A love letter to the East, featuring the Honda Mobilio

by Jason Tulio | Dec 4, 2019

“We’ve decided to take a nearby food trip to somewhere we hadn’t been before”

“So, sino ang mag-a-adjust?”

Remember that whole debate over the midpoint of Metro Manila? What started out as a viral post claiming to have finally found the middle ground between the north and south of the metro soon escalated into a heated argument over where the real midway point stood, and more important, which area is truly better to live in.

Granted, each side had its points. Meanwhile, I—along with probably thousands of others living in the east, watching on like miniscule spectators to a gladiatorial face-off—found the whole thing amusing. You see, while the north and the south staked their claims over whose territory was superior and who really should be adjusting for meet-ups, those of us on neither side are used to the cultural anonymity.

This is how my passengers felt about my attempts at being a tour guide. PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

Mention ‘east’ to the uninitiated, and you get a puzzled look as they picture their passports being stamped upon entering your subdivision. Marcos Highway? Antipolo? Santa Lucia East Grand Mall? And what the hell is this ‘junction’ that everyone talks about? Even our social media editor, who has been to my house a few times, once described my borderline-Pasig area as “Bandang Estancia.” Yeah, sure. Bandang seven kilometers away.

If you think adjusting for your friends from the other side of the compass is hard, try compensating for both. If one friend says Glorietta and the other says Trinoma, guess who’s going to be ignored when they bring up Ayala Malls Feliz? Oh, and don’t even try to argue with anyone that you’re along the way. Because you’re not. Ever. Because reasons.

Okay, enough ranting. Today, we’re in the Honda Mobilio, and we’ve decided to take a nearby food trip to somewhere we haven’t been before. Naturally, when we were planning for this, I volunteered Marikina. Not because it means I get to wake up late in time for brunch, but I knew that it would be a fresh destination for some members of the team. Surprisingly, my officemates from the south (or the middle, depending on who you ask) actually pick me up this time. Yes, sila nag-adjust.

Rustic Mornings is a hidden but popular gem. PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

We’re on our way to meet up with the PR officers of Honda, and our brunch destination is Rustic Mornings, which to me perfectly encapsulates the shoe capital’s vibe. While Marikina has been a city for centuries and was once the capital of the Province of Manila under the First Philippine Republic, it has hardly kept up with the burgeoning developments that characterize the rest of the metro.

No, Marikina’s roots remain firmly entrenched throughout the city’s winding streets. Heritage-style houses are easily found along narrow alleyways, as are quaint artworks both new and old. There are condo buildings here and there, yes, but they share zoning rights with classic structures from the ’70s and the ’80s.

Do it for the ’gram. PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

On these roads, the Honda Mobilio proves an able partner. Its 1.5-liter naturally aspirated i-VTEC engine won’t shock nor awe, but you hardly notice when you’re admiring the abundance of Rizal-era houses. The interior is utilitarian but spacious, providing ample room for me and my fellow millennials who have chosen to ignore my tour-guide musings and have instead moved on to the subject of street graffiti (a lot of that in Marikina, too) as art.

Rustic Mornings, like the name implies, is a nestled structure with stone walls and arcadian decor that makes you wonder if smartphones exist only in science fiction. What started as a private dining business has transformed into a Sunday morning must-have. The website describes it as “a nourishing haven of breakfast and brunch specialties surrounded by lush greens, cool hues of blue with charming fragments of art, love, and rich family history.” Somewhere among those adjectives, I promise you, is something about ridiculously fluffy pancakes.

Fluffy (adj.): Those things. PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

As the conversation flows with our companions from Honda, I learn that my fellow eastsider from Cainta actually drove to their office in Taguig to pick up his female officemates before heading back east again. Cue our conversation over eastside trials and tribulations. Still, how...gentlemanly of him? Yup, we’ll go with that. And we’ll go with more of those pancakes, too.

The east has its highs and lows, but it has plenty of sights worth seeing. PHOTO: Mark Jesalva

As Metro Manila continues to grow, the reality remains that some facets of our rich culture will get lost long along the way. Cost of progress, really. But it’s a good sign that small pockets of niche businesses are blossoming as well. More and more, giant franchises are sharing the country’s collective palate with small establishments boasting a distinct character. There’s Maginhawa in the north. BF Homes and Poblacion in the south. We have that in the east, too—in Marikina, parts of Pasig, Cainta, Antipolo, and the rest of Rizal. Please, come visit us. We promise we’re not as far away as you think. Just avoid Marcos Highway when it rains.

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PHOTO: Mark Jesalva
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