see here that could remind you of what it was like growing up in a not-too-distant past…
This isn’t to say that the food sucks. The bangsilog (bangus or milkfish + sinangag + itlog, P70) is just right (crispy without being burned). The chickensilog (chicken + sinangag + itlog, P55) remains juicy, not dry at all. And the porksilog (pork + sinangag + itlog, P55) is somewhat fleshy. Note that the prices don’t even reach P100 – definitely karinderya-priced, therefore affordable, making this a frequented place by the budget conscious (e.g. students).
Now, not everything in this place receives a thumbs-up.
For one, the airconditioning seems to be ancient, too – that is, there are times when it doesn’t work, so that the place can be… musky.
Secondly, the place can get… messy – e.g. during one of the times I visited, pails were there, in the middle of the dining area, supposedly to catch the drops from the leaking roof. It just looked, in one word, cheap (let’s not even mention dirty).
Thirdly, some of the offerings aren’t good – e.g. the sagot’s gulaman (a beverage) tasted watered down (though I shouldn’t be complaining since it only costs P10 per glass).
Fourthly, some of the decors (particularly the toys) look… creepy (again, let’s not mention dirty). So if older toys bring to mind Chucky, and that creeps you out, this place isn’t for you for sure.
And, of course, since this place is located in Tutuban Mall, it means you have to brave the (in)famous Divisoria to access it. Considering the continuing bad rep that this part of the city gets (i.e. thieves, thieves, and more thieves), this is enough to turn people away from discovering this place.
IN THE END
All in all, though, this place is a cute discovery. Particularly for those who want to be engulfed in things from the past – when we drank out of glass bottles and not plastic containers; when celebs in love teams were treated as individuals (with their own names) and did not only exist as the half of who they are with (for now, or until they move to a new partner); when celebs were actual “stars” with the X-factor and not YouTube-created (because they videotaped themselves getting effed or something)…
No, this isn’t perfect – and is in no way for everyone.
But, again, check out if you want a blast from the past…
Bentot’s is located on the second floor of Tutuban Mall in Divisoria, City of Manila. Since it is located inside a mall, its operating hours follow that of the mall.