The Coupon… of Love: A Tale of Abject Poverty and Shame

It all started yesterday, with an impromptu trip to Manila Peninsula Hotel. Well, impromptu for me anyway. My friend Giselle made me go with her at the very last minute, as she had some business there with Avis for a company event. Good thing I had the common sense to fight off my manly urges and actually bathe that day.

As usual, Manila Pen was as ancient and moldy as ever. Everything pretty much looked lifeless, dull, and dated. It’s tired, is what it is. The architectural design is way behind the times, the stuffy furniture had seen better days, and the washed-off color scheme was just dreadful. The lighting didn’t help either. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but dimmed lights for a lobby, to me, seems appropriate only for a sombre funeral, not a luxury hotel. The effect was a cold and unwelcoming ambience, and paired off with that gray and dreary color scheme, it made for a very boring and, quite frankly, dead atmosphere indeed. The carpets also needed an obvious replacing, as from the looks of things, Lord knows what varieties of microscopic fungi may have had already built cities, maybe even nations, there. And the employees are such stuck-up jerks with permanent scowls and phony accents who need to get off their freakin’ high horses, just like their lackluster guests. The entire place, to me, just seemed pretentious and geriatric.

But Giselle, being that she’s never been there, was simply swelling with gleeful exuberance over the grandeur of the hotel’s high ceilings and well-maintained, albeit poorly polished, marble staircases. Also, being the girly-girl that she is, she was “feeling” the winding steps, her imagination aflutter with visions of a beautiful non-existent gown, its long train draping behind her as she walked with such utter grace, poise, and her trademark air of importance. Seriously, she was as giddy as a schoolgirl, a silly smile plastered on her face the entire time. I was almost fighting off the urge to smack her back to reality. Apparently, an intangible something tells her that she was once a member of aristocracy in a previous life, and that being there at the hotel merely strengthened her resolve that it’s true. I, on the other hand, thought it was just the spores from the moldy carpets talking. They probably wafted up her nostrils when we walked by, and lodged themselves into that hemisphere of the brain that keeps us in touch with reality, as clearly, she had gone delusional. But that’s just me.


After her business was done with the manager-type employee at Avis (the assistant was busy with personal calls and couldn’t attend to our needs), with his bulging eyes, shifty eyebrows, and weird head that seemed permanently cocked to one side, and now possessed with thoughts of her opulent past life, she somehow coaxed me into having dinner at our mutual favorite, Fish & Co. I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic as, first of all, I’m broke; second of all, I had already had dinner, a poor one, yes, but dinner just the same; and third, I was currently deceiving myself into thinking that I was on a “diet” these days, because my state of unemployment, and my almost certain clinical depression, had caused me to overeat and become… pudgy. Reluctantly, I agreed. And with that decision out of the way, we made hauled our tired asses over to the seafood restaurant at Greenbelt we discovered during the Christmas holidays. Little did we know that whatever “opulence” we carried in our bodies would remain at the hotel upon our egress.

We arrived at the happenin’ mall all sweaty and out of breath. Although the place wasn’t jam-packed, Fish & Co. was easily crowded (it was still a Friday, after all), and we were made to sit at the bar while we waited for a table to become available. It was then that I noticed a new slogan on the food attendants’ shirts: sea of love. We assumed it referred to the place.

Possibly because of the long, taxing walk from Manila Pen to Greenbelt, or maybe because of our boredom over our seemingly ostensible inability to entertain ourselves, we I decided, at the risk of realizing that we’re really not very fun people, to start calling our dinner “the dinner… of love”, just because the sheer cheesiness of it brought us laughing. anyway, we ordered at the bar while waiting for a table, and it was then revealed that we would be using a “coupon” that Giselle got from her last meal at Fish & Co. with her bosses. I hate using coupons. It always makes me feel so poverty-stricken/deprived/oppressed, and as if all my long-standing inadequacies are resurfacing just to sabotage my already weak self-worth. But I digress. For some bizarre twist of fate, our little coupon… of love caused quite a bit of an uproar within their over-enthusiastic staff. It became very chaotic on top of the already busy atmosphere. Giselle had some rather specific instructions about the coupon… of love that no one could, for the life of them, seem to understand. I actually didn’t get it either, but apparently, she wanted what the manager from the other Fish & Co. in Mall of Asia (where she got the coupon… of love from) did — deduct the price of the freebie from the total bill. It was actually quite fun to watch, which is why I just sat back and enjoyed the free entertainment. Giselle was at her wit’s end using all her God-given diplomatic speaking skills to try to explain to what seemed to be the entire staff that night what it is she was suggesting, as server after server came to us like clockwork, all bearing queries in regards to the damn coupon… of love. Naturally, explanation after explanation had to be made as it was a different person every single time. Even when we were seated (at the unwanted reject table… of love, poor us!), the staff ceaselessly beleaguered us with their concerns regarding our little coupon… of love. I almost wanted to just skip the coupon… of love altogether to get it over with, as, really, the whole thing was starting to feel embarrassing. Seriously, everytime a server would pass by, we would look at him, half-expecting him to stop by our table, just to ask what our little coupon… of love was all about. And even when we thought that matters had been straightened out, it hadn’t. Giselle had to once again re-explain what the situation was with our coupon… of love when our orders arrived. So the food was sent back. But then the same order arrived, not five minutes after she just sent back the first one, this time by a different server. Again, more explanations ensued, and the food was once again sent back. At some point, our official server even came contesting that our bill didn’t even reach the minimum total, and insinuated that we had to forfeit the use of our little coupon… of love. So we had to have that corrected as well. Fun! There we were with a multitude of servers arriving every few seconds, it must have been quite a sight. It was as if the staff couldn’t decide who would be serving us. To say that we were deeply inconvenienced and humiliated was a bit of an understatement. I could almost hear what the conversation must have been like at the next table:

“Omigod! Those people must be, like, poor or something, and they’re, like, using a coupon (…of love) or something, and the staff seem to be trying to, like, accomodate their request or something, like, you know, ’cause they’re so, like, poor! Gosh, how embarrassing or whatever! I’m, like, glad we’re not those losers!” *maniacal laugh across the table*

In the end, they served us with two New York Fish & Chips dishes, much to our bloated dismay, and we had to settle for it, as clearly we were not going anywhere. Then we proceeded to have our dessert, the one we ordered for the mere sake of obtaining the minimum total amount to enable us use of our coupon… of love. Our official server, bless her sincerely and genuinely nice soul, was incessantly apologetic, which I loved because I suck and need lower mortals to fawn over me to feel special. We gave her a huge tip (fifty freakin’ bucks, man!), and a commendation on a table napkin. At around ten, with our bulging bellies full, and our wallets considerably lighter (the coupon… of love cost us more money than the last time we were there), the dinner… of love ended (thank God!), and we managed to get out of there unscathed. But I must say, that experience is definitely one for the coffee table books.


Oh, yeah. As ever, the food was dee-lish! It’s really the only place I know that serves fish dishes that don’t taste fishy at all. There were a lot of poeple, and probably a lot of angry staff, so both dishes seemed rushed and were rather oily this time around. Meanwhile, our bomber dessert was bad. I guess it was to be expected since it didn’t have the “get hooked!” caption at the side, so it wasn’t really one of their bestsellers. We just assumed it hardly ever sold at all, since the graham crust was stale and the berries were sour and bitter.


~ by iamnotfrodo on September 15, 2007.

One Response to “The Coupon… of Love: A Tale of Abject Poverty and Shame”

  1. you know, i still think the pen is nice. especially the pool area. =D

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