NOW that school is back, I’m also back to my old job of picking up my nephew Pannon from his school around 11 a.m. and then I have to rush back to my convenience store, pretending I am busy.

While waiting for my nephew to emerge from the sea of little ones, I looked around what the school canteen had to offer. It made me remember my own school boy years. Time has really passed, and I saw it marked with the snacks being sold in and out of the campus.

There were the usual ham or bacon sandwiches with a sliver of ham or bacon cleverly positioned in the outer edge of the bread to make it seem like it was full of bacon or ham. Hambug!

The same thing with the chicken sandwich, though this time, the edges of the bread were smeared with what looked like mayonnaise. The hamburger was no better, with cheese (one-fourth of one slice) peeking out of the buns. This strategy makes the product seem to have more meat than it promises.

I didn’t feel like buying the cold fried chicken, or the soul-less pinakbet, or the pansit walay sagol, or the lugaw, which was just boiled rice, thanks for asking, nga gihugawhugawan og tinadtad nga sibuyas dahunan. Sorry if I had to write that in Cebuano. Mas lami paminawon sa Cebuano bisag murag walay lami ang lugaw.

It was a welcome thing that they had soft drinks, crackers and cookies if you didn’t want the menu but I stayed away from the chocolate-colored cupcakes.

Many school canteen food selections leave much to be desired, unless the canteen is located outside the campus and then the food will be much tastier but dearer too. For example, Joy, my niece, told me there’s a very popular canteen near the Sun.Star Cebu office. The food has been rated excellent by the diners and the price is student-friendly also.

Bored with the school canteen, I stepped onto the sidewalk to check out the business there. The sweet fragrance of banana cue teased my nose. The woman making the caramelized bananas knew how to make the latik: boil the oil, then add granulated brown sugar and wait until it melts before adding the fried bananas.

Other things being sold in that small strip called the sidewalk were fried squid balls with a choice of spicy or sweet dip; siyakoy; bonwelos; salvaro (this one was made with sun-dried ground cassava, flattened into thin cakes and deep-fried) with sweet syrup for topping; masi; yellow corn kernels in a plastic cup with cheese powder; and peanuts, a choice of salted, sugar-coated or spicy.

One vendor sold a big batch of taho, giving customers a choice of traditional sauce, condensed milk or strawberry syrup. The business has really changed since I was a kid.

What attracted me most was the ice cream, popularly called “flavor of the road,” or “dirty ice cream” (not a very good name for tourism, although it gets its name from the fact that we don’t know how the ice cream was made and that it is being sold in dusty, dirty streets).

Ice cream peddlers have raised the level of their product, borrowing an idea from nationally known fast food chains that sell ice cream in a cone or cup. The ice cream or sorbetes still came in three flavors—ube, chocolate and mango—but this time they were dipped in chocolate sauce. Another vendor gave customers a choice between chocolate and strawberry coating.

Time has really passed, and all these years I have been eating my way through it, deliciously so.