“Take me somewhere nice by the water where we can eat seafood and watch the sunset,” she pleaded.
I scratched my head and thought deeply, not so much because I didn’t know of a place that fits that description, but because I wanted to find a resto-bar that matched that criteria AND where I wouldn’t be seen in public with her. I know that sounds shady, but it’s really not that bad. She was from Manila and down just for the weekend, and stood out like a sore thumb with fancy clothes and makeup, while in Dumaguete we all go au-naturale and wear flip-flops 24-7.
It’s not that I wasn’t proud to be seen with her, but the Dumaguete rumor mill runs hotter and faster than the sports news cycle during opening week of NFL football. It was also Saturday evening, which means just about everyone in town would be out and about – and sitting at a popular resto-bar by the water watching the sunset; a place called Hay-a-Hay. The last thing wanted to do was sit down with my Manila girl and then entertain every local friend (OK, and jaded ex’s) who came over to say hi and then I’d have to introduce Ms. Manila and explain our relationship beneath raised eyebrows. I’d rather actually chill and enjoy my time with Manila and not simultaneously be a monkey in the Dumaguete three-ring circus, ya dig?
How We Fared at Lab-as
So I was struggling to think of a place until it hit me: what about that place a few doors down from Hay-a-Hay? I didn’t remember the name except that it’s called “L-something,” but I did recall that it has a nice outdoor deck overlooking the water, the waiters and waitresses dressed in clean, bright green uniforms, and it seemed very popular with Filipino families.
“I know the perfect place!” I happily announced to Ms. Manila. So we headed down to Lab-as and got a seat right outside at a cocktail table. They also have low tables with wooden benches and comfortable cushions like outdoor sofas. As expected, there was a clean-cut, smiling waiter in a bright green shirt and clean uniform popping up immediately, welcoming us and asking us our order. (But for some strange reason, they equip the waiters with designer leather man purses?)
We flipped through the extensive menu, and I was glad to have Ms. Manila there because most of the dishes were Filipino fare, although they did have useful photos and explanations. The waiter was helpful as well, and patient as Ms. Manila talked to him for half an hour about the crab dish she wanted to order, and he even brought out three live crabs for her to choose from. I ordered the squid sisig, and it was good, although a little skimpy on the portions. Her crab was good she said but not great. But the beers were iced cold and, again, the omniscient waiters and waitresses were fantastic. I think if you want a high-end seafood restaurant, there may be better options or it may make sense to buy a fresher catch of the day, but for normal Filipino food and cold beer in a clean environment with a great view of the ocean – and somewhere everyone in town won’t bother you – I suggest Lab-as!
It was much better than this mistake of a dining experience!