MANILA – While members of the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender (LGBT) community may be fighting for acceptance in some workplace areas, this Laguna-based restaurant takes the exception.
Labanera’s Kitchen, a silog (fried rice and egg) eatery in Sta. Rosa City, is a workplace environment where LGBT persons are not just accepted but welcomed. It started as a food service business last September last year but only expanded into a full-fledged restaurant a month ago.
Co-owner Lorrenz Escosura said many of the eatery’s crew consist of LGBT workers, mostly gay, who struggled to make ends meet when live events, such as beauty pageants, were entirely shut down since March last year.
Prior to opening up a restaurant, Escosura said that Labanera’s Tailoring, which also provided livelihood to unemployed LGBT workers, helped overcome shortages of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
“Ang unang target namin is takeout kasi wala kaming place mag-conduct ng dine in. Wala kasing kinikita yung mga bakla (Our first target was a takeout business because we didn’t have a place to conduct dining. The gays here weren’t earning any profit) so that’s why may Labanera’s Kitchen,” Escosura, also a member of the LGBT community, told Philippine News Agency in an interview.
Once the economy slowly started opening up, he said some employees got back to organizing events but he decided to keep running the restaurant as a family business with his sister Leslyne taking the lead.
“Nagkaroon ng trabaho yung iba naming staff. Kasi alam naman natin ang daming nawalan ng trabaho, ang daming nawalan ng raket. Nagkaroon sila ng pantawid (Our other staff workers got new jobs. We know that a lot of people lost their jobs. The restaurant helped them get by),” he added.
Labanera’s Kitchen, Escosura said, is named after all the LGBT members who still go on despite the difficulties life brings.
“We call it ‘Labanera’ from the root word ‘laban (fight)’. Laban lang kami sa buhay (We keep going on in life). Fighting! Huwag susuko (Don’t give up) no matter what happens. That’s Labanera,” he said.
According to Escosura, “Labanera” was actually the name of an LGBT group known for organizing live events in the city.
“Yung Labanera started as an event organizer dito sa (here in) Sta. Rosa. We’re a group of LGBT na iba’t-iba ang aming hawak (in charge of various events). Normally, ang ginagawa namin ay (we do) pageant and mga events,” he added.
Right now, Escosura said he still finds time to juggle between his job as a frontline government worker, events organizer, and restaurant co-owner.
Silog and milk tea
Labanera's Kitchen serves silog dishes like that would satisfy the breakfast-for-dinner cravings of their customers.
Silog paired with liempo, sisig, chicken, beef tapa, and pork cost PHP65 while silog paired with ham, hotdog, siomai, and embutido are priced at PHP45. It also serves shot orders like sisig (PHP75) and pancit (PHP60). Burger and fries and unlimited chicken wings are also on the menu.
Customers can also request special meals to be served as long as there are enough ingredients available in the pantry.
“Kung ano ang kaya ng kitchen iluto, iluluto namin for the customer (We’ll cook whatever we can for the customer),” Escosura said.
While waiting for orders, customers can enjoy milk tea or fruit tea at their milk tea shop “My Bes-Tea Leaf”.
Customers can choose from nine milk tea flavors (classic milk tea, brown sugar, wintermelon, red velvet, Okinawa, Hokkaido, matcha, mocha, and taro). They also offer fruit tea with either nata de coco or popping boba in nine flavors (raspberry, passion fruit, green apple, strawberry, blueberry, lemon, lychee, peach, and kiwi).
The eatery offers outside spaces so that guests can enjoy their meal in an open area while being serenaded by a live band.
"The ambiance was cool, romantic and dramatic. The food was delicious and with enough servings for each plate especially the unli wings we ordered, partnered with unli red ice tea and unli rice. We enjoyed the most is habang kumakain kami, merong nag pe-play na music then may live band performance din. Music lover kaming lahat and lalong lalo na si husband kasi drummer siya sa banda nila (is while eating, there was a live band performance. We’re all music lovers especially my husband who’s a drummer in their band),” Cheyserr Ocampo, a satisfied customer, said.
Labanera’s Kitchen is also very 'Instagrammable' as black and white food doodles and sakura (cherry blossom tree)-inspired murals make the perfect background for a selfie or groufie.
There are also witty signages that offer suggestions on where to sit such as "Puwesto ng mga taga-Sana All" and "Dito lahat ng mga masasaya. #MayJowa."
The eatery is located at Purok 5 Barangay Caingin, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. They currently cater to dine-in customers daily from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Customers have to observe health and safety guidelines before entering the eatery.
They also offer a delivery option through their Facebook page or mobile number 0905-397-6798. (PNA)