Sunday, January 23, 2011

Farewell Manila Bay - Castor Avenue - Philadelphia, PA

It's with a very heavy heart that I say that today we visited our favorite Filipino restaurant for the very last time. After 15 years of faithful service to the neighborhood, Manila Bay is closing its doors due to this tough economy!

I first heard of Manila Bay when I was serving on the Asian Pacific American Heritage organization on McGuire Air Force Base back in 2003. At the time, I was organizing an outing for our group, comprised of different Asians, and I thought it would be fun to try to find a Filipino restaurant. That said, I hopped on Google, and found Manila Bay.

Once I found their website, I saw the pictures, and knew that this was someplace that I had to visit. The restaurant had much of the same Filipino décor that I grew up with in our house as a kid. In seeing the pictures of the staff, you could tell there was a lot of Filipino family that worked here, hung out here, and ate here. I e-mailed them to see if we could get a reservation, and I received an e-mail back from Bob, the owner, along with his wife Cherrie, and we made our first trip with a group of 12.

In arriving at Manila Bay for the first time back in 2003, the first thing I noticed was the shadow box of a retired USAF Senior Master Sergeant, and upon a closer look, I saw that Bob was retired from the United States Air Force. Talk about a small world! Unfortunately, Bob was not in tonight, but we did meet his wife Cherrie, who was Filipino, and she was great. It turned out that Bob is actually Korean/Irish, but as we've said for years, Bob is more Filipino than all of us combined! ;-)

In the years to follow, we kept in touch with Cherrie and Bob, and they truly became family to us. For me, this was the closest thing to Filipino family I had on the East Coast, and every time we'd visit, they treated us just like family! In total, we probably visited "The Bay" a few dozen times through the years, and it is somewhere that we are really going to miss.

For me, the food was just like it was when I was a kid! Cherrie has the exact same cooking techniques as my Mom does, and her staples are just like Mom's. From the lumpia, to the fried tilapia, to the adobo, to the pork inihaw, they are all just like mom used to make. Even the Filipino fried rice as I like to call it, they all reminded me of sitting at the table as a kid, with the exact same flavors.

When we heard last week that Sunday would be the last day Manila Bay would be open, we knew that we had to stop in sometime over the weekend. Sunday turned out to be the best day, so we figured we'd run some errands, then head to "The Bay" to catch the Bears -vs- Packers playoff game. Unfortunately, it didn't work out so well for my Bears, but congratulations to the Packer's on making it to the Super Bowl. Congrats also to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

We arrived at the restaurant and a lot of the family was there. It was great to see some familiar faces, as well as some new faces. Meanwhile, the restaurant was doing a ton of carryout business, and people surely got word that this was the final hoorah for Manila Bay. This is actually really sad! Where has all this business been for the last year! There were also all kinds of old friends of Manila Bay coming in, and it was really nice to see everyone send Bob and Cherrie off in style!

We snagged a table in front of the TV for the game, and sat right next to the family. It was nice chatting with them all, and again, sad that this is the last time we will see them all here. But like anything, all good things have to come to an end.

Caroline came over to see what she could get for us, and pretty much figured out what we were going to eat on her own. LOL! How do you not love that. I started off with some fresh rolled lumpia, and as always they were stellar. So much better than the ones that I make, and you have got to love them. They business they have done the last few days was so tremendous that they actually had to roll lumpia, and they were making them throughout the day. That is awesome, and I am so glad that I got my lumpia fix!

For entrees, Zelda went with the vegetable pancit, and I went with pork inihaw, a Filipino staple. Both of course were delicious! It was actually funny that Cherrie had to send her daughter in law to the Asian market to get some more pork just to ensure they had enough to get through the end of the day. Needless to say, the pork inihaw was coming out of the kitchen like wild fire, and it was delicious. We also got a side of Filipino fried rice, or as they like to call it, garlic fried rice. Mom used to make this all the time, and this tasted just like Mom's. Between this and the pork inihaw, I have plenty leftover for lunch tomorrow!

Dessert also came out, which is always some sort of gelatin based salad, with a nice creamy texture to it. I can never remember what this is called, but it is always good. It came out in a massive portion, filling a big margarita styled glass, and it was again delicious.

A little while later, a band came in and started setting up. This was a Filipino band that used to play here over the years called PA+DE in Full. You can check them out on MySpace at: They were a lot of fun, and played some current hits, as well as some Tagalog songs. What a great way to send Manila Bay on their way!

So all of that said, we hung out for the afternoon, and I dreaded having to say good bye to Bob and Cherrie, as well as Caroline. Thankfully, I know that we will see them again, but it is unfortunate that we won't see them here at Manila Bay again.

In short, thanks to Bob, Cherrie, and Manila Bay for 15 years of faithful service to the community! I am so thankful that I had the chance to meet you guys, and be part of the Manila Bay family. The food at Manila Bay more than satisfied my cravings for Mom's cooking, and for that, we're forever grateful! You guys are a class act, and we are truly going to miss your fine establishment! Thanks so much for the memories, and we look forward to seeing you at our "Filipino Luau" over the summer! Cheers and Love! -F. Scott and Zelda

1 comment:

Anthony Garcia said...

My eldest daughter had her first birthday party there. 7 years later, we had my youngest daughters christening. 13 years ago, I took my wife there. I took her away from family in the Philippines to live with me here in Philly. it meant a lot for us to have this restaurant to go to. I hope we can find a way to stay in touch with bob and cherry too.