Of nostalgia and second chances 

Published June 24, 2022, 12:02 AM

by Johannes Chua


Johannes Chua

With a single tweet from a netizen wondering why there was no one with him in that Tropical Hut branch, the fate of that fast food chain changed course overnight.  Photos and video clips now show long lines and crowded dining areas, forcing it to have a “good” problem when it recently announced this post online, “Thank you for your overwhelming support. Some items are low in stock but we will serve your order as soon as our stocks are replenished.”

This is not an endorsement but I have always loved Tropical Hut’s products ever since I was young. It was my go-to meal, delivered at my doorsteps during the pandemic. And in some ways, I always appreciated its “consistency” — the taste of its burgers never changed, the ingredients of its spaghetti remained the same, and its fried chicken cut stayed large even when its competitors started inflating the prices of their shrinking chicken pieces.

The seemingly overwhelming response to Tropical Hut these days can also be attributed to “nostalgia.” Suddenly, everyone has a story related to the brand, remembering years (or decades) back when they were dining there with their grandparents, or enjoying a lunchtime break with schoolmates. People suddenly remember that this was part of a distant past, in a time that seemed simpler, without the rush of 24/7 news and non-stop alerts from social media platforms. That was the time when we could just eat a good meal without the need to take any food photos for our Instagram feed; that was when we could really talk to our lunch mates, without the need to constantly check our smartphones. And sometimes, we miss those days, especially for the generations who grew up not “distracted” by the internet.

Liwayway June 2022 issue

It is also in the same vein of “nostalgia” that the June 2022 issue of Liwayway was welcomed by the public. After a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the Manila Bulletin management decided that it was time to revive the print edition of the magazine, which is, in my knowledge, the longest running in the country (it also unfailingly published issues no matter if there was a war, change in governments, economic crises, etc.). Liwayway, launched in November of 1922, is also the only remaining magazine of its kind, publishing literature and comics in the Filipino language. It is quite sad, ironic too, that a country that purports itself as a “culturally-inclined” one only has a single literary magazine in Filipino.

With the launch of the print edition of Liwayway, netizens felt the nostalgia, sharing with the Liwayway team their stories on how it encouraged them to read at a young age, how they recall their lolos or lolas reading a copy of Liwayway during the weekends, how stories and poems published by the magazine became part of their homeworks and school projects. Perhaps, they also missed the days when reading was the act of holding paper between the fingers; and that reading was a “sacred” experience between you and the text, without the distraction of YouTube, Netflix, or TikTok videos. By the way, scientific studies show that reading from paper (as opposed to reading from a screen) has benefits as information can be better retained by the brain. With the madness and rush these days, we sometimes yearn for quiet moments when we can enter the world of a book, and savor each word like manna from heaven.

Nostalgia, as presented by heritage brands such as Tropical Hut and Liwayway Magazine, can be a selling point. But there’s no use reminiscing and thinking about the past years if we don’t live in the present to support Filipino brands such as these. Prior to Tropical Hut’s turnaround, it was slowly closing its branches due to low sales. The support that Filipinos have shown to the brand recently has breathed new life into it and may possibly help the fast food chain expand, open more branches, or even innovate to adapt to the times.

Ditto with Liwayway. Every support that it can get (through advertising and subscription) will mean continuation of the printed issue in the coming months and years. A support to Liwayway also means supporting young talented Filipino writers, poets, artists, and cartoonists as each page of the magazine is an “encouraging platform” to start their creative journey.

In this time of crisis due to skyrocketing fuel prices, let us continue to support Filipino brands, Filipino artisans, Filipino businesses, and Filipino creators. I sincerely hope that we support not only with words or posts on social media but with the generosity of our pockets.  Nostalgia is nice, but your cash will definitely be of greater help.

(Johannes L. Chua is the editor of Liwayway Magazine.)