Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Cebuano by Heart

FEATURE STORY - Jen F. Vega - The Freeman

When Bicol region’s most active volcano erupted in 1990, that devastated hundreds of lives and the David family was never the same again.

The head of the family Nelson was forced to end his seven-year career as a salesman of an established vacuum cleaner brand in search for a greener pasture overseas. He left his government employed wife, his two children and his homeland, Tarlac City. But the grass was not greener on the other side, after all.

Saudi Arabia was his battle ground where the desert was his concrete jungle, drilling for water under the scorching sun. For two years he was unpaid; there was no remittances to the family. But it did not crush his spirit. He continued to take what the world threw at him. Hope sprung again when a new opportunity knocked, to work in a car repair shop. But then again, he was unsalaried.

After one year, a “blessing” came when a new employer offered Mr. David an opportunity to work in his restaurant as a waiter. When he told his current employer about the job offer, the boss approved under one condition: he won’t receive his three-year pay. In desperation, he agreed to his boss’ terms. So he accepted the restaurateur’s offer despite his zero background in culinary arts or in the hospitality business.

His Chopraya Thai Pinoy Restaurant stint was his big break. He earned P100,00 per month and was able to pay all his debts back home, aside from fulfilling his fatherly duty as the provider. While enjoying the financial breakthrough, he unfortunately gave in to the lures of lottery gambling for three years. Again, he experienced another sudden twist of fate, when he was caught and imprisoned.

A good Samaritan came to his rescue after three days. The owner of The Villa Restaurant (named after the many villas of Saudi) in Riyadh took him out of prison and hired Mr. David as a waiter with a P15,000 salary. Due to a very limited budget, the overseas contract worker did not think of going home although he got homesick most of the time. “I suffered the consequences of my mistakes,” he related.

He loved his customers. In turn, the patrons gave generously tips that collectively reached P60,000 per month. He found his redemption, he thought!   Majority of his customers were Cebuanos, wealthy doctors and servants of the king.

After 20 years, he decided to go back to his roots. One of his Cebuano friends charitably handed him a huge amount for start-up money to open a restaurant in Tarlac. Ironically, he thought it was too good to believe that kind people still exist; so he splurged the money for his homecoming party, acquired a farm and invested on an LPG dealership.

One week later, he received a long distance call from his Cebuano friend who asked about business updates. That was the only time when he realized that it was not a bluff. Cebu immediately popped into Mr. David’s mind as his business address. “Hindi pa ako nakapunta ng Cebu pero convinced ako na maganda talaga ang Cebu. Marami akong naging kaibigan na customers sa Saudi na Cebuano na mababait. Sikat talaga ang Cebu sa Saudi. So, pangarap ko na talagang makapunta ng Cebu. Kahit na wala akong kilala at hindi pa ako nakapunta ng Cebu, ito talaga ang choice ko kung saan ako magtayo ng business.”

After much thought, he followed his instincts. He flew in to the Queen City of the South on April 8, 2013 with the hope of starting his own business, bringing with him his customer service expertise and his love for food.  “Nakakatawa nga na bigla nalang akong lumipad patungong Cebu. Feel ko talaga na dito talaga ako dapat magnegosyo.”

Upon arrival, he did not know where to go. The driver took him to SM City Cebu and from there he scanned the streets of Brgy. Mabolo in search of a possible location, but to no avail.

Days passed, his search took him to General Maxilom Avenue and he spotted a previous ukay-ukay shop. Deep in his heart, he knew his search was over. He approached the owner of the building but was rejected because the space was already reserved for another tenant. But he was very sure the place was intended for him, so he waited for days outside the building, hoping for a break! When the owner noticed that the ordinarily dressed Nelson David was still at the foyer even after he got rejected, she approached him and implied that he might not be able to afford the lease. When he knew the exact rental fee, he paid and the deal was sealed. Thanks to his Cebuano sponsor! This happened in May. “Pagkatapos noon, tuloy-tuloy talaga ang tulong nong kaibigan ko. Ako naman, naghanap ako ng staff sa Mango Avenue area, nagtanong sa mga nakakasalubong ko kung naghahanap sila ng trabaho. Yung iba, lumapit sa akin at humingi ng trabaho. Marami talaga ang jobless.”

After two months, he officially opened his restaurant with 15 tables. The Villa Pilipino Restaurant serves affordable Thai, Chinese and Filipino fares. He developed the menu with more than 100 choices and trained his staff.

Indeed, hope springs eternal. He was surprised how God blessed him tremendously and how He turned a bad situation into a blessing. Mr. David is also grateful to his Cebuano friend, who helped him without strings attached. He concluded: “Ang bait pala talaga ng Cebuanos; kaya nga ako ay Cebuano by heart.”

The Villa Pilipino Restaurant is located at Galeria Fuente, General Maxilom Avenue, across Security Bank. It’s open daily from 9am to 2am.


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