Casa Ilongga is a 40-year-old brand and a popular name in Visayas and Mindanao, with food stalls in three of SM’s food courts in Iloilo, Bacolod and General Santos City. It serves authentic Batchoy and other Ilonggo dishes.

Cherie Uytiepo, one of 9 siblings whose parents started the business in 1981 recalls,

“We started with a little ‘batchoyan’ on Vito Cruz, and a handsome young Fil-Chinese man in a starched white shirt would always eat there, and because he was so well dressed, he stood out from the other diners. I was told by my brother Manong Paeng that it was Harley Sy, who then convinced him to open in the Megamall Food Court.”

Cherie says they were scared to venture to a mall—but Harley convinced them by explaining that small food businesses took the chance and were doing well there. “So we opened in Megamall, and when my parents moved to Iloilo to retire in 1998, they also opened in SM Iloilo’s food court”

“We have been in business for 40 years, but I have never seen as difficult a situation as this one. It’s a very big help that SM gave us rental discounts.”  Cherie cites that SM City General Santos has been a very strong number 1 among its many branches. “The way I see it, it’s a big thing if people know you are in SM. It’s an extra perk.”

Many of their employees have remained with them through the years. “We try our best to take care of our people. Our daddy’s orientation is to take care of our people because they take care of us.”

Although many of her nine siblings have immigrated to the US, Cherie and her Manang Chiquit still keep the brand going. Good product, the right place and loyal people are their secret ingredients, a recipe that has served them well from 40 years ago till today.

To know more about Casa Ilongga, follow and like its Facebook page @casailonggaph.