A waiter's tableside manners usually determine whether it's going to be feast or famine for him at the end of his shift. In Bobit Consigna's case, good waitering skills brought what he considers the best tip ever.
He was working at Melo's Restaurant when in walked Urma Chiongbian and friends one day. They sat at a table in Bobit's station. Patrons can usually expect a waiter to nestle so many dishes in his arms but not in his mind so Urma was skeptical when Bobit got their orders without writing them down. To her surprise he came back with everything they asked for.
Bobit was away from his station when Urma and company, no doubt impressed by his service, left him P100. Upon seeing his tip- a hefty sum in 1992 or any year, for that matter if you're in dire straits - Bobit raced to the parking lot after the group to thank them.
What makes Bobit different from other waiters? Where some waiters would make you miserable by disappearing after serving your food and reappearing only when it's time to give you the bill. Bobit hangs around his station, ever alert for a raised hand or an empty glass. Where other waiters are too solicitous and obviously angling for a good tip. Bobit is natural. He's helpfully efficient and makes his guests feel they're in good hands. In other words, he doesn't look like someone you'd suspect for spitting in your bouillabaisse.
No wonder the next time Urma came to the restaurant she specifically requested to be waited on by Bobit. In the course of the meal, she happened to ask where Bobit was going to school, having noticed that he was too young to be done with college. Bobit said he was still trying to save up for his tuition. Urma told him she might be able to help.
Other people who liked Bobit's service made similar offers before but he never took them seriously. He knew people said things without meaning them. This time, however, Bobit felt differently.
At home, Urma told her husband and children about this nice and hardworking waiter who deserved a break and how she hoped he could get a scholarship. " Let me do it Mom," said her eldest daughter Analisa, who was then still an Ateneo student majoring in Psychology and painting as a hobby. She didn't have a job and had no intentions of selling her paintings,but she figured she could afford to send the waiter to college with the cash gifts she usually got on her birthday, Christmas and other holidays plus her savings from her allowances, money she would otherwise just squander on things she could do without.
The next time Urma dined at Melo's she told Bobit her daughter Ana would like to give him a scholarship. When Bobit met Ana at the Chiongbian home in Urdaneta Village, he realized she was only 19 years old. He couldn't understand why someone so young would want to spend her money on him.
And she wasn't giving him just a budget-meal kind of scholarship either. Bobit got what was comparable to a full-course meal: tuition, books and allowance. This enabled Bobit to quit work and devote his full attention to the Hotel and Restaurant Management course he chose to major in at the University of Perpetual Help in Las Piñas. Thanks to Ana's generosity, he began to live the dream he had been dreaming since he left his hometown of Maasin in Surigao del Norte.
The youngest of four children of Eleuterio Consigna and Salud Espino, Bobit recalls a childhood of planting camote, gabi and bananas while his parents eked out a living as copra sharecroppers. "We had a hard life," he says but remembers that their poverty also allowed for joyous rides in bancas and frolics in the cool waters of Surigao's beaches.
His parents were so poor to send him to high school after sixth grade. Bobit was eventually hired as houseboy and store helper by the kobrahan's owner who, fortunately, allowed him to attend classes at Dapaan National High School. Upon graduation, he left Surigao and headed for Las Piñas to live with his older brother Weven, who was working as a waiter at Melo's in Greenbelt. After training as a waiter at the same restaurant, Bobit was dispatched to the Greenhills branch where fate intervened when Ana's mother showed up one day.
From 1992 to 1996, says Bobit, "I called Ana whenever I needed money for school. Not one did she look for receipts or ask about where all the money went. She completely trusted me." That might be because he presented her with good grades after every semester.
Bobit estimates that Ana spent P125,000 for his four years in college. But Ana gave more than money. "She gave me encouragement whenever I had problems," says Bobit. "She knew I had trouble with math and that I did very well in the practical courses."
Ana didn't make it to his graduation so Bobit made a special trip to her house to present his Award of Excellence in Food and Beverage and various prizes won in hotel and restaurant competitions, such as Chefs on Parade's table setting and waiter relay contests.
Getting a Job
After Bobit's graduation, he stayed in touch with the Chiongbians. He let them know when he and his HRM classmate and steady date for three years, Evelyn Francisco, decided to get married. Ever his fairy godmother, Ana lent him her Honda to use as a wedding car.
A prestigious party shop recruited him as waiter right after college. After a couple of months, he moved to Flavours and Spices in Ortigas. In three months he became acting assistant dining supervisor. Now the name pin on his chest doesn't have the word "acting." He works everyday except Mondays, from 9:30 am to 10 pm, with a three-hour break in-between.
In early November, last year, Bobit's father passed away after two years of battling with intestinal cancer. When Bobit called the Chiongbians to share the sad news, he was told that they had been trying to contact him to inform him that Ana died in late October of dengue fever. She was only 24.
Bobit recalls being extremely shocked. And then, he says, he began to understand why at an age when Ana should have preoccupied herself with clothes, friends and having fun, when she should have been carefree and clueless, she took on the serious responsibility of paying for a poor man's education. "It was as if she knew she wouldn't have time later for doing the good things," says Bobit.
Praying for Ana is helping him to accept her death. Still, he wishes Ana were around to see his son Kyle Brennan, who was born November. When Ana's paintings were recently put on exhibit at the Ayala Museum, Bobit took time off from work to attend the opening with his wife. The bright colors of Ana's paintings, he says, reminded him of her.
Bobit keeps in mind what Ana used to say to him. "You don't have to pay me back. Just send someone poor to college when you can afford it." He hopes to do just that someday in honor of Ana.
Message from the webmaster:
I have had the privelege of personally knowing this wonderful example of a person. Ana had a presence that stood out even in a crowd. The first time I saw her was in a crowd of people rushing to class. There was something that draws you to her, telling you that this was a person that you have to know. She wasn't one of those who wore flashy clothes but I guess her inner beauty was such that it was overflowing and greatly increased her already attractive appearance. She was a delight to be with. When you were with her, you were never bored, sad or tired. She made you feel like you were receiving sunshine on a cloudy day.
I even had the pleasure of receiving her phone number which was written on a piece of bond paper that had her drawings of spirals. It was a such a unique work of art that I treasured it and still have it with me.
I, too, was shocked to tears by my batchmate's death. The thought of her ever-smiling face and joyful laugh will always be remembered. Ana Chiongbian is an inspiration and a model. I hope that this story inspires others to love and trust as she did.
God bless you, Ana.
Ang mga laman dito ay padala o may pahintulot ng may gawa o may-ari. Bawal ang mangopya ng walang pahintulot.