Cecil Delgado, Michael Aznar and Michael Baclay found their dream job at an exclusive airport lounge in New Jersey, years after leaving their abusive employer in Florida back in 2011.
But when the coronavirus health crisis struck the US last March, the pandemic lockdowns sent all three of them on furlough.
"For 2 months, we were not doing anything. Nag-close 'yung lounge, so we were just sitting here doing nothing, chilling. So one time naggawa kami ng inasal, that’s my favorite, so pinost namin sa Facebook,” Delgado said.
Little did they know that one Facebook post gone viral could turn their pandemic life around with a little help from Uncle Sam.
“Sabi ko kay Mike, bakit hindi tayo magnegosyo ng inasal, pag weekend, sabi ko. Habang we’re not doing anything, tapos you’re getting all these money from the government, sabi ko why not invest it into something na magroll yung pera ba," said Delgado.
So, with their combined stimulus money and unemployment checks from the federal government, the enterprising friends started their own food delivery business called Inasal Central in Jersey City, serving the popular Filipino-style grilled chicken.
Aznar made sure he makes the perfect grilled chicken inasal and Filipino pork barbecues every weekend while Delgado took on the role of making java rice and packing each meal ready for delivery.
To complete each meal, Baclay adds ice cold gulaman and sago before delivery.
“During the lockdown, aside from doing the business, I think we’re helping the community too, kasi naka-lockdown din sila, kami na lang yung may delivery service, yung mga restaurant puro curbside pick up di ba," Aznar said.
In their first weekend of operation alone, Inasal Central sold more than 80 orders of chicken inasal meals. The following weekend, the team added another Filipino favorite -- pork sisig and pork barbecue -- and their catering business grew, selling more than 100 orders every weekend.
"Minsan akala ng mga tao wala nang pag-asa during the COVID. Meron pala talagang hope na kahit anong mangyari pala basta madiskarte ka, or magaling ka, kailangan kmo kumita ng pera, gagawa at gagawa ka ng paraan kahit pandemic," said Aznar.