My love affair with Greenhills started when I was 4 years old and my mom and dad would bring me along to Greenlanes for their company bowling leagues. To this day, by sound alone, I would know if someone hit a strike or not. The crisp sound is undeniable. Paeng Nepomuceno had a shop in Greenlanes and I remember wandering in there and chatting him up. He even gave me a lollipop from this jar that he kept on his desk. There was a machine right outside his shop that cleaned bowling balls. If I close my eyes, I can remember the smell that would come out of that machine as it whirred to polish a ball. It was not an unpleasant smell, like how some people like the smell of gasoline.
During those days, the early 1980’s, the waiters in Greenlanes wore white long-sleeved shirts and black pants with black bowties. I made friends with them because I was always there. I even remember the name of one of them, Arthur. If I was able to go back in time and I had to identify him in a police lineup, I would be able to point him out in a heartbeat. He had thick black hair with thick eyebrows and dark eyes. The waiters would bring my mom her coffee with cream with loads of sugar which I would sip out of sometimes. They came in these sturdy white cups and saucers with green lines around them. The burgers in Greenlanes came in wooden plates served with fried banana chips instead of french fries.
When you entered Greelanes then, the lobby would be lined with appliances like White Westinghouse refrigerators and La Germania gas ranges and stoves. These were the prizes given away to the winners of the league and my dad brought home one of those refrigerators and gas ranges together with two trophies that were taller than me. In the center of the bowling alley was a large wooden counter where you can get your shoes and your paper and acetate score sheets. Back then, scoring was done manually and you had to mark the acetate score sheet with a special kind of pencil. It was then projected onto a screen on top of the lanes. I remember that my parents would wait after the games as the final scores were tallied. They usually went on until close to midnight.
One evening I distinctly remember was when Dunkin’ Donuts opened in Manila and their first branch was in Greenhills. It was right at the corner of Ortigas Avenue and Club Filipino Avenue even before Pizza Hut opened a branch there. After bowling, my mom and I went and the donuts seemed so huge back then. The smell of frosted sugar wafted all over the place and the aircon was in full blast. Even though I’ve never been to the US, it felt like you were in the States when you walked in. The first donut I ever tried was Strawberry Frosted and we even brought home some Munchkins that were in a special glass jar.
Now I don’t know how this happened but while my parents bowled, I was able to wander around outside Greenlanes. I can’t recall if my older brothers were with me or I was with the older children of the other bowlers.
Right outside of Greenlanes was Pizza Inn. Seems strange now when you think about it because right around the corner was the very popular Shakey’s Pizza Parlor. Pizza Inn had dark colored glass on its facade and their “mascot” or logo was this guy wearing a jacket throwing and twirling a pizza up in the air. If I can remember correctly, you can actually watch as someone prepared the pizza dough from outside the restaurant. This corner spot is now occupied by Mister Donut.
Choo Choo Junction
Before turning the corner, there was Choo Choo Junction across the service road right beside the North Western Street ramp heading up to Connecticut Street. It wasn’t a railroad-themed restaurant, it was an actual restaurant INSIDE a steam train. Needless to say, it was very cramped but man, what a dining experience for a little boy. We ate there a couple of times and Choo-Choo Junction was known for their spaghetti. They even had a spaghetti dish on a sizzling dish where a raw egg would be cooked right in front of you.
When you turned the corner, there was a small Game Room before you reached Shakey’s. While they had those booths where you could play Pong and Pacman, they also had those table top games where you could play Space Invaders. Before you reached the Game Room though, there was a set of steps that led to a door that was the entrance to a bar, a club, or a disco that of course I never ventured into because I was a child. I should try to find out the name of that establishment and update this article.
Of course, Shakey’s was a destination by itself. Back then, bands would play at night (they were called “combos” during that time) and you could hear the music blaring from outside. They served beer and the waiters wore these styrofoam hats that they would give away to the kids. Back then, Shakey’s was a “pizza parlor” and it had the air of a saloon rather than a family-friendly restaurant. There was this yellow and red wallpaper all around and “Ye Olde” signs littered the place. If you were buying pizza to take home, they came in these thin white boxes and the oil would quickly seep through the flimsy cardboard. You didn’t really mind because the smell of Shakey’s thin crust pizza with cheese and garlic was simply heavenly. I remember a promotion they had where they would give away superhero masks like Superman, Spiderman, and Batman where you simply wrapped the rubber bands around your ears to wear them.
On the other end of Greenlanes was UniMart. My parents would sometimes give me money to buy a toy or snacks to keep me occupied while they played. On those nights, I would walk over to Unimart and buy myself a big bag of Jack ‘N Jill Chiz Curls or Chippy. I would eat through the whole bag until I got to the small plastic toy or sticker inside. Other nights I would go to the toy section in the supermarket. I remember buying this Batmobile once and I played with it in Unimart itself once we paid for it.
The floor right outside the line of cash registers seemed so much expansive back then and I would roll that toy car on the floor. I also remember buying a Spiderman web shooter that you can wrap around your wrist. Of course, it was nothing more than a variation of a toy gun with those mini projectiles with plastic suction cups in the end. I also remember that there was a gazebo type structure in the entrance of Unimart where you could sit to eat.
When I was 8 years old, I had to ride with my older cousins from school back to their house for a family get together. Before going home though, we passed by Greenhills first. This was the first time I was going there without my parents. My cousins were teenagers already and they went to a shop called “Funhouse” in Padilla Arcade. When people think of Greenhills, they automatically think Virra Mall, Shoppesville, and UniMart. No one seems to mention or remember the old Padilla Arcade anymore. Padilla Arcade was in between Greenlanes and Unimart. Anyway, my cousins wanted to go to this place called Funhouse. Funhouse was this new store where you could buy those items you would see in ads in comic books. Funhouse sold items that you could use to play jokes and pranks on other people like fake blood, itchy powder, stink bombs, that telescope that gave you a black eye and of course, x-ray glasses. When we got there, I saw this giant Frankenstein statue on the counter and I froze and I couldn’t go inside. On top of that, Statler (one half of those two elderly critics on the balcony in “The Muppet Show”, Statler and Waldorf) was hanging from a hangman’s noose on one side of the store. I guess those two scary images were too much for my 8 year old self and I couldn’t get myself to enter Funhouse. Back in the Toyota Hi-Ace, my cousins enjoyed their loot and they made fun of me for being such a scaredy cat.
The old Padilla Arcade was also home to Chrisareth. I read from the Dork Side that Comic Quest was actually in Padilla Arcade also but the only comic book store I remember there was Chrisareth. What I remember though is that Chrisareth was more like a row of wooden bins with old comic books rather than an actual shop or store. When comics became popular again in the 90s with the X-tinction Agenda storyline and the Infinity Gauntlet, my friends and I would go to Chrisareth to buy old issues of “New Mutants”. Chrisareth was run by this middle-aged, ponytailed dude.
Yes, believe it or not, there was a time when Ricky Reyes was the cool place to go if you wanted to get a fashionable haircut. What we could call a flagship store now of Ricky Reyes was located inside Padilla Arcade. It was P50 or P70 pesos for a haircut there before and that was considered a fortune in those days.
I actually celebrated my 8th birthday in McDonald’s Greenhills. The year before that, I celebrated it in the newly opened McDonald’s in Cubao complete with the party, the games, the giveaways, and that Ronald McDonald cake with the candle shaped like your age. When I was turning 8, we felt like I was already too old for that so I just treated my classmates to some cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes in McDonald’s Greenhills. What the Greenhills branch had though, that the Cubao branch lacked was the Play Place. I don’t recall if they already branded it as Play Place before but it was the first McDonald’s in the Philippines that had a playground.
McDonald’s Greenhills also became a favorite hangout of older students from both La Salle and Ateneo every Friday. Those older cousins of mine that I mentioned earlier would hang out there with their classmates at the end of a school week. I remember my cousin Miko Magsaysay going there once with his classmates Dino Deato, Ninoy Leyran, and Alfred Joven. I remember one time when another cousin of mine, Raymond “Bodjie” Ignacio was hanging out there with his friends. We waited for him as he stepped into Shoppesville which was across the street and when he came back, he had with a new pair of argyle socks. He told us that his classmate bought it for him.
This was also the time when it was a status symbol to be working behind the counter in McDonald’s. The teenagers who worked there spoke private school English and wore their McDonald’s uniforms, together with their braces and pimples, with pride.
Regina’s is an institution in Greenhills. This gift shop, owned and managed by Miguel Paterno, has been in the same corner location in Shoppesville for as long as I can remember. In fact, they successfully outlasted Gift Gate which was right next door. Gift Gate back then distributed Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars, KeroKeroKeropi, Zashikibuta and Lego in the Philippines. During the late 80’s, Regina’s is where you went to buy Spanish colognes like Nenuco, 23, and Denenes (which were all the rage), stationery, Trapper Keepers, magazines, comics, toys, and various other knick knacks that any budding teenager would go crazy for. I remember they even sold those popular Dragonfly badminton shoes there. We went there one time and our cousins’ friend, Dwight Dator was friends with the owner, Miguel Paterno, and he gave us a discount on our purchase.
Regina’s stands there to this day and everyday you can still see Miguel Paterno behind the counter manning the cashier. In the last 30 years, this guy has not aged one bit and still looks the same as he did in the late 80’s.
Moving on with Regina’s, one of the other integral parts of Greenhills is of course, Shoppesville. While it’s really a small building compared to the mega shopping multiplexes of today, I would still get lost in the four corners of Shoppesville. For some reason, I wouldn’t know how I would end up from one side to the next. I know there is Jonel’s in one corner near the entrance from McDonald’s where you could shop for imported sneakers like Tretorn and K-Swiss. Jonel’s was definitely one of the many shoe shopping stops in Greenhills if you came into some money during your birthday or Christmas. Nowadays, the space that Jonel’s used to occupy is now an exclusive Converse store.
Across from Jonel’s in the other corner, every kid back then would get excited at the sight of the Nova Fontana sign. Of course, Nova Fontana was one of the toy shops that had a wide assortment of He-Man, G.I. Joe, Star Wars, Thundercats, A-Team, Blackstarr action figures, Transformers robots, Barbie dolls, Tamiya RC’s, all sorts of model cars, boats, and airplanes, and even role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, I vividly remember the logo of TSR, one of the popular creators of role-playing games in the late 80s and 90s, being on the sign of Nova Fontana. It’s hard to miss when you’re going up the stairs on your way to Tickles on the 3rd floor.
On the 3rd floor of Shoppesville was Tickles. They were also a specialty gift store like Regina’s. They sold a lot of imported goods that you wouldn’t find in other stores like Snoopy items and those harlequin dolls with porcelain heads that were very popular back in the day. Girls from Poveda and ICA would frequent this store to buy stuff for school like pencil cases, notebooks, binders, and cute pens and pencils. Of course, where the girls are, the boys are sure to follow so you would see some guys from La Salle, Xavier and even Ateneo loitering outside Tickles as well.
I think Issue came a little later. I can still remember their green and orange signage. Issue was known for very affordable but trendy and stylish dresses and blouses for moms. My mom used to shop here all the time. They had bundles and stacks of clothes all over the store and while my mom would browse here, I would gladly wander over to the toy stores instead. Naturally, Issue was very successful and they opened up another store in the 3rd floor also and called it “Next Issue”. Clever, right?
I really don’t remember if this famous (or should I say “infamous”) taco stand was already called Kamico’s back in the day but it seemed like it was just a nondescript food stall before. I say infamous because the lady who operates Kamico’s is notorious for being unpleasant. She never smiles or greets the customers and she’s known to be very curt when taking your order. I think that over the years and decades, people have learned to accept this from the place. It’s in a convenient location and the greasy tacos were a quick and tasty snack to tide you over between shopping breaks. I remember when these tacos were only 15 pesos each, then they became 35 pesos, and now I think they go for 65 pesos.
Chocfull Of Nuts
Going back to the 2nd floor of Shoppesville, right near Nova Fontana is Chocfull Of Nuts, another Greenhills and Shoppesville institution. They serve an odd combination of sweet and savory food like pastries and dimsum. Shoppers have been flocking to Chocfull of Nuts for cupcakes, chocolate cake, taisan slices, siomai, asadao siopao, cuapao, and even lumpiang ubod and pork empanadas since time immemorial. If I remember right, there’s not even a place to sit here. They are all for takeout.
Shoppesville is also specially memorable to me because this is where my uncle, Roberto “Bobby” Baizas, bought me a special edition Hutch BMX Bike as a present. I was 11 years old then. During the heyday of BMX bikes in Manila, the Hutch bicycle was the most coveted in Manila. Bike shops would display it in the center of their stores and they were quite expensive. More than 3,000 pesos during that time. To put this in perspective, my first BMX bike (A red Team Fox bicycle) which we bought when I was 7 years old was only 340 pesos. Needless to say, I was the first kid in my neighborhood to ride around in a Hutch BMX bicycle. For the life of me, I can’t remember the name of this bicycle store but it was the only one in Shoppesville so any frequent Greenhills visitor would know what store I’m talking about. It was on the ground floor of Shoppesville right beside the escalator and right across House of Minis.
Le Ching Tea House
Ah Le Ching, Le Ching. Are there any words to describe your food? When I visited Manila after two years of living and working in the US, I had to go to Greenhills to eat in Le Ching again. Funnily enough, before I left for the States, Le Ching was the last place I ate in. I know that everybody talks about their Spare Ribs and Rice but I am more partial to their Beef Brisket and Rice. I would order that with a side of Hakao siomai and a cold Coca-Cola. They served their food in these aluminum bowls and you would scoop it out onto your plate. Everytime I start my meal here, I always think that there’s no way I can finish all that rice but the food is just so tasty that not a single rice grain would remain after.
I mentioned Chrisareth in Padilla Arcade earlier but really our first comic bookstore destination in Shoppesville is Comic Quest. In high school, Relly Torres, Andy Maquiling, and myself would carpool with my classmate Eddieboy Moran and almost weekly we would stop by Comic Quest to pick up his latest Batman comics. In those days in the 90s, it seemed like we would go to Filbar’s in Virra Mall for Marvel comics and Comic Quest for DC comics. I still remember the father and son team that owned and ran Comic Quest. The dad was always very serious and businesslike and it was his son that we chatted up if we wanted more information about coming issues.