Bazaars and other pop-up stores have been allowed to operate in Metro Manila since the region was placed under Alert Level 2 quarantine status on Nov. 5. (PNA photo by Azer N. Parrocha)

MANILA – Every once in a while, a city manages to produce one or two types of food better than other places. For Malabon, it's pancit and kakanin (rice cakes). But if you’re a local who’s looking for something different, you’re in luck.

After the country struggled through nearly two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, some of Malabon’s most treasured holiday traditions are making a comeback.

Bazaars and other pop-up stores have been allowed to operate in Metro Manila since the region was placed under Alert Level 2 quarantine status on Nov. 5.

Malabon City’s latest culinary offering is a food bazaar that offers flavorful, easy to eat meals that are simple but will remind you of being somewhere else.

The Concepcion Food Bazaar treats visitors to mouth-watering street food—Filipino (isaw, dugo, barbeque), Chinese (dimsum, fried noodles, hotpot) Korean (tteokbokki, gimbap, corndogs), Japanese (takoyaki, katsudon, mixed maki), Middle Eastern (shawarma, kebab), American (chicken wings, angus beef sandwiches, nachos), and much more.

The Concepcion Food Bazaar treats visitors to mouth-watering street food—Filipino (isaw, dugo, barbeque), Chinese (dimsum, fried noodles, hotpot) Korean (tteokbokki, gimbap, corndogs), Japanese (takoyaki, katsudon, mixed maki), Middle Eastern (shawarma, kebab), American (chicken wings, angus beef sandwiches, nachos), and much more. (PNA photo by Azer N. Parrocha)

There’s just something about magical about street food you don’t get from your typical restaurants. Adrian Abella, who has worked in the food and beverage industry for 10 years, became chief organizer of the event after his own restaurant closed down last year.

“Mayroon akong burger store, yung Zoey’s Burger and Pasta. Nag-run siya for five years and then dumating yung pandemya so napilitan kami isara. Until ngayon nga na di na naming siya nabuksan gawa ng pandemya. So this time, ang ginawa naman namin binigyan namin ng chance yung iba (I have a burger store, Zoey’s Burger and Pasta. It ran for five years and then we had to close when the pandemic started. We didn’t get to reopen. So this time, we’re giving others the chance to open their own businesses),” he said.

Abella said only online merchants, mostly young entrepreneurs, were allowed to participate in the bazaar to give them a chance to experience what it’s like managing a physical store.

Takoyaki or smoked Angus beef? Take your pick. These are just some of the foods you'll find in the Concepcion Food Bazaar. (PNA photo by Azer N. Parrocha) 

“Pinili lang naming muna yung talagang walang physical store. At the same time, nagkaroon sila ng experience kung paano ba magnegosyo, kung paano ba sumabak sa food industry (We only picked businesses without physical stores. At the same time, this would give them experience on how to do business, how to dive into the food industry),” he said.

Adrian Abella, who has worked in the food and beverage industry for 10 years, became chief organizer of the event after his own restaurant closed down last year. (PNA photo by Azer N. Parrocha)

He enjoys organizing bazaars because it supports a good cause such as providing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with a chance to establish their own brands.

“Ang concept naming ng bazaar is para matulungan yung mga small and medium enterprise na negosyante na inabutan ng pandemiya. So ito ‘yun (The concept of the bazaar is to help small and medium enterprises hit by the pandemic. So this is it),” he added.

Jason, 24, is elated to find a place that served his favorite Korean and Japanese street food at affordable prices.

“Maganda ito para sa mga taong hindi makaisip ng place kung saan puwede kumain (It’s a good place for those who don’t know where to eat),” he said.

Buy and go

To prevent the spread of Covid-19, Abella they are implementing a “buy and go” policy to discourage crowds.

However, alfresco (outdoor) seating is also available but with limited tables that could accommodate only 40 customers at a time. All tables will be sanitized every after customers finish their meals.

Besides being fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Abella said all tenants strictly adhere to minimum public health standards.

“Kami bilang admin, nakatutok kami. Tinitignan naming kung mayroon silang proper attire, kung nagsusuot sila ng masks nila, kung sanitized yung mga gamit nila. Sa customers natin, hiwa-hiwalay naman yung mesa. May mga marshals naman so from time to time may nag-iikot (As admin, we’re hands on. We see to it that tenants are in proper attire, if they’re wearing their masks, if their materials are sanitized. As for customers, we make sure tables are apart from each other. There are marshals to see if rules are being followed),” he said.

Limited outdoor dining to is being implemented to minimize the risk of Covid-19 transmission. (PNA photo by Azer N. Parrocha)

 Sky’s the limit

Abella is no stranger to organizing food events. In fact, he was also behind the annual food bazaar in Robinsons Town Mall in Tinajeros, Malabon.

Although the bazaar is only expected to run until January, Abella is hopeful that it would be successful enough to be a permanent fixture in Malabon.

“Pag tinatangkilik pa rin tayo ng tao, sa tingin ko enough na ‘yun para masabi na itutuloy pa rin natin. At the same time, sa mga tenant, siyempre umaasa din sa ’tin. Kumbaga, kung gusto nilang ituloy, itutuloy naman namin (If people continue to patronize us, I think it’s enough to say that we can continue. At the same time, the tenants rely on us too. If they want to continue, we’ll continue),” he said.

Only online merchants, mostly young entrepreneurs, were allowed to participate in the bazaar to give them a chance to experience what it’s like managing a physical store. (PNA photo by Azer N. Parrocha)

He said if Malabon wants to remain an emerging culinary destination, it’s important to make sure that there are plenty of food choices.

The Concepcion Food Bazaar is open daily from 2 p.m. to 12 midnight.

It is located along Paez strEAT (street), corner General Luna, Barangay Concepcion. (PNA)