I have just one major regret from my college days at the Ateneo de Manila -- I was there in the pre-Manang days.
But I have since made up for that loss by landing a part time teaching job at my old department, thus bringing me within close proximity of Manang's for a total of 16 weeks a year.
Yes, while teaching does bring me a lot of joy, this is nothing compared to being able to indulge in inihaw na liempo and fried pork chop every Saturday.
Manang's actually started out as a small carinderia near the Ateneo Blue Eagle gym -- catering to the guards and maintenance men.
Eventually, the teachers first discovered it and then most everyone did and soon, it moved out of obscurity and into mainstream university fame.
Manang's is located right beside the tennis and covered courts.
There's a line for the inihaw na liempo, pork chop and lechon kawali and students, teachers and staff know that if you go too late, you'll miss out.
What makes the liempo so good? Probably a secret marinade that only Manang knows. It's also cut perfectly -- not too thin and not too thick -- just right and always perfectly charred and cooked.
I haven't cracked it yet -- but I think Manang uses soy sauce, vinegar, maybe some Sprite because it has a tangy, sweetish taste.
Aside from the liempo, I know friends who think the pork chop is the better order. I like it too -- it's lightly breaded, deep fried and juicy.
When no one is looking, I eat the pork chop fat, which is so well cooked, it melts in the mouth.
There's a formula that Ateneans swear is the best way to enjoy the liempo or the pork chop -- one order, doused in the vinegar that's loaded with garlic and onions, plus a cup (and a half, if you're male) of hot rice and Mountain Dew on the side. All this for under P100.
Manang's has very student friendly prices -- the best inihaw na liempo on the planet is only P49 an order. Up by just P9 since I started teaching, 10 years ago.
Every Saturday, from November to March, I have my fill of Manang's.
I make sure I place my take home order before I go to class, just when Manang starts to fire up the charcoal grill.
Sometimes, I sit and have breakfast since early birds find early goodies -- tocino, daing na bangus, dinuguan, pancit bihon, paksiw na isda -- that's a formidable buffet of home cooked choices.
Then I pick up my stash for the week just as class ends at noon.
Because I'm such a loyal and favored customer, Manang also puts aside some of her crisp, crunchy lumpiang togue as a bonus for all the liempo and pork chop that I order.
As I'm writing this post in April, my season for liempo has ended and I have to content myself with waiting till class starts again in November!