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Some months back, I was suddenly summoned to Cebu, that sun-drenched island in the Visayas. Those who summoned me were kind enough to billet me at the Marriott in Cebu Business Park for an overnight stay.

I arrived close to 8PM, and after concluding a meeting with a lawyer (night time powwows with lawyers are so nerve wracking), I was bone-tired. I nixed plans of going out to dinner and decided to just order room service. A quick browse through the hotel menu led me to a familiar noodle dish, and I phoned in an order for Phad Thai.

What arrived was a doughy, tomato-soaked noodle dish that bore very little resemblance to Phad Thai. There were exactly three pieces of shrimp. There were vestiges of what could have been pork strips, had they been substantial enough to be savored. There were plenty of egg omelette strips and spring onions, but they were not able to salvage this dish. I put in a lot of the crushed peanuts in the hopes of making it more palatable (think texture), but sadly, the sweetish tomato sauce was so overpowering it made me dizzy.

Such a sad meal, and this was the Marriott. It should be hard to make a bad Phad Thai, considering that this is Cebu and the fresh ingredients for the dish (shrimp, vegetables, spices) are plentiful and cheap.

Maybe I should have gone out after all.

For the most part though, in the six years I spent in Cebu, I had a lot of good (often fantastic) food, so this was just one of the very few disappointments. The Marriott somewhat made up for it the next day with a terrific spread at the breakfast buffet, so I didn’t lose all faith.