A typical life of a UE student will not be complete without meeting these people, err, these places.
A haven for almost anything, these places can be called the student’s best friends. From cheap books, ukay-ukay finds and, of course, the student-friendly food (never mind the instant thesis and medical certificates).
Meet Recto, Lepanto and Gastambide.
These places are very familiar to a UE student. Aside from the fact that the three main gates of the University have the same names, these three streets are known to be the harbour of street foods.
Being such, these are the places to be when a student, who cannot afford going to various costly holes-in-the walls around the U-belt area, grabs a quick lunch or merienda to somehow ease his churning stomach. Or sometimes, when one has no break in between his classes that he usually takes a quick run in stalls outside and grab a bite of his favourite street food from his suki.
Now let’s take a closer look to what these three is made of when it comes to street food offerings for the UE student to enjoy.
Going to these places is as easy as going out of the University premises in no time. Recto Avenue, famous for its infamous selling of thesis and research works, is just a stone’s throw away from UE.
While it offers these things, it is also a place of selling street foods for some.
For one, a man waits for students outside the Recto gate to buy his steamed corn while another one is busy frying fish balls for the hungry students to eat.
They usually position their carts near the gate so they can be easily seen by students.
In Lepanto, one would just have to walk along the so-called hepalane for affordable street foods. This hepalane, dubbed as such because it was said to be a food port where you can acquire hepatitis, is a refuge for street foodies. In there, one can choose from a vast array of street foods prepared for the hungry and the hurrying student.
However, pushcart vendors in hepalane are not authorized to sell in the area. Only those with business permits in commercialized building are allowed to sell food along the lane. So sometimes, they have to hide their pushcarts to a nearby place, as if running to save the lives of their small business from authorities who break-in.
Vendors seem not to mind their other competitors when it comes to selling.
Together with some cigarette, cotton candy and sweets hawkers, amid the fast-food that seem to knock them out in terms of offering sumptuous food giants (Jollibee, McDonalds, Mang Inasal, KFC and Chic Boy to name a few) , they still battle their way in order to sell using their voice and charisma to gather students. They wake up early in the morning, arrange their push carts, and get ready to for a busy day ahead.
Having their suki that regularly buys their food somehow let them earn their profit, though small, for the day.
If asked where the heart of all these street foods among the three is, a student will answer, the infamous hepalane—that is without a tinge of any doubt.
Being like a common ground for the hungry student of the University and two others (Far Eastern University and Philippine School for Business Administration), it never ceases to be busy and noisy of students who order food (not to mention the student reviewing for board examination from nearby review centers).
The siomai rice, sold for only 25 pesos is such a hit during lunch time. In hepalane, push carts selling siomai rice will not be down by at least six stalls. Next are the various hamburger stalls offering different variations. We also have chicken skin, fishballs, kwek-kwek, fried tofu, manggang hilaw, buko juice and banana cue.
Also a hit are the calamares and isaw that somehow take your hunger away for just a few coins from your pocket.
Meanwhile, in Gastambide, though surrounded by cafeterias and eateries, its busy street will not be complete with its various food stalls. Students can pick from a wide array of street foods like barbecue, scramble, cotton candy, hotcakes, hamburgers and turons.
But of course, Recto, Lepanto and Gastam will not be as lively as it is today if not for the students who fill up its busy corners. They make the streets alive and breathing—from the time the University bell rings signaling the end of every class to the afternoon euphoria you see after a day of mind-boggling studying. The chats in between bites of footlongs, the laughtrips as they wait for their calamares to be heated, and the tight budgeting of 20 pesos for an afternoon of merienda.
More than the cheap price of these street foods, there is this reason why students prefer these. For some, these are not just eating places. In here, you’ll meet new friends (Manong may relate his life to you, how he manages to feed his family with his little income and all), get in touch with the old ones on either academic and personal matters, and keep up with your classmates (talk about your crushes or your professors and your toxic subjects), and even get in touch with those you know from other schools.
Because in between bites of cheeseburger with gulay and chilicon sold in hepalane, the additional order of siomai rice and the tusok-tusok of your kwek-kwek or calamares, is the learning of a real world.
A world where we are being prepared today to face without regression and doubts.
Recto, Gastam and Lepanto don’t just give you something to eat, somewhere to hangout after class or somebody to be with when you want to puff a cigar in between classes.
In here you not only see beggars asking for your newly-bought Zagu or kuya making pa-cute while your buying his siomai rice. here, you’ve got to see the reality outside the four corners of the classroom.
It is a clear picture of the world we’ll see come graduation time. It depicts and gives us a greater understanding of not only the Filipino food culture of tusok-tusok, ihaw and the likes but also the way we deal with life in a hurry, under a tight budget, and the life that makes us understand other peoples lives, whose job has been the hard work of selling, and how we appreciate these little things that life offers, amidst our busy schedules and work under pressure.— Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos