For 15 years, Cristine San Pascual, a senior assistant purser rode the waves in a luxury cruise ship where she is employed, contently spending her financially-rewarding days making sure passengers were happy, hopping from one country to another.
For more than half a year, she would get paid to travel. The rest of the year, she’d spend making up for missed milestones with her family. Pleasing disgruntled guests and pampering honeymooners, partygoing adventurers and retirees finally freed from corporate drudgery consumed her time onboard.
That is until the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) struck.
The pandemic brought the world, along with San Pascual‘s job, to a halt. What was supposed to be a two-month break plus a few weeks of requested extended vacation turned into months of lockdown.
Now San Pascual is among the 343,000 Filipino overseas workers who found themselves suddenly displaced from their jobs. But she has found relief and an ally in her Trees Residences community in Fairview. Despair has turned into hope.
Business is born
“When the government announced a community quarantine, we asked ourselves, ‘What can we do now?’ I started assessing our resources,” San Pascual explained.
“I observed that we ordered too much fast food. Being a condo unit owner myself, I don’t want to be deprived of my favorite nutritious meals just because of the lockdown,” she said.
During the initial phase of the community quarantine, San Pascual and family saw a sharp rise in the demand for home-cooked food since people couldn’t go out, prompting them to roll up their sleeves and start cooking for the residents of Trees. Thus in the middle of a pandemic, Sanpy’s Kitchen was born.
Her husband and in-laws, who are great cooks, immerse themselves in the kitchen, while she does what she knows best: making her customers happy. The pandemic may have cost San Pascual her seafaring job but not her customer service skills. The new normal having set in, she communicates with customers online, taking their orders and making sure they get to experience sumptuous cooking.
“Our first menu was Crispy Kare-kare, Lumpiang Shanghai, silogs and pansit bihon. We got few orders at first, then the numbers grew every day. There was even a time I had to prepare 13 different dishes just for one lunch! It was crazy busy but it was fun!,” she happily recounts.
On weekends, San Pascual’s and family’s schedule is full. Mornings at the residence are bright and abuzz with excitement as an assortment of provisions — from plump cabbage and large, scarlet bell peppers are delivered straight from farms to San Pascual’s rich and hearty stews of Kare-kare and kaldereta — are on sale at Trees Residences through The Good Guys Market, a weekend market set up by SM Development Corp (SMDC).
The Good Guys Market has paved the way for small, home-based businesses such as San Pascual’s to find an immediate customer base right in their own backyard. “This situation has given my family the opportunity to showcase its food traditions and share them with my fellow kaPuno (their term for fellow Trees residents),” she noted. “After joining The Good Guys Market, business has been better. My customer rating on social media is 5/5 and I constantly get good feedback about the taste and price.”
San Pascual, along with farmers and other food merchants who are also Trees residents, have found a way to cope with the drastic effect of the pandemic on their livelihood: The Good Guys Market. Their fellow residents at Trees are their patrons. They come for farm-to-table vegetables delivered straight from the farms of Pampanga and Benguet and for hot slow-cooked meals.
Sanpy’s Kitchen has become part of a community of Good Guys supporting and looking after each other, people working together and thriving in a crisis, like seeds sprouting during a drought.
Every serving of her home-cooked meal and every kilo of greens sold by the farmers at The Good Guys Market speaks of altruism among the merchants and residents. They seem to be saying: “I’ve got your back.”