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Cult followers of anonymous IG account congregate in Cubao

Masarap Ba collaboration with Novotel’s Executive Pastry Chef Manuel Sy (left) and Executive Sous Chef Edwin Infante (right). —Photos by Margaux Salcedo

A few years ago, I started following @masarapba on Instagram.

It’s a simple account. The author just posts a food item and labels it “masarap” (delicious) or “hindi masarap” (not delicious).

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The wit and candor have appealed to many that today, @masarapba has 236,000 followers on Instagram.

The account holder decides whether something is “masarap” or not based only on two criteria: 1) if the product made him/her happy; and 2) if it’s something he/she would crave or purchase again. Most of the time, followers would agree.

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Over time, his/her reach has become even more dynamic (I still do not know who owns this account). Others would soon swarm to a product he/she has tagged delicious. The domino effect has been so incredible that her number of followers has grown exponentially and she now has a cult following that she wittingly labeled “kakulto” (cult followers).

Let me give you an example of @masarapba’s influence. Last November, she posted and raved about SunTea, a milk tea brand. Soon, the “kakulto” started swarming to their stores. A few weeks later, I got a message from a friend: “Margaux! Are you masarapba? Or do you know masarapba?” I said no and that I have never even met whoever is behind this account. My friend explained that her cousin owns SunTea and their sales used to be very low. But after @masarapba posted about it, sales increased by a whopping 500 percent! Now their problem is how to cope with demand.

But what is more impressive about @masarapba is how she is using her influence to support SMEs. Over an Instagram interview, she told me she was not expecting the account to grow this big but when it did, she wanted to make it more meaningful, “to use whatever influence I have for the good.” So she started purposely seeking out small businesses that she could promote and then would share her finds with the kakultos. (She also uses her account now to support animal rescues and has been very effective in helping find lost animals and helping raise funds for rescues.)

Featured small businesses at @masarapba’s Meet & Eat buffet at Novotel Manila.

Last week, @masarapba held a “Meet and Eat” at Novotel Manila in Quezon City. Although guests did not meet the personality behind the account—she wants to remain anonymous—they did get a taste of 17 food products that the account supports.

It was a brilliant concept. The account partnered with the hotel’s F&B so the products were used and cooked and made part of the Novotel buffet, instead of just being displayed.

For example, a chili oil by the brand Papa Bear was used by chef Edwin Infante of Novotel to cook Singaporean chili crab; Cheche’s Gourmet Tuyo with Salted Egg was used as a pizza topping, which one would not normally think of doing (the usual approach is to just eat this with steaming white rice); and Mishee’s Chicken Adobo Flakes were used for pasta.

Other products that would be impossible to get a taste of unless you purchased at least half a kilo were part of the buffet as well. I was able to taste the roast beef of Benedicto Kitchen, which is excellently marinated and, thanks to the 11-hour slow roast done by the Novotel kitchen, was fall-off-the-bone tender.

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Another good one was the dark chocolate tart of Half Saints, which was made even more indulgent with a drizzle of Himalayan salt.

Of course, the products of Novotel Manila did not pale in comparison: the corned beef of chef Edwin was a revelation. This is something worth traveling to Cubao for.

Spicy Chili Crab using Papa Bear chili oil prepared by Novotel’s Chef Edwin Infante.

The “homemade” gelatos of chef Manuel Sy are also worth the trip. He uses raw ingredients: real vanilla and fruits in season. The texture of the gelato is excellent and the flavors sing.

The Meet and Eat was supposed to be only until today, April 7, but due to popular demand, it has been extended up to April 14.

It’s P1,588 net for lunch and P1,688 for dinner (details below). The products are now on display and can be purchased at the hotel. Kakultos get a 5-percent discount (just show proof that you are a @masarapba follower; details on her Instagram account).

I hope that @masarapba has more events like this to support SMEs. It’s a very good cause. Sometimes, small businesses just need a break that a platform like this successful Instagram account can provide.

Congratulations to @masarapba. May your cult grow and may you continue to use your influence to give hardworking micropreneurs the big break they deserve.

MasarapBa Meet and Eat at Novotel Manila, Araneta Center, General Aguinaldo Ave, Cubao, Quezon City. For reservations call (02) 990-7888. Follow @masarapba for updates.

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