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The Surprise of Tessie’s Goto

There are days when a terribly mundane afternoon can suddenly come alive. The other day was one such day. I was tired from a class and decided to go find something to eat.

For some reason, I just did not want to eat at the carinderias close to school that I frequently haunt. On a whim, I decided to try out this small diner which I pass everyday whenever I go to school but have never really bothered to try.

It is a small food joint called Tessie’s Goto in Tambô, Lipa City; located along the national highway close to the entrance of the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road or STAR for Batangas City-bound vehicles.

I took a jeepney bound for Mataas-na-Kahoy and got off in front of the food joint in about three minutes. I crossed the road and went to a big open gate to the right of the place not knowing that it led to the parking space rather than the entrance to the diner.

After nosing around for a while, I saw a sign that said “ENTRANCE.” There was a small gate with a plank of wood nailed above it. I was then certain that this was where I should enter.

Probably because it was mid-afternoon, I was the only customer in the diner. I approached the lady at the counter and placed an order for the house specialty: goto.

I looked around the diner and found it cleaner than many similar food joints. It had the look and feel of a house that had been converted into a restaurant. There was even a patio overlooking the road that had tables and seats laid out. It was here that I sat down.

Although the city of Lipa is known both for its pancit lomi and goto, I have always had a partiality for the former. In fact, I consider myself something of a lomi aficionado.

With the goto, it is a different story altogether. It had been sometime since I last visited a gotohan. In fact, I had forgotten how it looked and tasted like. By this time, though, I was hungry enough to have eaten anything.

Moments later, the lady at the counter came to my table with chopped onions, chilli and calamansî placed altogether in a small bowl. For a second there, I didn’t quite know what to do with them. As though by instinct gained from countless days in lomi hauses, I mixed the onions, chilli and juice from the calamansî with some fish sauce – patis – in the small bowl.

While waiting for my order, I turned to my right and I couldn’t help but notice a snowboard – of all things – hanging on the wall. I wondered if maybe one of the owners frolicked on the ice at one time or another in a foreign land. Many thoughts flashed through my mind until the lady arrived with my order to break my reverie.

I inspected the goto for a moment and then added the sauce that I had prepared earlier. I put a spoonful of the soup into my mouth and to my utter surprise, my taste glands totally agreed with it. In fact, the goto was quite delicious!

I was wondering why there were no customers at the time. Later, I learned from the lady at the counter that diners fill the place up during at lunchtime and suppertime. I realized that I came at a good time; else I would have been forced to wait in line until someone left.

However, now that I know how good Tessie’s goto is, I wouldn’t mind lining up at all the next time I visit. And there will be a next time…

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