Text by Fernando Austria Jr.
Photos by Hannah Paguila and Max Custodio
(Editor’s note: A shorter version of this story is included in the first print issue of TNP for Editorial Year 2014-2015)
MANILA – The air was thick with the scent of smoke and grilled barbecue. People were sweating left and right, feet tapping impatiently as they waited in a line reminiscent of the ones formed during enrollment by desperate students hoping to snag the last few slots of an MST.
No less than 80 kilograms of pork barbecue were consumed on that final day.
Initially called Green House because of the surrounding flora, the University of the Philippines’s beloved Beach House started out in 1986 as a humble food shack in front of the Main Library. The kiosk’s menu originally consisted of little more than snacks and junk food.
“Noong bago kami, doon lang kami sa kiosk, yung sa kiosk doon sa harap. Eh bawal yung mga kaning ulam doon, puro mga snack lang, mga chichiria (When we were new, we were just situated at the kiosk, and rice meals couldn’t be sold there, only snacks),” Tessie Feliciano, the owner of the campus-based eatery, explained.
Eventually, requests from regular customers for the food stand to offer rice meals sparked the opportunity for expansion.
“Maraming kumakain sa amin na nagti-training doon, yung sa pulis. Eh maraming mahanap ng kaning ulam… kaya nagtinda kaming kaning ulam. Eh naging mabili naman (Many of our customers were training there, at the police station. Many were looking for rice meals, so we began to sell them. It became a hit),” the owner added.
Beach House started serving dishes such as munggo, salted egg, and of course, the best-selling barbecue that is on every UPD student’s bucket list. The owner herself is responsible for the recipe of this runaway success.
“Nakakuha kami ng pwesto, yun nga yung sa likod ng library, yung Beach House. Naupahan namin yun, kaya doon kami nalipat, (We were able to acquire a place behind the library. We leased it, so we were able to move there)” she said.
According to her, the canteen’s breezy ambiance, its cottage-like façade, and the spacious open field of the adjacent Sunken Garden inspired students to fondly call it using its current popular name. Little did they know that this eatery would later on become one of the most iconic pieces in the pastiche of UP culture – something that the UP community and even outsiders would patronize for the following two decades.
Although it enjoyed a good amount of patronage from students and faculty alike, Beach House met its end on July 9, 2014 following an arduous legal battle versus the UP Administration.
“Wala naman kaming magagawa kundi sumunod dahil sa kanila iyon. Utos nila iyon, hindi pwedeng hindi sumunod (We couldn’t do anything but follow because it was theirs. That was their orders, we had to follow),” Feliciano remarked.
The decision to close down Beach House drew mixed reactions from the crowd. People took to their social media accounts, expressing their anger and disappointment at losing such a cherished part of UP life. The grief was short-lived, however, as Beach House re-opened near CP Garcia street less than a month after it closed down in the Sunken Garden.
“Nakakatuwa rin naman dahil kasi maraming umano sa amin… tumulong! Talagang pinilahan kami. Hanggang Bulwagan (ng Dangal) ang tao, ang pila maghapon. Maski umuulan pumipila sila (It was heartwarming that so many people helped us out. People really lined up, even if it was raining),” Feliciano exclaimed.
Although business is still slow for now, the restaurant administration is confident that things will pick up for them once again.
“Ok naman kami dito… dinadayo din naman kami eh, mga bagong customer, tsaka yung mga dati, nagpupuntahan dito. Yung mga taga-rito, bumibili, nagte-take out sila. Yung mga nag-oopisina sa gabi, bumibili na lang ng lutong ulam (We’re doing okay here, old customers are coming back, and we have new ones as well. Those who live around here buy take-out. Those who work in offices at night buy cooked dishes from us),” Mrs. Feliciano remarked.
And so, Beach House has finally come full circle, like a phoenix rising from its ashes. Still freshly bruised and battered from the challenges it recently faced, it looks like Ang Beach House Naming Mahal is here to stay, continuing to fill the stomachs of iskos and iskas for years to come.
IN PHOTOS: Old and New Beach House