MANILA, Philippines – Not being able to read and write did not stop a Filipina housewife in Lipa, Batangas from pursuing her dream of providing a better life for her children.
Natalia To is the woman behind the success of Lipa City Panciteria, a three-decades old noodle house in Batangas known for its “lomi.”
To grew up in Cagayan Valley with six siblings, and was forced to sell food at an early age to help support her younger brothers and sisters.
While her siblings were at school, To said she would help her mother cook at home and sell the finished products during breaks.
“Hindi ako nagsusulat, hindi din ako nagbabasa…N agsisi nga ako na hindi ako nakapag-aral, lahat ng mga kapatid ko nakapag-aral,” she told “My Puhunan.”
As early as then, To would dream of having her own restaurant someday.
But her dreams were put on hold when she married her husband, To Kim Eng, who was fond of playing mahjong.
Opportunity came when during one of the mahjong sessions, her husband cooked lomi to serve their guests.
The authentic lomi recipe became a favorite in the neighborhood, and it didn’t take long for the couple to put up the first lomi house in Lipa.
Lipa City Panciteria
From just one table, To and her husband’s food business grew. When To’s husband passed away, she continued to run the business, from the buying of ingredients to the cooking.
“Nagtagumpay ako sa sipag ko. Kung hindi ako masipag eh ‘di wala din. May mga iba kahit may kaya gusto lang ako kumain at mag-utos. Ako hindi, talagang nag-tiyaga ako,” she said.
To’s children are now helping in the business, which spawned another noodle house, Lomi King, in Lipa.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa Panginoon at naawa din sa akin at tinulungan niya ako. Walang wala ako dati talaga, naiiyak ako kapag naaalala ko dati talagang wala. Kahit pambili ng gatas ng anak ko wala, binibigyan lang ako ng mga kapatid ko,” she said.