Sunday, June 29, 2008

"He's just too fast!" -David Diaz

"I can't punch him, he's just too fast!" said David Diaz, dethroned WBC lightweight champion, of his hard-hitting opponent Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao a few minutes ago - during the break between the sixth and seventh round. The two slugged it out at the Mandalay Bay Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Thanks to my broadband internet service provider, we were able to watch here at home a live stream. Dad and a family friend went out to watch the same fight live on the bigscreen.

Manny never fails to stir passions in his audience whenever he fights. Galing!

Monday, June 09, 2008

Brazil! Serendra: A Senior-Citizen Unfriendly Churrascaria?

Today is my parent's 40th Wedding Anniversary. Dad, a retired electrical engineer, is still going strong at 71, while Mom still works part-time as a Realtor at her 62. She'll probably frown at me for revealing in public her chronological counter, but it's necessary to reveal that both of them are already senior citizens for this piece to make its point.

Fortunately and coincidentally for their celebration, Malacanang declared June 9 this year as the non-working holiday in observance of Philippine Independence Day come June 12. And with me in the middle of board exam review, our family decided to have a simple gastronomic celebration of sorts by having lunch at an eat-all-you-can restaurant.

A chinese buffet was out of the question because chinese food has become such a family favorite that we often dine out on weekends at the popular (and sometimes "secret" but delicious) chinese cuisine places. The same went for Japanese, because if dimsum was not our fare of the moment, we'd go for tempura and the like.

We wanted something relatively new, and Mom and Dad's experience with the churrascarias (Brazilian BBQ restaurants) in Houston, Texas had us decide on trying the so far only local equivalent - Brazil!, which has branches in Alabang Town Center (ATC), Metrowalk Pasig, Powerplant Mall Makati, and Serendra Fort Bonifacio. We chose the one at Serendra's The Piazza, because last night when we searched online for a nearby Southern Metro branch, ATC's branch still didn't have an internet listing.

The food was good and the service highly commendable. Friendly waiters and waitresses served us initially with bowls of warm garlic and egg soup, and guided us to the buffet counter that had four types of salads, some rice dishes, seafood pasta, a tasty sole fish fillet dish, and some dessert.

Of course the highlight of the place is the Brazilian barbecue in its different forms - grilled and tastily marinated beef tenderloin, beef brisket, pork belly, pork tenderloin, chicken legs, sausages, corn, and pineapple (yes, grilled pineapple). Very good (and filling) food, perfect for the meat-lovers in Dad and myself. Mom, not to be outdone, also sampled everything.

We were practically the only diners at the time. I thought that the holiday would bring in more guests, but maybe people would come it later tonight.

Thus we were attended to with gusto, and we were so comfortable with the place and its staff that it practically felt like eating at home. We were relating to the staff how the churrascarias in the US had more choices on their skewers, but all the same we agreed that for the first churrascaria in the Philippines, Brazil! was doing well.

Our check was closed around an hour and a half after we arrived, and Mom paid for it by credit card. As was our routine, before the bill arrived we always gave the staff Dad and Mom's valid Office of Senior Citizen Affairs (OSCA) ID cards to avail of a discount due senior citizens eating in restaurants, among other things. For the record and based on the original official receipt we have in our possession, our particular transaction was covered by OR No. 7313 Dated 6/9/2008, at Brazil! Serendra branch. The receipt says that the establishment is operated by "Rio Grande Foods Corp.", with VAT/TIN 229-996-373-004.

What I'm trying to say is that I'm not making this incident up, and I have the documents to prove it.

Pertinent in law to the transaction that took place is Republic Act No. (RA) 7432 (An Act to Maximize the Contribution of Senior Citizens to Nation Building, Grant Benefits and Special Privileges, and for other purposes) approved on April 23, 1992, as amended by RA 9257 (Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2003) approved on February 26, 2004.

The law defines a senior citizen to be "any resident citizen of the Philippines at least sixty (60) years old", and decrees for them - among other privileges - "the grant of twenty percent (20%) discount from all establishments relative to the utilization of services in hotels and similar lodging establishment, restaurants and recreation centers, and purchase of medicines in all establishments for the exclusive use or enjoyment of senior citizens, including funeral and burial services for the death of senior citizens" (emphasis supplied).

Our receipt detailed our transaction as follows (until I figure out how to optimize the faint purple ink typical of cash register tape receipts, please bear with me for not uploading an image):

Light Buffet PC 1,154.54 V
2.00 @ 577.27
Light Buffet PC 1.00 577.27 V
Royal D Can 1.00 80.00 V
Coke Light Can 1.00 80.00 V
Senior Discount -16.00
Ice Tea GLS 1.00 70.00 V
Senior Discount -14.00
Subtotal 1,931.81
Service Charge 10% 193.18
Total 2,124.99

Indulge me as I interpret the cash register's shorthand. Each one of us three ordered three buffets at P577.27 per plate. Dad got a Royal Dalandan Soda in can for his drink, Mom chose a Coke Light in can for hers, and I took a bottomless glass of Iced Tea for myself.

Everything seems to be in order as per the receipt's items, yes? Of course.

Now pay attention to how the "senior discount" was given. Recall that both Dad and Mom gave their own official OSCA-issued Senior Citizen ID Cards. The best, most commendable food establishments we've eaten in apply a single 20% discount to the entire bill regardless of whether a non-senior citizen ate with the party. Some would strictly apply a discount only to the food items visibly eaten by the senior citizen(s). Both are, in my humble opinion, okay as far as the law is concerned.

Some would not grant a senior citizen discount at all, or make it difficult to avail of the same.

Brazil! Serendra, on the other hand, discounted only the following items: Mom's can of Coke Light (P80.00, discount = P16.00) and my glass of Bottomless Iced Tea (P70.00, discount = P14.00). Thus for a gross bill of P1,931.81 exclusive of 10% service charge, only P30.00 (1.55%) was discounted.

Dad and Mom's buffet plates were not discounted, and so was Dad's can of Royal Dalandan Soda. The discounted Bottomless Iced Tea glass was not even consumed by a senior citizen! It was consumed by a 25 year-old trying to lose weight.

We found this out as we were on the way out of the mall. In Mom's disappointment, she called up the restaurant at its number (856-0671) and got to talk to an initially abrasive individual named "Noel", who later on introduced himself as the branch manager.

Mom told Noel about the above alleged infraction, and the latter called up the receipt and was overheard to bark out to someone in the room "Hindi niyo diniscountan yung senior citizens? (Didn't you give a discount to the senior citizens?)". Mom told Noel to call her back as to what the latter would think of as a solution.

Still no call up to this time.

I pity the courteous and friendly floor staff who attended to us that they have to work in a restaurant that, by the above account, may not be senior-citizen friendly. Perhaps someone in authority or with considerable influence should look into this.

Why be bothered? Because my Mom and Dad could might as well be your own parents, or grandparents/loved ones unjustifiably not given the twenty percent discount due them by law.

In our particular case, Mom and Dad should have received discounts in the amount of P131.45 each. In other well-meaning establishments who do follow the law to the letter, we would have done a habit that my Mom and Dad formed in gratitude to the law's compassion for their age. We would have given half of what we would get as a senior discount to the staff as a tip.

What a shame in Brazil! Serendra's case.