Tomorrow, December 13, the master-and-mentor tandem of Marketman Joel Binamira and Chef JP Anglo will be putting their mentoring skills to the test. At the same time, they will give 11 kids from the Manila Boys Town Complex a Christmas gift that will last them a lifetime. The teens will be launching their street food cart at the Kartilya ng Katipunan Shrine, right beside the Manila City Hall, which will coincide with the city’s Christmas festivities. The group of kids, some of whom are abandoned and know no blood relations, were chosen by the shelter’s staff for their budding interest in food and entrepreneurship. Located in Marikina but operated by the Manila City government, the Boys Town Complex has almost 200 minors under its care, 30 of whom are under 6 years old.
The selling enterprise of all-time favorite Pinoy street fare turon and lumpia will be the culmination of the high school kids’ training over a period of five months, under the tutelage of the restaurateurs. Binamira is at the helm of the Zubuchon Cebu Lechon chain and Anglo is the chef behind the Bacolod inasal, Sarsa Kitchen.
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Binamira recalls the project’s beginnings, “We’ve always had a desire to do things for the community and we’ve done that before but of course this is how it works. Typically, JP calls all excited and he’s like high on caffeine and he says, ‘I have this idea. This is what I want to do. What do you think? How are we gonna do this? And by the way it’s in a week.’ And I’m like, ‘You know. Get a grip.’ And he says, ‘I’m leaving for Singapore, I’ll be back the night before.’ Right? That’s how it happens.”
Anglo says the desire to help was triggered by an article he read about Manila Mayor Isko Moreno getting kids off the street, “And I’m like, ‘Wait.’ So this kinda connected and then you guys called and then sakto, Let’s do it!”
Binamira and Anglo were participants in the ANCX video series Masters and Mentors. The episode the pair came out in was shot at the Manila Boys Town Complex, which was also the kids’ first training session. Binamira and Anglo came with ingredients in tow, and shared a lunch of lechon (of course) and lumpia and turon which they made, with the group of teens.
But the germ of the idea began even earlier, Binamira reminds Anglo. The pair hosted the program Show Me The Market on ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, which took them to markets around the country. While waiting to film in Batangas, they hung out and ate at a local gotohan. Looking around, they had the same thought: how come street food in the Philippines is not as appealing as our neighbors in Southeast Asia?
Why don’t people do something more with their goto and lugaw? “That was the beginning of it and then I think you put this together with, ‘Could we kind of help kids, guide them toward a food-related business, for example?’ And yeah. So I put structure to it but really in the end, the cooking part is JP.”
On their second training session, the kids had a field trip to the ZubuChon commissary in Bicutan to get their first hands-on experience. They started from scratch, from developing their recipes to food costing, cooking and food presentation and packaging.
“What’s really obvious is that they just need opportunities. They were really interested in what was going on,” Binamira declares at the end of the day. “I was very happy to see them in the kitchen, seeing all the different opportunities and exposure is what they need. I think they are ready; they just need to practice.” He says that in terms of the children’s willingness, there is definitely excitement. “I think we have all of that, it’s just a question of guiding them along.
Anglo’s creative juices is what he hopes the kids will imbibe, “We’re teaching them that anything is possible even though lumpia lang yon. We are showing them to think out of the box, to create something different, at the same time something relatable - lumpia - but in a different- more exciting way.”
In early December, the kids’ recipes were tested for a final time and today, they will be busy all day prepping for their debut.
Anglo gave the boys and girls a heartfelt message before they donned their aprons to roll their turon and lumpia. This is no walk in the park, he warned, “Sa pagnenegosyo, hindi lang puro kayod. Kailangan ng talino. Kailangan ng creativity at discipline.
Yung matututunan niyo dito sa exercise na ito ay magagamit nyo sa kung anumang gusto nyong gawin sa buhay o pangarap na gusto nyong ma-achieve. Ang payo sa pagnenegosyo: Kailangan huwag hihinto, tuluy-tuloy lang. Wag panghihinaan ng loob. Hindi ito madali. Magwo-work lang ito kung pagsisikapan nating gawin.
Hindi dito nagtatapos ang lahat. Simula pa lang ito. Kailangan nyo itong matutunang gawin on your own. Kailangang seryosohin nyo ito.””
It’s not just arming the kids with employable skills and giving street food an upgrade that are firing up this pair. The restaurateurs-turned-teachers-and-life coaches have loftier goals. “Like what I said to the kids, it’s not just about cooking. It’s a through and through thing, from sourcing, to cooking, to selling so that’s why you need a team effort. I was telling the kids, it’s that bond or that group or that family or that sense of belongingness,” says Anglo.
And it’s also the guidance that you get from older people. “I think if people with some skill, people with some experience just spend some time volunteering, giving some of that experience to the younger people, we’d all be better off,” Binamira says, “If you just decide to do it for five people a year then you’d start to see a huge improvement.”
Already, the two-man team is expanding. CCA, The Center for Culinary Arts, which counts Anglo as an alumnus, is assisting the food cart project by providing the cooking equipment. The school’s business development director Bea Trinidad also hopes to develop a manual so that the learnings can be replicated to other youth groups. There is talk, too, of giving culinary school scholarships for deserving kids.
Mayor Moreno who supported the project will inaugurate the street food cart tomorrow, along with his with his tourism and social welfare teams. His humble beginnings, once upon a time, scavenging for food to make a little money will definitely inspire the first time sellers.
The kids, ranging from ages 14 to 17 are already dreaming of taking a culinary course or even starting their own business. Like Anglo said, “This is just the beginning.”
Photographs by Manuel Generoso