By Rush Tarnate, Dovic Ticangen, Cherrie Pie Kawaren, Sheree Mae Polled- BS Entrepreneurship; Xijen College of Mountain Province
Bontoc, the capital town of Mountain Province is getting a taste of the real thing- this time, pizza, authentic that is. As BS Entrepreneurship students at Xijen College of Mountain Province we were tasked to look around town for businesses that were unique and had the potentials for growth. We learned about the pizza house that was growing in popularity among the locals. This was a pizza house called the La Pizzeria. Pizza is not new to the Filipino as the ever-adventurous Filipino palate adapts easily to foods of foreign origin. Bontoc has pizza in some restaurants but the pizza served at the La Pizzeria is done with the right stuff- that can rival established pizza houses in the cities. Margaret Chapiyen, earned an Agricultural Engineering degree in Nueva Ecija. Margaret found work at the Baguio Country Club. Thrust in the club’s kitchen, she got exposure to food service and preparation. Then Margaret moved on to Hong Kong as a domestic helper. Her British boss was fond of Italian cuisine. Margaret’s experience at the Baguio Country Club was honed further in her boss’s kitchen in HK. Margaret had the kitchen to herself as she experimented on pizza making. She then moved on to China (mainland) and did some teaching until her contract expired. She was lucky to be taken in by a Greek Restaurant based in Shanghai. Her food service experience got her into the restaurant. Her skills at pizza making were further enhanced at the restaurant. When Maragaret came home for good in her hometown of Bontoc, she decided to set up a pizza parlor. The venture was setup at the second floor of the Macli-ing Building. She named her place, “La Pizzeria.” The place is quaint, cozy. Pine wood tables and chairs add to the warmth and character. There are books, magazines to read- to keep one busy as Margaret prepares your orders. Margaret as a startup is doing it all alone.
During the start-up phase, her customers would comment about the ingredients. It was a case of her customers being introduced to ‘unusual’ herbs and spices like basil, thyme, and marjoram. Margaret then had to make adjustments as she realized that the pizza her town-mates have been accustomed to taste “sweet”, has sliced hotdogs, pineapple and cheese. At first she did give in, and would ask her customers what ingredients they would like on their pizza before she makes it. Eventually, she reintroduced the other ingredients (herbs, meats) that make up a pizza because she wanted her customers to learn about the real pizza. Asked why she went into this kind of business- it was what she loved dong, she replied. When asked about the challenges of the business, it was about sourcing ingredients. She has to get her cheeses and other essentials from Manila. She then has to travel to Baguio to get her ingredients as her supplier sends her raw ingredients up to Baguio. This means lost revenue, as she has to close shop. Pizza may not be news to the urban dweller but to the community of Bontoc, having mozzarella, various kinds of meat, real sauces and other pizza variations are a treat. The great difference is the price. A medium pizza can be had at 250.00 pesos compared to a small size pizza which can run up to four hundred fifty on most pizza outlets in the city. On the side, Margaret can whip up a mean vegetable salad with vinaigrette to die for. Margaret’s venture comes in at the right time. In a community where almost all snack houses have a common menu, her pizza stands out from the rest. She is also creating opportunities for local organic vegetable farmers who could supply her herbs and salad vegetables. As a parting shot, Margaret advised us that as an entrepreneur, there is no age limit, what is important is the person’s interest, hard work and good financial management that helps you survive the first years of business. It is also an attitude and perspective that one should carry on through the years.
How to get there: From the Sagada Jeep Stop in Bontoc, go straight ahead towards the road going to the Bontoc museum. From the Shell Gas station or police outpost, look at the second floor of the green painted building, that’s where Pizzeria is located. Cross the street and go up the stairs to the second floor of the building. Contact the owner, Margaret Chapiyen at 0910-946-7680