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Filipino festivals help Toronto businesses recover from pandemic losses

Christine Santos | TFC News Toronto

Posted at Aug 09 2022 10:08 AM

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Now that Filipino summer festivals are back, small businesses in Toronto are seizing the opportunity to sell their products in person and revitalize their operations after the two-year Covid lockdown.

One of them is iHalo Krunch, Toronto’s first charcoal ice cream. Their business started in 2017 and was gaining momentum when the pandemic halted their expansion and put a hold on over 500 franchise requests.  They’re glad they stuck it out and are now finding the festivals a huge help in promoting their brand.

"People are really coming out for the first time in two years of being under lockdown so they’re really supporting small businesses especially Filipino festivals where everyone recognizes ube. They might recognize the brand, and it’s extremely helpful," iHalo Krunch founder Charlene D’Aoust said.

Edge BBQ & Grill owner Edna Dismaya also shared how they struggled during the pandemic.

"Ang hirap... At least masaya kami sa mga binibigay nilang mga event at pinapayagan kami na magkaroon ng ganito. Kasi hindi naman kami natulungan ng government. First time namin na hindi kami allowed na makakuha ng fund," Dismaya said.

(It was hard. At least we’re happy to be given such events and to be allowed to have these because we didn’t get help from the government. It was the first time that we weren’t allowed to get funds.)

Other Filipino food businesses also hope that the festivals will help them recoup their losses by reminding their customers that they’re still around.

"Since 1999 and ever since every year, we’ve been involved in Filipino events like this. If I used to make $5,000 a week in sales, I don't [anymore]. Probably $1,000, $1,500, $2,000. That's how severe it is for me," Porkie’s Chicharon owner and founder Gabby Amurao noted.

"This is like a wake-up again that 'hey, we are still here'. Secondly, we’re Filipinos, we are part of the community. Porkie’s is part of the community. Third, we have to kick a notch the economy. We have to join these kinds of events, to participate, it will boost up the business."

Some new businesses joined the recent Fun Philippines festival in an effort to promote their products that create livelihood for Filipinos back home.

"It was only a month ago [that] we started the business.  Actually, we're doing this to give extra trabaho back home at saka dito sa Canada. Kasi sa Pilipinas, nagpu-purchase tayo ng mga gamit ng mga bags para mabigyan din natin ng hanapbuhay yung mga kababayan natin at the same here in Canada. Yung mga marunong magtahi, magkabit ng lining, we're giving them the opportunity para magkaroon din ng extra income," Maricel Salvador of Aki’s Bayong said.

(Actually, we’re doing this to give extra income back home and here in Canada. We purchase bags from the Philippines to be able to provide livelihood for our countrymen and same here in Canada. Those who know how to sew, attach a lining, we’re giving them the opportunity to earn extra income.)

Booth vendors are not the only ones that benefit from festival activities, but also businesses in the vicinity.

Jonathan Pinoy Haircutters owner Jonathan Pecpec said, "Masaya dahil bumalik ulit ang festival dito sa Wilson and Bathurst. Puno yung salon namin kaya masaya. Mas dumami ang tao talaga. Approximately lahat ng mga kasama ko kumita lahat kami, 90% higher."

(I’m happy that festivals have returned here in Wilson and Bathurst. Our salon is full so I’m happy. There are really more customers. Approximately, all of us have earned 90% higher.)

More FIlipino festivals are scheduled to take place in the GTA this summer: an opportunity not only for people to embrace the culture but also help support local businesses and boost the economy.