Now that the rains have come, a socially distant summer is another thing we can tick off on our “unprecedented” list. Granted there was heat and humidity, but how could we have known that the days were longer than what we have been enduring already? The signs of the season weren’t there. There were no picnics, road trips, playlists, linen, spandex, lotion, and our sunkissed bodies on the beach, frolicking free while breathing in the salty air, unmasked. Sensuality is a good word to capture the summer feeling. Good vibes. 

Having been hunkered down for safety, we had to bridle many physical aspects of life and be content with nostalgia. For city folks, an escape to the beach sounds like a dream or a memory, and for the time being, it will remain to be.  

Beach aside, it’s not too late to save summer especially since we live in the tropics. Gubat in Quezon City brings a piece of surf town Baler to Manila and into our homes through its food. The restaurant is an outpost of Kusina Luntian, a popular “hidden” eatery in Aurora. Both establishments serve rice meals with pako salad, salted egg, and the usual Filipino fried ulam, like lechon kawali and chicken. “Pre-ECQ, we were a kamayan-only establishment trying to practice sustainability. Now, we would like to offer our meals for pick-up and delivery,” Cereb Gregorio says. She is a co-owner of Gubat. 

Gubat QC co-owner Cereb Gregorio

Gubat QC co-owner Cereb Gregorio

The food is binalot-style, which means an order is packed and served in banana leaves washed clean, and wilted by low fire. Rice, viand, sides, and sauce are arranged and wrapped together, letting the flavors get intimate. 

“Business has definitely been slower. It’s like we’re starting all over again. But we are thankful that we’ve never had a zero-sale day. Times like these, it helps to celebrate small victories,” she tells me.  

Many see the Covid-19 pandemic as an economic crisis and as a health risk. The recent Ipsos poll of 10,000 adults in 12 countries suggests rising anxiety about personal financial exposure, including employment. Restaurant owners all over the world are worried about their own backyard, and rightly so, but Cereb gazed a little farther. After focusing on what she can control, she addressed questions most don’t have answers for. What will happen to me? What will happen to us? What will happen to them? Having successfully shifted operations to pick-up and delivery, she thought about her friends who aren’t as lucky—Quezon City’s tricycle drivers.

The hidden restaurant is at the Diliman Bonsai Society

The hidden restaurant is at the Diliman Bonsai Society

“I don’t have a car, so I take trikes to get around the area. The tricycle drivers in our neighborhood have always been kind to me. They help me carry heavy stuff for Gubat, give me rides in the pouring rain, and I can trust them to return things that I’ve left in their trikes—and I’ve left a lot of things,” she narrates.

When the ECQ happened, some of them immediately found jobs in small-scale construction, but not all did. The ones who lived outside of Quezon City couldn’t go home to their families and were forced to camp out wherever they could find shelter. Others were recovering from personal tragedies last year, only to lose their livelihood early this year. And so, Cereb hired the displaced tricycle drivers in the area to deliver food. 

Since we were looking to open Gubat for pick-up and deliveries, we decided to ask for their help. They know the area better than most and were also happy to find a way to make money in the meantime. It really is a mutually beneficial partnership.

Currently, four or five drivers deliver for Gubat regularly, and at the end of the day, receive the full delivery fee for deliveries they accomplished. It is Cereb’s hope to give at least a full day’s wages, aware of the limitations of her small business that doesn’t have the coverage of Lalamove, Grab, and Angkas, simultaneously working on expanding Gubat’s reach. 

“We decided to charge customers however much they would normally pay for courier services with a little extra tip. We know we charge a little more than the apps charge, so we just remind customers that the full amount goes to the tricycle drivers and it’s a big help for them,” she says. “When we started, they were doing deliveries on bicycles at noontime during the height of summer. Of course, customers are also free to book their preferred courier service if they wish. Thankfully, most of our regulars in the community have been very supportive.” 

Filipinos are tactile, emotional people. We like to touch and get touched easily. Gubat’s wrapped meals that are meant to be eaten with hands hold more than the promise of summer. They’re reminders that things will get better soon. The future is so close that we can feel it and taste it. 

Gubat is located at the Diliman Bonsai Society, CP Garcia, Diliman, QC, and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday. Text or Viber orders to (0966) 6271522 at least two hours ahead of the delivery schedule. You may pay via GCash, BPI, or COD. Frontliners get 10 percent off, but must send a photo of ID to avail of the discount. The areas covered by the tricycle drivers are Katipunan, Krus na Ligas, Sikatuna, Teachers’ Village, UP Village, and UP Campus. The delivery charge is P100, which will go to the displaced tricycle drivers of Krus na Ligas, UP Campus, and Loyola Heights. The restaurant also accepts orders for pick-up via Angkas, Lalamove, GrabExpress, etc. 

Source: Manila Bulletin (