Order $60 worth of Filipino favorites to go at Max's of Manila in Glendale on Saturday and you get to take home a special "knockout treat:" a free, family-size, deep-fried pork leg called a crispy pata. But make plans to sit down at Max's that night for sisig or kare kare and you're likely to find the lights off and the front door locked.
There's really no point for a Filipino restaurant to stay open when Manny Pacquiao is fighting, says host Noly Bautista — unless it is planning to screen the pay-per-view fight in HD. When the pride of the Philippines faces Floyd Mayweather, well, forget about it. Closing time will be three or four hours earlier than usual.
In the Philippines, when Pacquiao enters the ring, "it is like a holiday, even the president is going to watch," Bautista said. For Filipinos here, it's not much different.
Pacquiao is his country's biggest star — not just a boxer but a basketball player, movie actor, congressman and good Samaritan.
"He's a Christian and he's a helping heart," said Bautista, who left Manila seven years ago to try his luck in the United States. He plans to gather with at least 20 friends and family members to feast and watch the fight Saturday night.
Most cable and satellite TV companies are charging customers who want to get the match at home about $100. If that sounds steep, it's really not if you use Filipino math, said one employee at Seafood City Supermarket in Eagle Rock Plaza who asked that his name not be used because he was on the clock.
"For Filipinos generally, it's not one household paying," he said. "Whoever has the biggest TV, the biggest kitchen, the biggest living room — everyone's going to converge there to watch."
It's also an excuse to gather and to cook and eat a lot, so Seafood City expects a run on such favorites as pork belly and spare ribs.
"It's going to be crazy here. Mangoes will be flying off the roof," he said.
Seafood City — which promises "True Filipino Goodness" — is a food emporium for the homesick. On display at the ends of the aisles near the cash registers this week were neat rows of bottled banana ketchup, cans of coconut milk and bags of noodles known as pancit bihon.
Some now call Eagle Rock Plaza the "mall of Manila" because of its many Filipino shops, including fast-food, a bakery and multiple companies offering flights and money services.
At the kiosks outside the supermarket, Pinoy Blockbuster pitched Filipino programming on DIRECTV. Go Phone-Card Outlet, which sells Philippines-focused SIM cards and phone packages, was hawking a T-shirt with a photo of a bare-chested, fierce-looking Pacquiao above the words Laban Para Sa Pinoy or, roughly, "fight for the Filipino people." The shirt was free with the purchase of a monthly calling plan.
While munching on Chickenjoy fried chicken at Jollibee or purple yam-filled pastries at Leelin Bakery & Cafe, shoppers perused a variety of free Filipino American newspapers featuring plentiful Pacquiao news. In the Asian Journal's commemorative issue, "The Fight of the Century: Pacquiao vs. Mayweather," they could find an exclusive interview with the Filipino dentist who'd made Pacquiao a special mouth guard in the red, white, blue and yellow of the Philippine flag.
Many businesses had taken out ads in support of their champ: "All for His Glory, We are Praying for you!" from a Burbank real estate company; "We are praying for your victory, Manny!" from a Panorama City doctor's office; "Godspeed, Manny!" from Leelin, in a half-page tribute.
Leelin was the first of many stops Joey Nodalo planned to make to prepare for the fight.
He had driven from Visalia, where he runs a restaurant called BFF, as in "Best Filipino Food." He had so many orders for the big event, he said, that he had to come south for supplies.
At the bakery, Nodalo was getting rolls of embutido, a Filipino meatloaf. He had to fetch fish too, and many, many Manila mangoes.
All the trouble was worth it, he said, because whenever Pacquiao fights, "it's the one time we're doing good, we're earning."
There was another fight-night benefit: He had multiple viewing invitations from his customers.