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  • Writer's pictureArmand

Ronald and Ronnie: A Deep Friendship Forged Through a Shared Journey (Part 2)

Ronald didn’t know Joel Torre personally but was referred by his aunt, a friend of the actor. He was hired as a dishwasher, his first job fresh out of college. While he was excited to start this new chapter in his life, the people closest to him were not as enthusiastic. Two decades later, Ronald still felt the sting of his father’s words. With a pained look on his face, he shared what his father had said: “Bakit dyan ka sa ihaw-ihaw lang?” This sentiment was shared by the dean at La Consolacion College, whom Ronald looked up to as a mentor. He recalls that dean even reached out to him, not once but twice, to offer him a teaching job at the college. The young man, however, stuck to his decision and would later be vindicated.

It was more personal for Ronnie as he and the actor were already friends, and he was the latter’s choice to man the grill at the new food venture. Heaven has finally answered Ronnie’s prayers. Being friends with Joel Torre mattered to Ronnie, not so much because Torre was a movie star, but because the friendship is authentic. Already a famous actor, Torre would still visit Ronnie and hang out at his modest home. There was one time that he didn’t have to open his barbecue stall because Torre had consumed and paid for his entire inventory for the day while having a few drinks at his house.

Torre also knew how close Ronnie was to his mother. If Ronnie was to join his food venture in Manila, it would mean that for the first time their lives, mother and son would be apart from each other. He didn’t have to, but Torre went out of his way to talk to the mother and ask for her blessing to take her son to Manila. “Parang namanhikan,” recalls a visibly amused Ronnie.

Aboard the ship bound for Manila, Ronnie was moved to tears as the reality hit – his mother would be left alone in Bacolod City. They would be reunited several years later when she became ill. Torre immediately decided to have her brought to Manila for medical treatment and shouldered the costs. She died of breast cancer in 2007.

Ronald and Ronnie’s first day at work was on Labor Day of 2003, part of an entire staff complement of six. It would turn out to be their baptism of fire. To mark the soft opening of JT’s Manukan Grille at Granada St., couple Joel and Cristy Torre would be hosting lunch for invited guests. Based on the schedule, the staff would probably be done by mid-afternoon at the latest. They started work at 7:00 am. Everything was on schedule and lunch was served. There were latecomers but that was expected, so the work continued. So far, so good.

Fast forward several hours later, it was already sundown and people were still arriving. Lunch had turned to dinner. The staff was falling behind and was in danger of getting overwhelmed. Joel and Cristy, as well as his brother-in-law, joined the line, cooking and grilling alongside the staff. By the evening of the first day of JT’s Manukan Grille, it was operating with “all hands on deck,” including the owners. Everything seemed like a blur, then the pace eventually started to wind down and wrapped up past midnight.

(To Be Continued)

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