I was quite happy when recently, discussing with a friend, I recalled how yummy and soul-filling the pizza Nanay used to buy for me at Hoskyn’s Compound (in the inner part of corner Guanco and J.M. Basa Streets) in Iloilo City was.
But that pizza place is not there anymore, has been so for some years already.
Maya said there is still one on the side of Atrium Mall. Also one beside San Ag (University of San Agustin). Another at Nelly’s Garden in Jaro, the lady attendant in Atrium informed me. Seeing my blank face, she clarified, “Sa atubang sang Benito, Maam.” It is in front of the former Don Benito Hospital which is now named West Visayas State University Hospital, my brother Pogie updated me.
I went to the first mentioned store as soon as I could. The two attendants on the outlet only store, not one to eat in unlike the other two stores for there were no chairs nor tables, seemed not too engaging. I vaguely remember that the attendants in the original Hoskyn’s store were not exactly a smiling lot also though very efficient and moved quickly as they served their seemingly never-diminishing customers.
What I distinctly remember is that the pizza I ate as a kid and as a teen at Love and Kisses was quite tasty. So yummy I wished Nanay was not so firm in buying me just a slice of it downed with a bottle of very cold Coke during the not-exactly-frequent times we would go there.
My body remembered its soulful goodness even more so after Maya enumerated their various other yummy offerings now which she had tasted—pancit, burger, a particular pizza flavor the name of which escape me at the moment.
What is your top bestseller? I asked the lady attendant in Ilonggo. “Loverboy,” (or was it Lovergirl?) she replied. I looked at the ingredients in the menu and it has meat. I asked which of the bestsellers does not have “karne” (meat) in it and she said “Angel” something so I ordered a slice of that. She seemed to quietly expect me to buy more, a plate maybe. I want to taste it first, I answered her unexpressed expectation, really intent was I on recapturing the loved taste in my fading memory, at the same time a bit afraid I’d be disappointed.
About 15 minutes later my pizza slice was off the oven. It called to me. My excitement was dampened when I sighted on top of the thin crust loaded with their tomato-based sauce covered with more than enough cheese…thinly-sliced mushrooms and two small squares of sliced ham! So much for no karne!
I quietly reminded the two attendants I had asked for pizza without meat. They paused, uncertain.
But I was in a good mood and somewhat beyond my exacting customer past. Oh just remove the ham topping, I quickly decided, thinking I erred in not checking the ingredients myself in the menu right under my nose. It is possible that to them sliced ham and other cold cuts do not fall under the “karne” or “meat” category.
I can just stand and eat by the shorter side of the two open sides of the small outlet store, I thought. But my preferred side is being used by other customers to look at the menu (taped on the counter near the cash register), order for their choice food item and hand in their payment.
The lady attendant, still somewhat distant yet with beginning warmth also showing, said yes I can sit and eat just inside the few meters away glass-walled air-conditioned space between the street and the mall’s doors. I sat in the middle part of the minute-pebble-topped concrete longbench, behind which are green plants looking a bit lanta so must be real. Not bad for my instant “dining area”.
I bit into my still-hot pizza. The cheese is seeking attention even as it blended nicely with the tomato sauce base of the pie. I brushed aside the unbidden thought that it probably does not really taste good and I am merely remembering what I delighted in as a kid.
I just gave myself to the moment. I chomped on the pie some more, enjoying it all, the memory of my childhood one-slice, the present morsel in my mouth which I felt did not disappoint at all.
People coming out and entering the mall looked at me interestedly. I surmise they see this gal, middle-aged with some youthfulness (haha!), relishing what she’s eating, yeah, pizza. Some had their faces, beings hinting at a smile. If there were frowns of disapproval, it did not register in my selective radar.
I am happy with my test slice. Maybe some of the smiles I caught were knowing ones. It is most probable, they have also tasted Love and Kisses, too.
Later, done with what I set out to do in the city proper, I felt like bringing pasalubong to the people in my brother’s home (it is also my home when I am in Iloilo for it is my father, mother, brothers and sisters’, too, our home for decades especially while we children grew up) in Baryu.
At SM Delgado, I idled around considering options. Pizza Hut—I don’t know where its store is in the City Proper. Shakey’s—I already got a whole pie, cheese flavor, thin crust variety, earlier on in my homecoming and it proved good-tasting but bitin for the boys at home even with yummy potato chips on the side.
I wanted something which would charge me less for good-tasting food. I headed back to Atrium. Love and Kisses here I come.
Standing this time on the longer of the two side-counters, I ordered a plate of the lowest-priced of their pizzas, Happy. It is “ham and cheese” the warming up to me more attendants told me. What the heck, the children will hopefully love it. Not pricey nor cheap at P220 a plate.
My grandnieces, Tintin, 7, and Kaka, 6, also in the house, were not pizza lovers, I found out. Chino and Coycoy, my two nephews, my companions during recent-years’ trips to Pizza Hut in SM City after which they would play games at the basement, needless to say, love pizza.
Chino wanted more slices of Love and Kisses. He got his wish as two slices have been freed up by my grandnieces’ no-to-pizza stance (I can’t understand this).
When Coycoy arrived from school, I told him that aside from his share he gets one-half more slice, too. (Don’t ask me why.) He ended up having his father’s share as well. It was from him that the highest praise for my pasalubong came.
Without being asked, he matter-of-factly said once in between munches, “Mas namit pa sa Pizza Hut.” (It’s better tasting than Pizza Hut.) Of course, his much-welcome comment came moments after I excitedly sang praises for my take home goodie.
And the legend of the yummy-tasting Love and Kisses Pizza lives on.
PS. The photos were taken at a subsequent visit to the store and the attendants especially the lady have thoroughly warmed up to this inquisitive customer. (The guy food handler is different from the one during my first time there.) She volunteered I take a photo of the container of pizza, too. Salamat, girl. On my first visit, she and the guy, in their 20s, were amused when I told them the store they are serving has been in existence “wala pa kamo mabata” (before you were born).