It was a beautiful day in Intramuros when the ACAP Kids visited the Manila Biennale: OPENCITY 2018. Fifteen kids from the Action for the Care and Development of the Poor in the Philippines (ACAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering marginalized youth in the Philippines, went to the four exhibition sites of the Manila Biennale and enjoyed all the art installation works of the biennale artists. It was their first time in Intramuros and each venue was new and interesting destination for them. Didit Vander Linden, ACAP President and Program Director, went on the walking tour with the kids along with ACAP Program Manager Jeff Ruaza. The tour was led by Manila Biennale Social Media & Student Tours Manager Eve Javier – that’s me. My story is about how these kids gave so much meaning to the biennale exhibits for me personally, and I want to share this with you.
We all met at Plaza San Luis where the introductions were made and some shy faces greeted me hello. Then we began walking off to Baluarte de San Diego where they enjoyed looking at the work of Zeus Bascon, posed for some photo ops and afterwards the kids ran freely and happily at the grassy fort, shyness now gone, and they took time to listen to the history of the baluarte.
Under the heat of the morning sun, we walked all the way to Mission House, stopping for picture time – they were so excited with every marker and every chance to have a photo. Arriving at the San Igancio Church, immediately the complex work of Robert Chabet was examined and surprisingly – deeply understood. I noticed the kids liked voicing out their own interpretations – which were all heavy by the way, so I became extra observant of their reactions. They went on to view the works in the next floors before we set off walking towards Fort Santiago where the kids continued to analyze the works of Kolown (their favorite), Kawayan de Guia and Kiri Dalena’s “In the dark times Will there also be singing? Yes, there will also be singing. About the dark times.”
It was a very serious and intense moment when they read the message of Kiri’s work, saying it out loud in Tagalog, and telling me, Didit and Jeff about how they understood what the artist was trying to say. To be right there witnessing these young individuals who have complex backgrounds (and continue to live in desperate conditions still), grasp the sophisticated message of the artwork of the biennale and appreciate the whole point of the exhibition – became a very emotional moment for all of us, but we adults kept our cool, shed no tears (or maybe, hid the tears) and moved on. I would often mention them to that the theme of the Manila Biennale for this year centers on war and remembrance, and the kids did not hesitate to tell me in their own words how they Understood.
Lunch was sponsored by Binalot, served under the shade and the kids happily took a break from all the summer sun walking. Afterwards, everyone was called to join Museo Pambata and Sipat Lawin beside the Bayanihan Hopping Spirit House of Alwin Reamilo, for an afternoon of reading under the trees in the Bamboo Garden, and later, Sipat Lawin did a fantastic workshop where the kids were taught performance art, and the song and cheer for the parade of the Bayanihan. “Bawat Bata” was rehearsed with so much joy and passion, that some folks surrounding the children had forgotten their coolness and shed happy inspired tears. After the rehearsal, they had a snack of pancit along with some volunteers of the Bayanihan: Philippine army men, pedicab drivers, foreign visitors of Intramuros, artists and friends. It felt like one big family picnic under the trees in an enormous park, and the kids laughed, ate pancit, lamented on the green mangoes that fell on Fort Santiago’s moat, relaxed for a bit, and talked happily with media that wanted to interview them. It was love all around.
The highlight of the day came and the ACAP kids were positioned at the helm of the Bayanihan parade, to sing Bawat Bata and give their powerful chant ” Ang bawat bata sa ating mundo, Ay may pangalan may karapatan”. They led the Bayanihan with such pride and joy, it was a moment that brought Intramuros so much life…from kids who have so little in life. Leading the massive pack of people carrying a house on their shoulders, they marched to Plaza Roma to welcome the house at its new neighborhood, with incense and prayers and good thoughts. It was such a great feeling for us to have the ACAP kids be the leaders of such a meaningful Filipino event, to have them excitedly cheer for the adults bringing such a weight of a house on their shoulders, and to lead the all people at such a festivity. For me to be given the opportunity to walk alongside these kids for the day, and have them share their thoughts about life, struggle, perseverance, and Hope, was a great honor.
Thank you Carlos Celdran for hosting the ACAP Kids at our Manila Biennale, you gave them a chance to be leaders at this groundbreaking event of ours. Thank you Binalot for nourishing them and adding the extra rice. Thank you Museo Pambata and Sipat Lawin, you lifted their spirits and souls. This truly was the essence of our theme, to bring back the soul of the city. And it’s in these kids.
Binalot to Open More Branches as it Eyes 20-25% Growth
Binalot, a Filipino comfort food quick-serving restaurant which has been operating since 1996 sees 2018 as a year of growth as it eyes 20-25% growth. Binalot will be opening up 5 company-owned and 10 franchise stores in the country even as it looks for foreign partners to put up stores abroad.
It already has two stores in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi although it wants to expand in other areas of the Middle East where there are huge concentrations of Filipinos.
Binalot was created by Rommel Juan (and some partners from college days) because of their fond memories of Filipino comfort food wrapped in banana leaves. They put up one in their residential condominium delivering orders obtained by phone personally to the nearby offices until they grew big enough to rent a store space in Jupiter Street and buy motorcycles for deliveries of orders.
Juan came from a family of entrepreneurs (the mother runs a school in Malabon and the father owns his automotive business) which they would discuss over lunches or dinners in their residence in Alfonso, Cavite where the family also had a farm. The children naturally grew to love entrepreneurship because of the stories their parents shared. Even during elementary and college, they sold whatever they could to classmates and others.
“They were always joyful stories although my parents also warned us of the challenges but they also told us that there is always a solution to such challenges. So we grew up thinking it is good to be in business, it became automatic to us upon graduation to put up our own businesses,” Juan reminisced.
The very first Binalot was actually a residential condominium in Makati. They took orders by phone and delivered on foot until they put up a store in the commercial area in Jupiter Street , bought motorcycles and then we entered the malls. We had organic growth until 2004 every year we grew by one store until I went into franchising I n 2004.
“Our main expansion strategy is still franchising so I am always on the lookout for effective partners. I always believe that having a franchise is having a business for but not by yourself,” Juan said.
Our job is to support these franchisees so that their businesses will be successful since we cut the learning curve (because if you start your own business chances are 85 percent of new businesses fail in the first three years but by franchising with us you have 95 percent chance of surviving the first four years).
Our franchise fee is P550,000 (inclusive of use of brand, training and initial inventory) but total investment (with construction and site selection) is P1.5 to P2.5 million per store. The average size of a store is 60 square meters for standalone and for food court is 22 square meters.
Their bestsellers are the traditional Filipino adobo, sinigang (eaten in the store), an ongoing debate of which is the national food. Every month we change our offering. Salted eggs are in all our meals, he added.
Even our franchisees are happy with their investments and a lot of investors are coming in. But we are more discriminating with sites, Juan stressed.
He gets his banana leaves from a community (of 30 families) they organized in Nagcarlan, Laguna through a program DAHON, his CSR, since Nagcarlan has 700 hectares of wild banana farms. He has been getting 80 percent of the leaves from this place. Wherever we go we try to find communities we can support.
Per store, the average food line is 12 (as quick service restaurant you must stay lean in your offering) so with the combinations, it is a total of 40 lines.
Most of our customers are dine- in (with 20 percent take out) and deliveries. We are beefing up our logistics to boost our deliveries, where we started.
He would like to think that Binalot is still an SME (the advantage of being small is you are nimble and can react fast). He already has a commissary in Paranaque which has a walk-in freezer and walk-in chiller now. The commissary supplies the provincial branches by boat for mixes but meats and veggies are sourced locally.
In the Visayas Binalot has branches in Iloilo, Bacolod, in Mindanao we are in Davao and looking at Dumaguete.
Juan said Luzon still has a lot of potential with so many malls and food parks rising. Stores in Metro Manila comprise 90 percent.
In next three years, we are focused on domestic growth although we want to go to foreign countries with a lot of Filipinos like Singapore and other Middle Eastern countries (Qatar, Saudi Arabia).
Our belief is we service the franchisee (our customer) and their end customer is theirs. A lot of their franchisees are professionals, ex-IT professionals, and fresh graduates.
This year we are looking at five company-owned and 10 franchised stores. Our target is to grow 20 to 25 percent a year.
By: Rose de la Cruz