Let’s eat in Cabuyao

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
Letâs eat in Cabuyao
Cabuyao City Mayor Mel Gecolea (second from left) leads the opening of Cabuyao Food Park with (from left) Cabuyao City Cooperative and Livelihood Development officer Kiyie Bueno, Waltermart district manager Phillip Cristobal, DTI provincial director Clarke Nebrao, Waltermart mall supervisor Angela Dela Cruz, DTI regional director Marilou Toledo, Cabuyao City councilor JC Entredicho and Vice Mayor Leif Opiña.

I am always proud of my hometown Cabuyao. Every opportunity or occasion I get, I celebrate the city.

My first pat-on-the-back experience as a published writer happened after I won a short story competition in Grade 4. My story “Pasko ng mga Bata sa Negros” won first prize and got published in Gintong Batingaw, then the gazette of the municipality.

Miss Zenaida Lorenzo, my class adviser in Gulod Elementary School, picked me to join the contest participated in by students in Cabuyao. It was — and still is — big for me to win in that writing competition. At 10 years old, I already knew I would become a writer in the future. I always look back to the juvenile joy that moment gave me.

Another person outside my family who believed I could reach for the stars was the late businessman Jun Alimagno, who eventually became the mayor of Cabuyao. I was a dreamer who wanted to go to a private high school but my parents did not have the P50 needed for my monthly tuition fee. Tito Jun took a chance on me and made me his scholar. That paved the way for my quality education.

Tito Jun and his entire family eventually became my friends. When he was still alive, he told me to be always proud of my hometown — and to be there to help in the progress of Cabuyao. He was a visionary.

Cafe de Cabuyao, from the city’s upland community in Casile, has set its mark among coffee lovers with its distinct taste and aroma. The brand was dubbed as the seventh best coffee during the 2018 National Cupping Competition.

Once, I joined him to Matang Tubig, a waterfall in Casile, a scenic, highland barrio of Cabuyao. It was summertime but the weather was nippy. The barrio was next to Tagaytay Highlands. We were served the local coffee. Tito Jun told me Casile coffee would one day earn prominence.

I thought of him when I had my coffee fix the other night at the Cabuyao Food Park. It was Casile coffee I was sipping. (My COVID journey last July has changed my taste buds so that the non-coffee drinker in me is now enjoying the smell and taste of robusta or arabica. But I’m still no coffee expert.)

The coffee from Casile (now known in the area as Cafe de Cabuyao) is one of the offerings at the Cabuyao Food Park, a popular outdoor food hub at the open grounds of the city’s Waltermart. There are 15 vendors so far selling local delicacies aside from coffee — from coco jam to Christmas food items to other gourmet delicacies from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday to Sunday. The food park, with selling spaces exclusive only to residents of Cabuyao for P250 a day, will operate until end of the month but this early there’s a request to keep the food park running until February next year. It’s a four-year-old endeavor, à la mercato. It’s festive. Even in the time of the pandemic. It halted operations last year because of the threat of the virus.

“Cabuyao Food Park reopens to help local entrepreneurs recover amidst the pandemic,” said Cabuyao City Mayor Mel Gecolea.

“The reopening of the city’s popular outdoor food hub last Friday was welcomed with thrill and excitement as it satisfies the palate of the public and seeks to help local vendors and producers bounce back from the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic,” said Kiyie Bueno, city cooperative and livelihood development officer and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Negosyo Center coordinator.

The al fresco setting is perfect for locals who want to experience the joy of dining out again, hopefully without worrying about the risks of COVID-19. The food park project strictly follows health and safety protocols such as temperature checks, maintenance of proper social distancing, control of crowd capacity, health declaration QR codes, foot baths, hand sanitizers, and placement of markers and signs.

Gecolea and Bueno were joined in the ribbon-cutting ceremony by DTI regional director Marilou Toledo and provincial director Clarke Nebrao, with Cabuyao City Vice Mayor Leif Opiña, city councilor JC Entredicho, and GO Cabuyao Volunteer Alexis Alimagno.

Gecolea said, “We need to underscore the importance of striking a balance between saving people’s health and saving the economy. The local government shall serve as the venue to entrepreneurial progress and shall create the demand whenever necessary. At the same time, we have to bring back the confidence and ensure the health and safety of our constituents.”

The food park, according to Gecolea, is part of the Gawa ng Cabuyeño Project (GNC), which is in charge of the accreditation of local products and institutionalization of the “Tangkilikin ang Sariling Atin” effort of the city government. Part of the grand plan, he said, is to prioritize GNC-accredited products and entrepreneurs for trade fairs and similar opportunities including free and continuing trainings for the entrepreneurs in terms of market matching and linkage services, product development and the like.

An up-and-coming local coffee mobile store, Cafe Fino, joins the Cabuyao Food Park.

The food park is proof that the economy is slowly opening up as it inspires residents with an entrepreneurial spirit to do business again. It is also a place where people bump into those they have not seen for a long time because of the limitations caused by the virus.

That night at the Cabuyao Food Park, while nursing a glass of Cafe Cabuyao, I was lounging in gratitude and pride. I remember the short story that opened my eyes to becoming a writer at the age of 10. I remember the kindness of Tito Jun. I remember many joyful memories.

I left the food park happy. The once-sleepy town of Cabuyao is now awake.

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)


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