Having late afternoon merienda of halu-halo, sago’t gulaman and guinsang bihon at Aristocrat Restaurant in Malate last Saturday has brought back childhood memories.
I remember when I was child when we used to go to the church which Nick Joaquin refered to as the Shrine of Remedies in Malate to hear the anticipated mass (for Sunday) on Saturday evenings. After a half an hour drive from our home in Quezon City, my parents would see to it that we had enough the time to pray at the Adoration Chapel located at the rear of the church and have a late afternoon merienda at nearby Aristocrat Restaurant before we attend the celebration.
The year was 1936 when the Aristocrat Restaurant was founded by the late Doña Engracia “Aling Asiang” Cruz-Reyes and her husband, Justice Alex A. Reyes. The pioneering spirit and creativity of Aling Asiang in cooking Filipino food has elevated the once lowly and unknown Filipino dishes to well-loved and locally and internationally accepted culinary flavors.
From its humble beginning as a snack mobile (probably like the ones that dominate the side streets of modern business district of Makati), the Aristocrat has grown into a restaurant enterprise with branches in Metro Manila, all serving the same quality foods that have made it “The Philippines’ Most Popular Restaurant”.
The Aristocrat in Malate is the first branch to serve the Philippines. During the 50s and 60s, Aristocrat became a favorite hangout among the politicos of that time. One of them was a great grandfather who was then serving as representative of Cagayan Valley and a contemporary of then Congressman Ferdinand Marcos who at that time is representing Ilocos Norte.
In 1992, during the 100th birth anniversary of its matriarch, Doña Engracia Cruz Reyes was given national recognition. She was honored through the erection of a landmark in a Rajah Sulayman park, the issuance of a stamp edition and the naming of a street after her for the legacy that she has made to the Philippine cuisine.