916 E. 8th Street, National City
It's the one thing you think about, down here in Little Manila. In the restaurants, the TVs are tuned to TFC, The Filipino Channel. Telethons are going on between soap operas, reports are coming back from Cebu,
Leyte, Samar. Figures are being slapped up on screens. "Does your family need urgent help in the Philippines? 71% no; 29% yes."
Wow. That means that one in three families here have relatives who are desperate back in the Philippines.
"We are lucky," says Sol. She's peeling and slicing fresh cloves of garlic at the table next to where I'm eating my pig's blood and pork. Dinaguan. "Our family is from Manila. It wasn't hit. But my husband's coworker, six died in his family."
"But everybody wants to go back and help," says Marvin. He works for a refrigerator company. Dad was a Filipino recruit in the US Navy. Marvin stopped in here for lunch.
Sol says this has been going since 1984. "It's called 'Point-Point Joint' because that's what you do. Stand in front of the chafing dishes and point."
I see in Tagalog, the Filipino language, this place is called "Turo-Turo."
"That means 'Point-Point' in Tagalog, our language," says Sol.
Whatever, I feel a bit guilty, hogging into this three-plate meal while tens of thousands are starving in P.I.
But have to say, this dinaguan, is truly delicious. Interesting, in a good way. It's part of my $8 combo dish of menudo (Filipino style, meaning more like a pork stew than a watery soup with stomach lining Mexican-style), noodles with veggies, the bowl of black dinaguan, rice, and a tangy sour soup powered by the tamarind plant.
Oh, and I get a glass of cantaloupe juice too. So refreshing. Strips of melon slim enough to sluice up your straw. I could have had coconut or gulaman (sago).
The menudo's a nice, Irish stew, almost. Kinda sweet taste in there.
Actually, though, the dinaguan is by far the most interesting dish.
Deep, rich, almost chocolatey taste. Bit like mole poblano. Yes, you worry for a moment about getting, say, mad cow disease from the blood.
But then taste takes over, and yes, the TV takes over. You realize your worries ain't nothing in the face of the hell people over on the TV screens are living.