MANILA -- When the COVID-19 outbreak in March brought the nation's economic and social activities to a near standstill, Filipinos turned to the digital landscape to cope with the stringent lockdown. With most stores closed and mobility limited, buy-and-sell Facebook groups within villages and neighborhoods emerged as a grassroots response to the crisis.
Not only have these online communities filled the gaps brought by the onslaught of the new coronavirus, they also served as a thriving platform for Filipinos hoping to earn extra cash during the pandemic.
While some took advantage of the growing trends such as sushi bake, cheese donut, and ube pandesal, the Mangaoang siblings -- 27-year-old Quentin, 20-year-old Quasar and 19-year-old Quorin -- pursued entrepreneurialism by selling their favorite dish: their mother’s no-fry crispy pata.
“We decided to try selling our mom’s signature ulam in the FB group of our village in May... It is our go-to food for celebrations and gatherings for years,” Quentin recalled.
“It became one of the fastest-selling food items in our village… Once you know your target market, the products, strategies and everything else will be easier,” he added.
According to the brothers and sister, they launched their business, Qrispy, a play on the word "crispy" and their names, to bring in additional income for their household after the dental clinic their mother, Maria Socorro Mangaoang, worked in temporarily ceased operations to adhere to the government's mandate to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“Our mom is a dentist and due to the enhanced community quarantine that forced us to stay inside our homes, our family suddenly shifted to working and studying from home,” Quasar explained.
He continued: “The idea of an online and home-based food business was thought of as a way to share our mom’s recipe to our community and as a way to earn alternative income during this quarantine.”
MOTHER KNOWS BEST
After a popular restaurant chain debuted the mouthwatering dish in the ’60s, crispy pata immediately became one of the most loved Filipino food. While nearly all Pinoy restaurants now offer the fried delicacy, it can easily be a miss rather than a hit if not cooked meticulously.
To achieve a scrumptious crispy pata with succulent meat and crackling skin, the popular dish must be skillfully prepared by simmering the part in spices, chilling it overnight, and then deep-frying the leg to a golden crisp.
Qrispy, however, achieved the hallmarks of the twice-cooked dish without frizzling the pork in oil.
"What makes it so unique is cooked differently from the traditional way, which gives us a pata that’s not as fatty, but still very tender and crispy,” the siblings said.
The Mangaoang matriarch attested her secret method can satisfy those craving a pata with “soft and moist” meat as well as a puffed and crisped rind, without taking a big blow on their health. “With my no-fry method, you can see the fat dripping out of the crispy pata. You can enjoy eating this without the fear of consuming so much oil.”
The mom of three created the less sinful alternative after she was diagnosed with several serious illnesses that prevented her from indulging in the deep-fried dish as physicians cautioned against its high cholesterol content.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer 11 years ago, and diabetes and dyslipidemia four years ago,” Maria admitted.
She continued: “Because of my health issues, I have to be careful with what I eat, my lifestyle choices, and the food I prepare for my children.”
Although Maria’s version strayed from tradition, it immediately became a family favorite — motivating her to introduce her cooking during larger get-togethers with kith and kin.
“Our friends and relatives enjoyed her recipe and we received frequent compliments and good remarks… It has since become a regular specialty food prepared for celebrations, and our go-to food for gatherings,” the Mangaoang brood shared.
Acknowledging no crispy pata is complete without a dipping sauce to balance out the rich flavor, Maria said she also came up with her own “sweet and sour” mixture.
“Our dipping sauces come in two variants: regular and spicy,” Quasar enumerated. “They are made up of a special combination of soy sauce and vinegar along with a set of secret ingredients.”
“Eating the pata by itself is already a tasty experience, but with our special sauces it turns into a unique Qrispy experience,” Quentin chimed in.
According to the younger Mangaoang brother, as much as their ménage loved the healthier version of the classic dish, they were skeptical if it would sell in the market.
“Since our crispy pata is a no-fry version, we were worried our target would be hesitant to to try the product,” Quasar confessed.
He continued: “Thankfully, it went well… Our business has been receiving more customers from locations beyond our community in BF Paranaque.”
The Mangaoang’s Qrispy pata retails for P480.
“I believe that our unique crispy pata offers the best taste for its price, which makes us stand out among the many crispy pata variants in the market,” Quentin said.
Quasar continued: “We have a standard weight for each size of the pata (about 1.3kg raw) and we ensure that they are cooked within a certain timeframe to meet the standards of an excellent pata.”
The siblings said the growing sales encouraged them to introduce more items to their menu.
“Week by week we started adding more items until we completed our current menu,” Quasar said. “Our mother is a passionate cook… She began experimenting with different styles of food for our meals during the ECQ.”
Aside from their signature dish, Qrispy also offers a range Filipino classics such as chicharon laman, and suman.
“Our chicharon can be partnered with our Qrispy Pata or eaten on its own since it is puro laman, walang hangin,” Quasar described.
“Our two kinds of suman-- suman malagkit and suman kamoteng kahoy -- each have their own unique flavor influenced by the Negros Oriental-style of suman,” he enumerated.
Qrispy also incorporated Asian dishes to their menu such as takoyaki and kimchi.
“Our authentic takoyaki is made up of nori (seaweed), katsuobushi (bonito flakes), Japanese mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce, and vegetables,” Quasar enthused.
The group had also recently included another all-time favorite treat to their menu.
“Our latest addition are our Qookies or cookies topped with cashew nuts, dark chocolate chunks, chocolate chips, and raisins,” Quasar described.
Although the men and women behind Qrispy live under one roof, they admitted “working together” was initially a challenge.
“There were times wherein there was miscommunication among us. Teamwork was particularly difficult since it was the first time for us siblings to work together in a business setting,” Quasar shared.
Quentin said they eventually managed to become a “cohesive unit” by focusing on their respective responsibilities.”
“Dapat alam mo 'yung role mo and you have to be great in it. Pero you also have to help out kung meron nahihirapan,” he said.
Each family member has a delegated task. Maria, for example, does all the cooking with the help of an aide, Elsie. Quentin, meanwhile handles the logistics, Quasar manages the marketing and accounting matters of Qrispy, and Quorin helps out with the delivery.
“[Qrispy] really showed the strength in unity and it has taught us that by working together, we can achieve our goals as a family,” Quentin mused.
The Mangaoangs, however, admitted making necessary professional decisions can at times end up being personal — causing a detrimental impact on their relationships.
“We had disagreements. While we are always open for discussions, endless ones 'yan,” Maria recalled.
“But we learned we have to be committed to what we are doing and prioritize business over personal wants. We had to unite as a family in order to give the best to our customers.”
Amid the worldwide crisis, the Mangaoangs said Qrispy strengthened their family’s bond and allowed them to adapt and navigate through the new normal as a unit.
“Qrispy has given us a way to share our passion and use our time productively throughout the quarantine together,” Quasar said.
“The initiative made us closer because in a business you really need to work as a team,” Quentin enthused. “Through God's grace we are guided in every way and blessed every day.”
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