LONG before sutukil was a big deal in Mactan, an unassuming eatery in Tangke, Talisay City served sinugba, tinuwa and kinilaw by the sea.
Almost 40 years later, the family behind Manang Juling’s Kilawan hopes to bring the same taste of fresh seafood closer to its patrons by opening a branch in Cebu City.
Manang Juling’s, founded by Juling Abarquez, is known for its dishes sourced straight from the Talisay fisherfolk.
“Our main branch in Talisay is located right beside the sea. So, when fishermen dock their boats, they immediately sell their catch to us. We guarantee freshness of the seafood dishes we serve,” said Sarah Suizo, one of Abarquez’s children, who now runs the business.
Suizo that shared her mother’s entrepreneurial journey started in 1960 when she opened a tiny eatery with kinilaw (raw seafood or ceviche) as her specialty. Selling kinilaw was her mother’s way of bringing food to the table for her nine children.
“It was a good business back then until we were advised to stop selling as the area we are in was set to be demolished,” said Suizo.
But this did not hamper her mother’s dream to build her own carenderia. Using the money they earned and with a little help from a relative, they bought the property from a bank in 1986.
That marked the family’s formal venture into the restaurant scene. They set up Manang Juling’s Kilawan restaurant that can accommodate up to a hundred diners.
“My mother was a determined woman. She really worked hard and she was successful in growing the family business,” said Alicia Daan, also Abarquez’s daughter, adding that their restaurant became a popular dining destination of prominent figures in society and tourists exploring southern Cebu.
For a long time, Manang Juling’s Kilawan remained contented doing business in its home court. A lot of people have invited them to bring the brand outside of Talisay City, but the family always declined. “We were happy where we are. We were contented with what we had. Our children are now professionals,” said Suizo.
However, a Chinese family, customers of Manang Juling’s, never stopped courting the family.
“They took the time to meet all of us and discussed the growth potential of expanding the business to Cebu,” said Suizo, adding that the several meetings they had finally led them to agree to open a branch in Cebu City.
Suizo said the Chinese business partner provided the funding while they agreed to manage the business.
“They were really persistent,” she said.
The new branch of Manang Juling’s at Mango Square Mall can accommodate up to 50 diners.
“We are very excited about this venture, as it has always been our dream to share our mother’s traditional home-cooked recipes. With our newly-opened branch, we are now accessible to more diners who crave our signature sutukil dishes,” said Suizo.
In the meantime, Suizo’s other two sisters will look after the Talisay City branch while she oversees the Juana Osmeña branch.
“Our goal is for everyone to enjoy our food. We assure our patrons that we will continue to serve fresh seafood dishes they all love,” she said.
As they vowed to continue their mother’s culinary legacy, Suizo is hopeful their Cebu City branch generates foot traffic and creates new clients, those who love and want to try authentic Filipino food.
Published in the SunStar Cebu newspaper on March 13, 2018.
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