Homegrown brands, household names—all beloved.
There’s a quiet but fierce loyalty that we reserve for homegrown brands, especially ones that remind us of our childhood. These household names are not only ubiquitous among Filipinos, they’ve also become part of Philippine culture.
1 – Jollibee
From a humble ice-cream parlor 44 years ago, Jollibee has become a fast-food staple in the Philippines, beating out global giants and Western favorites on home turf. It’s on its way to international fame, as the chain now has dozens of branches overseas, from the US to Italy and Dubai, where expat Filipinos and their curious friends are able to enjoy Yumburgers and plates of Jolly Spaghetti. Jollibee is so integral to Pinoy pop culture that the late Anthony Bourdain famously visited a branch for a TV segment on Filipino food, calling it “the wackiest, jolliest place on Earth” and the spaghetti “deranged, but strangely alluring.” The popular website Foodbeast even ranked Jollibee as the third-best fast food chicken joint in the US, thanks to its signature Chickenjoy. jollibee.com.ph
2 — Mang Inasal
Translating to “Mr. Barbecue” in Hiligaynon, Iloilo-born Mang Inasal introduced people to the concept of fast-casual Filipino food, serving up fresh-cooked favorites at competitive prices. Diners flocked to the scores of outlets sprouting up around the country following the first 250m² store that opened in a mall carpark in 2003. Mang Inasal became a bona fide hit when it won the hearts of diners by offering “unlimited rice” meals. It made a legend out of its then 26-year-old founder Edgar “Injap” Sia, whose success made him the poster boy for Filipino entrepreneurship. Injap eventually sold Mang Inasal to Jollibee Foods Corporation for a whopping ₱3 billion in 2010. manginasal.com
3 — Cebu Pacific
Not to toot our own horn, but last year there were 20 million passengers just like you who flew with us, helping us keep to our original promise to make sure that “every Juan flies.” As the Philippines’ largest low-cost carrier, Cebu Pacific flies to over 60 domestic and international destinations. And with our frequent piso fares and seat sales, air travel has become accessible to more Filipinos than ever before. cebupacificair.com
4 — Potato Corner
Who drives for hours to get some fries? Overseas Pinoys, that’s who. In places like Kuwait, homesick Pinoys have been known to drive across cities to get a tub of Potato Corner fries, proving that despite its name (and its Belgian origins) French fries have become a beloved Filipino snack. And for an entire generation, that’s thanks to Potato Corner, a food stall that sells flavored fries. Potato Corner has become a comforting treat for everyone from students to office workers, with its heaped tubs of deep-fried potatoes shaken in flavored powder. Its branches can now be found all over the world, from Singapore and Thailand to Australia, the US and even Panama. potatocorner.com
5 — Max’s Restaurant
Filipinos love their chicken dishes, so claiming to be “the house that fried chicken built” is big talk for any Philippine-based restaurant. But Max’s Restaurant earned that title, as the distinct taste of its fried chicken can be recognized by any Filipino across the world. The restaurant chain is now synonymous with Philippine family gatherings. Though it now has branches across the US, Canada and Dubai, its founders first knew they had something when it caught the attention of American taste buds back in 1945, when a few G.I.s liked Maximo Gimenez’s home-cooked fried chicken so much that they prompted him to open a café. The recipe, said to have been developed by Max’s niece, Ruby Trota, results in a tender and juicy yet crisp-skinned fried dish that is now served in over 200 locations globally. maxschicken.com
6 — Goldilocks Bakeshop
When Filipinos hear the name “Goldilocks”, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t the fairy-tale character, but rather the local bakeshop that’s been around for all Pinoy celebrations for over half a century now. The Leelin sisters, Milagros and Clarita, opened their first store in Makati in 1966, with only ten employees. A decade later, they opened a branch in the US, catering mostly to homesick immigrants who found a taste of home in Goldilocks cakes and pastries. To this day, a bite of its mocha roll promises instant nostalgia. As most of its stores outside the Philippines are in the West Coast of the US, Goldilocks treats are still very popular gifts for Pinoys living abroad. goldilocks.com.ph
7 — National Book Store
There was no indication that National Book Store would be a success when founders Jose and Socorro Ramos opened their little shop in Escolta during World War II. The store burned down during the Battle of Manila in 1945, but the reopened edition proved to be a hit, as the launch coincided with the first academic school year after the war. The Ramoses persevered, even after that second store was destroyed by a typhoon a few years later. That tenacity has propelled the shop to live up to its name—it is now truly a national bookstore, the go-to retailer for Philippine students. The 96-year-old Socorro—known affectionately as Nanay Coring—is still the chairman of National Book Store, which has now grown to include subsidiaries like the specialty bookstore Powerbooks, Anvil Publishing and the Hong Kong-based Metro Books. nationalbookstore.com
8 — Mary Grace Café
Ever been called a tita? It’s a loving jab at women of any age who behave like stereotypical Filipino aunts—they love having wine nights with friends, enjoy growing indoor plants and they may make a bad joke or two. And they like meeting up in Mary Grace. The café first became popular thanks to its savory cheese rolls and ensaymada pastries as well as its homey vibe, and it has become the default hangout spot for everybody’s tita. Founder Mary Grace Dimacali famously started as a homemaker selling her pastries in various Christmas bazaars before she turned her name into a nationwide brand. marygracecafe.com
Discover great finds from local artisans and small makers at your nearest Go Lokal! boutique in the Philippines. The initiative by the Department of Trade and Industry has resulted in 85 stores stocked with incredible Philippine-made items, most of which have yet to find mainstream audiences. fb.com/dti.golokal; IG: @dti.golokal
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This article first appeared in the September 2019 issue of Smile magazine.