Saturday, August 22, 2015

Buddy's 30 Glittering Years of Success

Lucban, Quezon  Mayor: Celso Olivier T. Dator giving words 
Buddy's humble beginning was one that Lucban had always been proud of and something that pushes fellow locals to be passionate in what they are doing.  Not only known for the iconic Quezon Province' festivity, Pahiyas Festival, Lucban is also known for their famous pancit of its namesake. Pancit Lucban also  acknowledged as Pancit Habhab made a mark to many nearby towns and now had become one of the primal dining pleasures of Manila foodies.

photo linked here
Maybe its the sunflowers used to set the cheery interior of Buddy's, or the festive and inviting milieu, but for many diners looking for pre-defined Filipino comfort food, whether be it for a hefty family meal or a singled-out "meryenda" (Filipino word for snack) Buddy's is always on a thought.

Buddy's The Link, Makati branch
I certainly am ashamed of myself, I'm now nearing 40 and yet have never desired of learning to cook any pancit.  With my mother-in-law cooking her specialty pancit bihon during special occassions, such excuses made me anxious to do it at home. However, why cook pancit at home when you can actually delight in a "bilao" of Buddy's Pancit Lucban and a lot of other classic Southern Tagalog dishes to go with it plus wallow in the complete festive feel of every Buddy's branches.

All thanks to Saldi and Nova Veluz, Buddy's wouldn't have gone as far as 30 years serving us with true Tagalog flavors that any OFW's would love to come home to.  Though the origin of Buddy's is already given, not many know how it all started.

With me are photo-journalist Teddy Pelaez, DOT Region 4A RD Rebecca Villanueva Labit,
Nova Veluz and acclaimed Photographer George Tapan
It was such a privilege having attended the Habhaban Festival last August 18 at Lucban, Quezon.  It was the fourth year of the said fest and heaven have aligned it to Buddy's anniversary.  It was their 30th year and I could just imagine all they have gone through to reach the restaurant's stature.  More than that I was able to hear how Buddy's came forth.  It epitomizes inspiration, a well of kind-hearted, unprecedented, strategy of sustainable business.

As the fiesta commenced with an invigorating sound of the marching bands, briskly filling the streets and the town center with people awaiting to watch contenders aspiring for the Habhaban King and Queen and to get a glimpse of  Jericho Rosales.  I was definitely observant of the people who joined the march.  Some dressed in red or blue t-shirts, while others in black with gold letterings of  I Love Buddy's.  I wasn't vigilant at all being in an unfamiliar place and only a few people I know, whom includes DOT's Regional Director for Region 4A Rebecca Labit, for everyone is in a merry mood, every one wide-eyed and donning beautiful smiles on their equally beautiful faces.

But for me who is only a traveler, a spectator, were the bands doesn't seem to be appealing, my interest is on how Buddy's could have staged such an exciting fete, were pancit, burgers and drinks were being given away like candies to everyone, while the people happily feasted with pancit habhab on a paper plate, gobbling up the noodles with their mouth only.  Habhab is a Tagalog word which is  a manner of eating, where no utensils are used, not even the fingers.  It was an old culture which the people of Lucban was able to retain up to now.

Finally, up on the stage, the Veluz couple, with Saldi talking about how grateful they were to have come this far, from being a humble farmer, a back up dancer for Nora Aunor's TV show and a home appliance seller (Electrolux) to a successful owner of Buddy's.  Nova on the other hand, have greater praises for her husband, how he had came back to his hometown and settled back to farm to putting until he had put up a small business using his main crops, specially the sayote, in making and selling Lumpiang Sariwa.  Until such a time, that clients would ask for other food.  Thus, Buddy's was born with the addition of burgers and spaghetti to the list of food he sold.

It didn't stop there, the menu soon grew until more and more diners even from other towns would visit and pitch the resto to others.  The first branch was at Saldi's parent's property, which was known only as a mid-class carinderia.  Soon the need to expand boundaries came and Manila was experiencing Lucban's finest in Kakarong St., Makati in 1998.  Until now, that first branch outside Quezon still is being flocked by many diners.

Photo credit
Ever since I saw Buddy's Timog branch, and read about them in Claude Tayag's book, Linamnam, I knew I would instantly become a fan.  In fact, when my parents who live in Milan, Italy came to visit us last year, I took them to Market, Market and had them try Buddy's pizza, Arroz Caldo and of course, Pancit Lucban.  Never in my wildest dreams I could sit in one table and talk to the power couple behind Lucban's pride, but there I was, in awe of how they were able to sustain their business while building a strong family tie.

It was Sandy Daza who was able to spread the words about Buddy's Manila branch. As he wrote about them as authentic Pancit Lucban but made more appetizing with the addition of Lechon Kawali and lots of sayote mixed in the pancit.  Don't be mistaken, they do have other kinds of Pancit, including Chami which was from Lucena, where Nova hails from and a plethora dishes all showcasing fiesta.

For now they are still not open for franchising, for they are very strict when it comes to the quality of their food. "It's about our cooks," enthused Saldi. "We could never compromise the flavor that is authentic to us Lucbanians."  Saldi was the one who initially cooked the dishes since he, himself loves to cook, he also was the one who developed the dishes making them unique to Buddy's.  "All our cooks, in all our branches are locals of Lucban or Quezon," as Saldi added, and he trains them and assigns them the branches.  While Saldi takes over the kitchen and the interior decorating, Nova is the one handling sales and marketing.  But both are keen on making sure their employees are well-compensated, especially those who have been with them from the start.

Buddy's stands proud with 30 years of building and maintaining their love for their business- of serving good Filipino food while staying true to the culture they are most passionate with.  The couple, Saldi and Nova, together with their four children are testaments that "sipag at tiyaga" (hard-work and perseverance) is the key plus their belief  that the most important part of their business is their people.  They were able to manage relationships in the workplace to keep the business functioning smoothly, to avoid problems, and make sure  employees are performing at their best.  But they are not stopping there, still in plans is new concept resto, fine-dining for a change, where one of their children who finished Culinary Studies in Benilde will build up, of course it is still Filipino cuisine.

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