Opportunity and optimism: La Tabacalera Food Park supports pandemic-hit entrepreneurs


Jun. 22, 2021 ...

Almost a month since it opened as Ilocos Norte's newest established 'safe public space' amidst the pandemic, the La Tabacalera Food Park, an initiative of the Provincial Government has brought both 'opportunity and optimism' to micro-entrepreneurs, according to an Ilokano business owner.

Mr. Alexander Rasco is the proprietor of A-Z Cafeteria, one of the many homegrown enterprises now serving at the Food Park.

"Before the pandemic mayat met daytoy negosiomi. Diay last location-mi diay Batac [City] kaabaymi ti maysa nga university ken dakkel nga ospital. Napintas ti annayas na, monthly ket adda pay events-mi."

[Befor the pandemic, our business was doing well. Our previous location was near a university and a major hospital. We were doing great and even conducted monthly events.]

Almost three years after Mr. Rasco established a coffee shop and then a restaurant, restrictions due to the pandemic forced him to permanently close these.

"Dakkel ti epekto na daytoy pandemia. Especially ket saan a natuloy ti face-to-face schooling dagiti estudiante. So napilitan-kami nga iserra tay location mi diay Batac."

[The pandemic has seriously affected our business. When face-to-face classes were also halted, we were forced to close our shops since our frequent clients were not allowed to visit us anymore.]

As a part of its aggressive implementation of economic recovery measures, even before the opening of the Food Park, PGIN has already launched many pop-up activities and food fairs such as the "Buy IN Sunday Market" where the A-Z Cafeteria was a constant concessionaire.

"Ma-in-invite-kami kadagiti activities ti PGIN, dagitay 'Buy IN' kada food fair. Nakitami a napintas ti panag-embrace ti taga-Laoag ti konseptomi a Korean Street Food. Nag-close man diay coffee shop ken restaurant-mi, naikkankami ti gundaway nga i-introduce ti sabali a food concept ditoy Ilocos Norte."

[PGIN had invited us to every event to sell. Our customers in Laoag embraced very well our Korean Street Food concept. Although we were forced to close our coffee shop and restaurant, we were given a chance to introduce a novel food concept  in Ilocos Norte.]

Mr. Rasco lauded PGIN for its efforts to uplift the livelihood of Ilokano entrepreneurs, eventually bringing normalcy to the food industry and the economic sector.

"Napintas dagiti it-ited ti PGIN [nga oportunidad] saan laeng a makatulong kadagiti padak a small scale entrepreneurs pero ik-ikkanda ti optimism ti tao a depite the pandemic adda latta ti makitatayo a positibo a mapasamak."

[We are thankful for the opportunities PGIN has given us. These do not only help Ilokano entrepreneurs in terms of restarting our businesses but also boosting our optimism amidst the pandemic.]

"PGIN is trying to help not only the entrepreneurs but the people of the province to get back on their feet-to provide positivity to what's happening around us." Mr. Rasco ended.