Above : Cy and Mike in their beloved store. Below: the store premises on 245 High St Lower Hutt.
AN ONLINE ROMANCE ACROSS THE SEAS, a job rejection, and an earnest desire to create a Filipino community tambayan: in themselves individually they don’t mean anything, but taken together these events influenced our kabayan to put up one of the most popular Pinoy stores in the Lower North Island: the Philippine-Pacific Products store in Lower Hutt.
Online romance. But let’s backtrack a bit, to the first factor, the online romance. Nothing blends better together (sampaloc/tamarind, green chili, tomato and onion for sinigang, so to speak) than a Pinay (Filipina), an overseas guy, and a laptop/smartphone. Hundreds of thousands of happy couples worldwide get linked up, figuratively and literally, through the magic of online dating.
Cyrell and Mike were no different, except that they were both in it for the long-term. No isang-linggong pag-ibig, Tinder swipes or rash decisions for them. The online acquaintance became a relationship, and the relationship became a commitment culminating in Cy (as Cyrell’s called) arriving in Wellington May of 2012 after getting married in the Philippines, right into Mike’s waiting arms.
Job setback. Shortly after a sweet sweet (and much anticipated) honeymoon, Cy our kabayan set about to find a job to support Mike as provider. Would you believe, with two Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a masteral degree, Cy scored only two interviews out of 50 responses to her job applications, and landed zero acceptances? For such an academic background, the Filipino-Kiwi couple didn’t expect such a setback, but decided to turn it to their advantage.
They realized that the lack of job openings for Cy was a strong sign for them to look for business opportunities just waiting to be discovered — preferably one taking advantage of Cy’s Filipino connection.
Then, it was as if the sea parted, the trees bent and the grass bowed to make their store possible. After a fruitless search for potential stores and locations in Wellington proper, Newlands and Tawa, the former owner of Filipino Mart in Lower Hutt, after being referred to them, asked Cy and Mike if they were interested in buying the store, assets and all. The rest was history.
********** ********** **********
Community tambayan. Yet, the story wouldn’t be complete without the third factor we mentioned upstairs: the couple’s wish to create a Lower Hutt tambayan (literally “waiting area,” but evolving to community center) where everyone, being welcome, could spend a couple moments meeting kabayan before heading home.
It’s a natural catchbasin for human overflow: Pinoy tradesmen coming home from work, Pinay nurses finishing their shifts, and Pinoy kabataan (youth) leaving class. Even the latter waiting for rides from their parents can wait at the store.
No numbers are taken, but dozens and dozens of Filipinos and Kiwis go through the doors of Philippine-Pacific store daily to shop, browse, just see how things are going with the rest of the grocery buying community, and even ask about services offered and enjoyed by many Pinoys in our Lower Hutt barangay.
And by the way, every sort of Pinoy product can be found here. UFC ketchup, del Monte spaghetti sauce, Star Margarine, Lady’s Choice sandwich spread and Magnolia ice cream are just a few of the well-loved Filipino brands not usually found in New Zealand supermarkets but readily available here. Even ingredients for menudo, sinigang, dinuguan and all other traditional Philippine dishes are regularly sold in Philippine Pacific Products.
But back to the couple’s vision. Mike and Cy want the store to be a community hub or center.
Said Cy: “we want our store to be a place where people stop over not just to buy or shop for things but to share their day with me and (her husband) Mike, to swap stories and tell us about their daily lives. We love that part of her job and business, just as much as making a living and earning a profit at the end of the day.”
Well said Cy and Mike, and mabuhay Philippine Pacific Products!
PS. for more info on our favorite store, please visit http://www.philippine-pacificproducts.co.nz/ thanks and maraming salamat po!
[ material for Pintados ng Wellington? Pintados was one of the first terms used by the historian Pigafetta for the early inhabitants of the Philippine Islands, a term we now proudly use for overachieving, friendly and nationbuilding Pinoys in Wellington and the larger New Zealand. Please send us your material and data for anyone or any group you want featured here, kabayan or not! ]