By Sol Vanzi
Images by Noel B. Pabalate
Our barrio’s very reliable alarm clock was the honking from our neighborhood panaderya’s bicycle at dawn, announcing that the first batch of the day’s pandesal was ready. The biker knew exactly how many pieces of pandesal each family had ordered.He stopped in front of each home and left paper bags filled with bread on staircases, window sills, atop fences, and walls. He got paid every Sunday.
Occasionally, the deliveries would include other bread varieties: dense and sweet makabayan, hefty pan de coco, or pan de bonete shiny with rendered pork fat.
By noontime, a bread truck from a Kawit bakery would stop in front of my lola’s sari-sari store with a two-day supply of buttered sweet cakes like pianono (jelly roll) and unsweetened cookies: square galyetas, cigar-size baston, crunchy pacencia, crumbly jacobina. Everything was packed in cellophane in retail portions.
On special occasions like birthdays and weddings, we had to go to Pasay City to order multi-level cakes iced with brightly colored shortening.
PANADERYA VS BAKESHOP
Although panaderya and bakeshop both mean bakery, their products are worlds apart. Panaderyas were not expected to make brownies, chiffon cakes, and egg pies. Those are products of bakeshops.
To this day, when Pinoys say panaderya, they refer to bakeries that produce only pandesal and a few basic breads that go well with breakfast, merienda, and wakes: biscocho (leftover bread seasoned with margarine and brown sugar and toasted). Another stale bread product is machakaw, toasted old bread without sugar. Bakeshops are more sosyal; they make desserts.
At the very top of the list are patisseries, which are bakeries in five-star hotels, manned by multi-awarded Pinoy and foreign chefs. A patisserie is a type of French or Belgian bakery that specializes in pastries and sweets. Best sellers of hotel patisseries are Danish pastries sweetened with fresh and cooked fruits.
LEVEL UP OR PERISH
Luis “Chito” Chavez had bought a small panaderya along Dapitan Street corner of Don Quixote in Sampaloc, Manila when he realized that his business needed to change to survive. He decided to plunge head-on and learned everything there was to know, from mastering basic dough to observing what kinds of baked goods were best sellers at hotels and big bakeshops.
Raised by parents who were both successful entrepreneurs, he was undaunted by the challenges facing his fledgling enterprise.He became a regular customer at famous bakeshops, hotel coffee shops, and mall eateries, trying to figure out the recipes of their most sellable products.
Soon his Tinapayan Festival bakeshop was attracting customers drawn by the new items (pastries, cakes, asado rolls, and brownies) which he sold at almost half the price of the originals. Slowly and by word of mouth, Tinapayan Festival captured the market in the neighborhood populated mostly by dormitory boarders.
Chavez invested in classy and expensive packaging for his goods, making them convenient pasalubong and take home gifts. Sacrificing profit, he also improved on the original recipes, by increasing the amount of chocolate and cheese contents of his products. Refrigerated glass cabinets and display cases make customers feel this was no longer a panaderya but a patisserie offering new pastries, such as ube ensaymada, his creation. His top-seller is asado bread, stuffed with meaty, saucy stewed pork and large enough to be a meal by itself. It is now a favorite baon for students and office workers as well as call center employees.
Tinapayan Festival is such a big success that Chavez has been approached by would-be franchisers. Quite an achievement by someone who did not know a thing about baking.