A peek into biggest food strip in PHBy Norman Lee Benjamin Riego
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The biggest village in Asia just might have the biggest food strip as well.
BF Homes in Parañaque is composed of 23 subdivisions, 17,959 households, and 87,612 people. Such number of residences naturally entails as much, if not more, appetite.
As such, according to city government, Barangay (village) BF Homes registered the most business permits of all barangays: 2,230 in total, most of which were food establishments. Traveling along Aguirre Ave., the village’s main artery, one could not beg to differ.
One landmark in the food strip is Conti’s Bakeshop and Restaurant located in the intersection of Aguirre and President’s Aves. What began as a home-based pastry business is now a 15-year strong company that has branched out all over the metro.
Still, the store in BF is the flagship. “The BF community is close to the owners since they are from here,” Conti’s vice president Quintin Sumulong says. With such sentiments, Conti’s formally opened its doors in 1999. Conti’s bakeshop offers a variety of bread and cakes while the restaurant serves breakfast until dinner from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
According to Sumulong, the choice of location was not influenced by costs, but the opportunity to serve the community. Such dynamic is the come-on of Aguirre that is lacking, if at all, in malls and other commercial districts.
With eight other stores located in Greenbelt, Alabang, Katipunan, Robinson’s Magnolia, Trinoma, Greenhills, Serendra and Nuvali, Sumulong still sees the Conti’s in Aguirre as the top performer. “People still fill up the place even if we have other branches,” the company vice president says.
But the situation along Aguirre has not always been rosy. The United BF Homeowners Association, Inc. (UBFHAI) clashed with Parañaque city hall on land use inside the village. The friction started in 1997, when local government passed ordinance 97-08 which reclassified Aguirre from residential to commercial zone.
The Parañaque Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) characterizes a residential zone as having multi-family housing such as duplexes, townhouses or row houses. The CLUP defines commercial zone as an area with commercial and trade activities on a district scale.
The UBFHAI, umbrella organization of 72 homeowners associations in BF, then pushed a petition to rescind ordinance 97-08, citing:
– In a survey conducted among homeowners, 86 percent was against reclassification from residential to commercial;
– Homeowners were outraged by the prospect of having multistory structures, restaurants, liquor stores, supermarkets and banks as neighbors; and
– Homeowners bought their properties on the premise they will be in residential neighborhoods away from centers of commerce or more populous districts.
City hall did not heed the petition. UBFHAI then filed a court case claiming reclassification is unconstitutional because it amounts to violation of contracts. In their defense, local government asserted the ordinance is a valid exercise of police power.
The municipal trial court and Court of Appeals ruled in favor of city hall. And with finality, Supreme Court upheld their rulings, citing:
– Aguirre is a main thoroughfare which has long been commercialized; local government therefore responded by enacting the ordinance
– Constitutional guarantee of nonimpairment of contracts is limited by exercise of police power in the interest of public health, safety, morals and general welfare.
Since then, Aguirre, in the heart of the biggest residential village in Asia, has been a commercial area.
“The owners are homeowners themselves, but we have to abide by the decision of the court,” Sumulong says.
The UBFHAI vs Parañaque city hall case also ruled that local government can enact police power in reclassifying areas that have evolved. Such precedent has allowed the Quezon City hall, for example, to forward its central business district which reclassified several areas into commercial zones.
But what has become an ongoing bane for UBFHAI is now food lovers’ boon. With food establishments popping up left and right on Aguirre, the 3-km-long road is now a 3-km long food strip. “Much like islands, the food in Aguirre is not Boracay; it’s less expensive, but still better,” long-time resident Karen says.
Indeed, Aguirre has fulfilled the reclassification. “It has evolved; it is commercial,” Rosemarie Rafael, chief executive of Manna Bakery and Café along Aguirre, says.
Manna opened in 2012. It offers a variety of more than 150 bread types and is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Despite rabid competition along the food strip, Rafael claims it is getting to be known for its bread. “Because BF is residential, bread is a staple product,” she says.
The business began in 2008 as a commissary that harnessed the skills of a baker who failed a language test to go to Australia. But having a niche in the market was not what drew the Alabang-residing owners to Aguirre. “Being here, you get the support of BF. They have loyalty to the establishments they like,” Rafael says.
Rafael appreciates the community dynamics of BF. “People come in, you get to know them, you get to build rapport with them. Being able to serve the community is already fulfillment,” she says. Soon, Rafael eyes Manna becoming a household name.
In terms of household names, Manna need not look any farther for inspiration than the road it is located at. After all, the biggest village in Asia just might have the biggest food strip as well.