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For this microenterprise, pandemic necessity leads to upgrade

When key cities and provinces like Cebu went into lockdown in late March 2020 as a measure against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, classes were suspended, churches were closed and sidewalk vendors were prohibited.

The Obregon-Aldonza family, like millions of other Filipino families, lost a major source of income.

Their Waffle sa Cathedral cart, a common fixture outside the Metropolitan Cathedral on Sundays and on the sidewalk outside the Cebu Normal University on weekdays, had to be shuttered.

The pandemic, however, proved to be a blessing in disguise for the business that her parents Miguel and Exequiela Obregon began in 1956, said Teresita Obregon-Aldonza.

In mid-2020, three or four months after they were forced to shut down their cart, Teresita said they decided to take risks. It was finally time for an upgrade.

The family set up a social media account to start selling waffles online, introduced new flavors, spruced up their cart, and moved the business from the sidewalk to a rented space.

“Mura na hinuon og blessing in disguise para namo ang pandemic kay napugos gyud mi og rent og gamay nga space tungod sa pandemic. Dili man puede maninda sa sidewalk. Adtong una, mahadlok kaayo mi basin di mi kabayad kung mag-rent. Nakaya ra man diay,” Teresita said.

(The pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for us because we were forced to rent a small space. We used to worry that we might not be able to pay rent. We have been able to, so far.)

Now, there are six flavors to choose from, including the original that many Cebuanos have grown to love. Who hasn’t tried the waffle slathered with margarine and slightly dipped in sugar?

Excluding the chocolate flavor, which was introduced sometime in the past decade, other flavors were borne out of pandemic necessity — cheese, peanut butter, choco hazelnut and nutella (named after that famous brand).

Tessie, as she is known to family and friends, said they started operating online from their home in Pardo. Her husband Alfredo, who learned the recipe that Tessie’s father Miguel invented, has been making the waffles and handling operations since their parents died.

Then her eldest son, Al Joseph, registered the business with the Department of Trade and Industry and set up a stall in Lapu-Lapu City, but this did not thrive. He later found a small space for rent in Subangdaku, Mandaue City while Tessie found a space in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City.

Market response was good and they were able to pay rent, Tessie said. Their income improved, although it still could not approximate pre-pandemic levels.

“Ang importante lang, makabayad mi sa rent unya naay gamay nga pang-konsumo. Wala namo gipasaka kaayo ang presyo,” she said.

(What’s important is that we are able to pay rent and we earn a little for our daily needs. We kept our prices low.)

Tessie is the second to the youngest of six siblings. Of the three surviving siblings, only she has shown resolve to continue what their parents started.

“Naa man gud gyud siyay potential (This business has potential),” she said.

They retained the name Waffle sa Cathedral, although she was doubtful that they would return to selling waffles outside the church on Sundays.

“Di na siguro mi kabalik didto sa Cathedral. Basin di na puede pabalikon dicto kay nag-renovate man (It’s unlikely that we will return to the Cathedral. We might no longer be allowed to sell there because of the renovations),” she said. (Ventures Cebu)

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