Nurturing Relationships: Dinner at Chef Agnes Bistro

Nothing brings people together like food does, especially so in the Philippines. Filipinos celebrate almost anything with food — birthdays, wedding anniversaries, founding anniversaries, death anniversaries, promotions, victories, good harvest, and the favorite event of all — fiestas, even though most of the people who share the food don’t totally understand what fiestas are for.

Heck, even a short trip to the beach isn’t complete without food.

My personal favorite for sharing food, however, is the celebration of friendship. My husband and I always shared the same circle of friends and as we grew in our relationship, God has also blessed us with good friends who make life more meaningful.

Yesterday afternoon, for instance, friends from mom’s office decided to celebrate the day with dinner at Chef Agnes Bistro after a day’s work. So with my husband on the wheel, we all went to Don Carlos with the kids.

WHEN IN DON CARLOS…

Our dear friend Ellini called the restaurant before we left from  Quezon as it would take fifteen minutes for us to get there and it was past 7:00 o’ clock in the evening; they were closing at 8:00! Good thing Agnes is a friend of hers and was willing to accommodate us beyond their business hours.

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With my husband Anthony (to my left) and my mom (to my right), friends from hubby's workplace, our 9-year-old son Luis and Ellini's son, Leo Francis, who also happens to be Luis' classmate. Our 4-year-old son is running around somewhere; you just can't capture him on photo.
With my husband Anthony (to my left) and my mom (to my right), friends from hubby’s workplace, our 9-year-old son Luis (first from left)and Ellini’s son, Leo Francis (next to me), who also happens to be Luis’ classmate. Our 4-year-old son is running around somewhere; you just can’t capture him on photo.

When we arrived, we were welcomed by Chef Agnes herself and I was fascinated by how she decorated the interior. While waiting for our orders, I had the chance to have a little chit chat with her and I found that we went to the same school in college! She and Ellini finished their bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City, only that when she graduated she didn’t go find a job. Instead, she took culinary arts at another school and in September 2014, she opened Chef Agnes Bistro in Don Carlos, Bukidnon.

(photo grabbed from Chef Agnes' Facebook page)
(photo grabbed from Chef Agnes’ Facebook page)

So when you’re in Don Carlos or driving further south, drop by for a plate of baby back ribs and a glass of ice-cold soda. They also have burger steak, spicy BBQ burgers and pasta. My personal favorite is the chicken cordon bleu. Trust me, you wont spend too much.

My mom and Ellini. They share the same office space and love for food.
My mom and Ellini. They share the same office space and love for food.

Instead of heading to the nearest “karenderia,” go to Chef Agnes and enjoy the cool ambiance of a chic restaurant at a very affordable price. The best part is, it’s located right by the highway and there’s ample parking space.

AN ALCOHOL-FREE EVENING

One beautiful thing about that particular evening was, aside from the fact that we had fun eating out together as family and friends, it’s alcohol-free. We grew up around adults who had different drinking patterns — heavy drinkers, moderate drinkers, but mostly heavy drinkers. There was no such thing as an occasional drinker because everyone seemed to drink or get drunk everyday regardless of what time of day it was! Seriously, especially in this part of the province. People live a pretty laid back life back then and there wasn’t much to do in the afternoon. So at 4:00 o’ clock they start to gather around under a tree with a low wooden table in their midst and on top of that table is a bottle of gin or rum and one glass that they pass around. Yes, they only use one single glass.

If they drank like this on ordinary days, you can only imagine how they drank at parties. Growing up, we learned that no party is complete without drinking. It seemed alcohol is the life blood of every party — we’ve come to associate it with fun and celebration.

TEACHING BY EXAMPLE 

Recently though, I have come to realize the real danger of alcoholism and my kids would be better off without it. It’s only been about a year since I deliberately ditched alcohol from my diet and I’m happy to report that parties can still be fun even without alcohol. In fact, my life is better now without it.

Ellini and her outgoing 4th-grader, Leo Francis. Apart from my mom, Ellini is the only lady in the office and brains behind most parties. She must have a list of everyone's birthday. If you're on her list, don't be surprised if she and her team shows up at your doorstep on your birthday, bringing balloons and a JBL Speaker, singing happy birthday even before the sun could rise in east.
Ellini and her outgoing 4th-grader, Leo Francis. Apart from my mom, Ellini is the only lady in the office and the brains behind most parties. She must have a list of everyone’s birthday. If you’re on her list, don’t be surprised if she and her team shows up at your doorstep on your birthday, bringing balloons and a JBL Speaker, singing happy birthday even before the sun could rise in east.

For now, it’s good that the kids are still small and are close to home, but one day they’re all going out to college and live with all sorts of people. I don’t know what ‘fun’ and ‘cool’ would look like to them later, but right now I’m thankful that we are given this chance to have fun moments together without alcohol. All I can do right now is to show them the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle by eating right and staying physically active, pray for them, and share with them Jesus’ views about keeping the body clean and fit. After all, values are caught, not taught.

Thank you Chef Agnes for accommodating us and for putting up with our uproarious team. We only brought three kids, not a dozen. We look forward to our next visit!

Check out Chef Agnes Bistro on Facebook.

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