At the corner of Scout Lozano and Tomas Morato in Quezon City is “Ngongis,” a small resto-bar standing amidst a sea of international brand names and popular hotspots. “Ngongis” sounds like something straight out of someone with a speech defect, and this is where the story gets deeper.
“Ngongis” hires workers with cleft lip and palate (we know them better by their Filipino names “bingot” or “ngongo”). They take your orders, cook and serve meals, and clean customers’ tables, among others. They converse with you in their most cheerful, most natural selves, “ngongo” voices and all.
Yes, it’s a restaurant with “ngongo” people, but this is not comedy material, as the name of the restaurant implies. The whole point of “Ngongis” is that it’s an establishment where people with cleft lip and palate may work, mingle, and enjoy themselves there without fear of ridicule.
People with cleft lip and palate are just competent or talented as others without congenital defects. It’s just that we’ve been raised to make fun of people born with such conditions. This tendency to ridicule them extends to society, which deals a painful blow to their self-esteem and confidence. Their looks alone barely eligible to get jobs in places that judge people by looks.
“Ngongis” pays homage to these individuals the moment you read the menu. Every item is read the way a “ngongo” would say it.
Funny names aside, the dishes served here are at par with most watering holes in the area. Among their best sellers are the Mork Hishig, Mork Iyempo, Ishnim Inapiya, Miyeded Mork Chop, Maffalo Wings, and the Ngarlik Niyays.
Sometimes one may find live bands performing on weekends or holding events. Customers are also invited to sing along or jam in these gigs.
“Ngongo” speech may be comedy material, but not at “Ngongis”, where people with speech defects are empowered to become skillful members of the food and service industry. It’s a place with good food, refreshing drinks, great service, and a reminder that everyone has a role and place to contribute in society, even the “ngongo”-sounding ones.