Chinese restaurants are family places. It is a mistake to go there for an early lunch on Sunday morning if it is near a mall or a church--especially if masses are celebrated inside the malls--if you are not attending the post-christening party of Baby Atari Gabriel, a Filipino family looking for old favorites, or a Chinoy family just happy to let someone else do the cooking for today. If you are instead, say, a girl who sees her own family maybe two or three times a year, or, say, a boy whose family has not been up to going out as a unit for a while now, then you had better suffer your craving for good dimsum and go elsewhere.
Or, you can order your potstickers, chicken-and-salted-fish fried rice, and salt-and-pepper spare ribs and try to pretend you don't see the teenager handing his cell phone to his lola with a laugh, or the preschooler trying to be prim with her noodles, or the middle-aged dad wanting to get away from the in-laws already, or the cordoned-off tables with their balloon centerpieces waiting to be grabbed by stubby, sticky hands, surrounded by ninongs, ninangs, yayas, cousins, titas, titos, and all the rest, while you eat quietly, because the air belongs to the chattering of the sisters at the table next to yours.
Even if you are full to bursting and need to sit awhile to settle your stomach, you had better call for the bill and make room for the party of five--"high chair, please"--waiting by the door.
Somehow you grew up believing that this is the problem of other people--people who live in shantytowns and tenements; people who sob on the early morning TV and AM radio shows to knock on our hearts for help; people who drive cabs, wait tables, and work five-month contracts under the harsh lights of the department stores. Somehow, you just believed that this kind of thing didn't happen to people you know. People you love.
Worst of all, you grew up believing that you, with all the opportunity your background and education provided, would be able to do something about it.