Ka Tunying’s Café is a joint venture between broadcast journalist Anthony Taberna and his wife of nearly 10 years, Rossel. The couple had built their restaurant with their family, both nuclear and extended, in their minds.
For starters, Anthony, who’s also known by his broadcast moniker Tunying, has named the restaurant after his late father, Antonio Taberna Sr. “S’ya talaga ’yong Tunying. Junior n’ya ako,” says the ABS-CBN talent who anchors the radio programs Tapatan ni Tunying and Dos Por Dos (along with fellow commentator Gerry Baja), as well as co-hosting the TV show Umagang Kay Ganda.
KA TUNYING THE BREADWINNER Anthony related to SmartParenting.com.ph during a recent visit to the Timog Avenue branch of Ka Tunying’s Café that his father worked as a bus driver to provide for him and his six siblings, three of whom are older than him. The middle child chipped in by selling small items like the saluyot stalks he’d gather from a rice field near their place in San Antonio, a town in Nueva Ecija. Other times, he would climb coconut trees and pick leaves that he’d turn into walis tingting. Anthony now believed it was these experiences that gave him a business acumen at an early age.
On his second year as a Mass Communications student at New Era University (he was 17), Anthony started working as a news writer at the DZEC radio station. He focused on his work on radio especially when he became the family’s breadwinner, following his father’s stroke. He eventually moved to DZMM and its mother network, ABS-CBN, where he gained popularity as a reporter, commentator, and anchor.
Anthony's entrepreneurial spirit was awakened when the original Tunying died in August 2002. “No’ng namatay ’yong tatay ko, sabi ko, hindi naman uubra na magtatrabaho ako ’tapos magpapadala ako sa kanila,” he recalled. He needed a way to continue supporting his family back in Nueva Ecija. “So, hindi matitigil ’yong cycle. Nag-usap-usap kami [sa pamilya]. Sabi ko, ‘Kailangan nating mag-put up ng isang negosyo kasi hindi kayo nagiging independent sa akin.’”
Putting up a bakery was a consensus suggestion among the family members. “Actually, mahilig lang kaming kumain ng tinapay pero wala namang marunong gumawa ng tinapay,” he points out, chuckling. Nevertheless they opened a small bakery in their place and called it Ka Tunying’s Tinapay, Kape, at Iba Pa (which was later renamed Tunying’s Bread).
Hiring a dependable baker proved to be a challenge, so Anthony decided to enroll his brother-in-law in a baking course at the government-run learning institution Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC). The bakery turned out to be a success. It attracted a lot of customers, many of whom bought baked goodies such as chocolate crinkles and Spanish bread as pasalubong to their loved ones in Metro Manila. Eventually, those Metro Manila-based patrons placed orders, and the bakery began supplying their products to some outlets.
FINDING HIS FOREVER Sometime in 2005, when Anthony’s broadcasting career was gaining momentum and his family business was picking up, he met his future wife, whose maiden name is Rossel Velasco. They were introduced by a common friend and fellow Iglesia ni Cristo member.
Ever the joker, Tunying declared, “Unang kita n’ya pa lang sa akin, na-in love kaagad, e. Masisisi mo ba naman ’yon? Sabi n’ya, ‘Dito na giginhawa ang buhay ko.’”
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Turning serious, Anthony clarified, “Ang totoo no’n, bago ko pa siya makilala, mabilis ako magbago ng desisyon, e. Ang average length lang ano ng relationship ko e three months. Magulo, magulo ’ko. Hindi masyadong tumatagal. Sabi ko, kailangan ko ng…Kasi during that time, ’yong nakilala ko s’ya, 2005, I was 30 years old. E ang pangarap ko, dapat 30 years old, may asawa. So, sabi ko, dapat ayusin ko ’to.
“No’ng nakilala ko s’ya, hindi ko agad niligawan. Tinignan ko muna kung makakasundo ko. Ang tatay n’ya, OFW, so no’ng 2006—ah, June 19, 2006—no’ng sigurado na ’ko. Sinagala pa ’to. Birthday ni Rizal kaya naaalala ko. Taga-Calamba, Laguna ’to. May parada. Parating may parada sa kanila. No’ng magkasama kami, ihahatid ko s’ya, tinawagan ko ang tatay n’ya. Sabi ko sa tatay n’ya—nasa Malaysia no’n—‘Puwede po bang ligawan ko ang anak n’yo?’ E ’yong usual tatay na, ‘Intens’yon mo malinis?’ E pumayag, ayun! Pagkababa ko ng telepono, girlfriend ko na si Rossel.”
By the time they became boyfriend-girlfriend, Anthony was 31, and Rossel was 21. While he had already established his career, Rossel was still building hers. She tried her luck in showbiz by auditioning to GMA-7’s reality TV artista search, StarStruck, in the same batch that produced eventual winners, Kris Bernal and Aljur Abrenica. Though Rossel didn’t make the cut, she found work as a cast member in the Kapuso network’s comedy prank show, Bitoy’s Funniest Videos. She stayed in the now defunct show for more than three years.
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Anthony and Rossel tied the knot on January 14, 2008. They now have two children, both girls, namely Zoey, 8, and Helga, 7. They also consider their restaurant, Ka Tunying’s Café, their baby.
KA TUNYING'S THIRD BABY The Taberna patriarch remembers the time when the bakery that he put up in Nueva Ecija was supplying breads to big stores in Metro Manila. “Hassle ’yong transportation, ’yong logistics, and everything,” he points out. “Nakaisip kami [ni Rossel] no’ng latter part ng 2014 na maghanap ng lote or kaya nagpapaupa, pagawa na kami ng bakeshop dito sa Metro Manila.”
He and his wife found the perfect spot along Visayas Avenue in Quezon City to sell baked products. Then they started serving hot meals through an all-day breakfast fare, which became a hit among their patrons. Sensing they had a winner in their hands, they expanded the menu to include dishes from Anthony’s home province.
The bakery formally became a full-service restaurant with the birth of Ka Tunying’s Café in August 2015. A year later, the owners opened a branch on Timog Avenue, also in Quezon City, and soon after, another branch at the Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Cabanatuan longsilog with choices of recado, batutay, and hamonado
Arroz ala Tunying
Ka Tunying Cafe calls this "Bakbakan Platter": roasted lechon pork belly, fish fillet, salted egg rolls, and gising-gising.
For a quick bite, there are pasta dishes with a twist, such as Tinapa Carbonara and Ka-Love-Asa Lasagna, which is a no-meat baked dish layered with zucchini, eggplant, tomato sauce, cheese, and lots of kalabasa. Heatlhy eaters have several options: the familiar Caesar Salad, Escabeche Salmon Belly, and Ukoy mixed with kalabasa bits. The sweet tooth will get satisfaction with the KTC Dessert Platter, which includes biko-latik, ube macapuno, and turon with tsoknut.
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PILLOW TALK Anthony gives an insight to his role running the restaurant: “Hindi ko masabing one hundred percent. Pero I see to it that every day ando’n ako sa store. Makita ko ’yong day-to-day operation…Hindi naman ako nagluluto, hindi ako sumasama sa kitchen. Hindi ako nagtuturo kung anong dapat because I trust in their expertise—’yong mga tao natin do’n. Ang maganda lang, bago lumabas ’yong mga pagkain, natitikman ko namang lahat. Siguro in that respect e hands-on.”
Anthony says his wife Rossel takes up 70 percent in running the restaurant. “Brand lang ako, e,” he explains. “Ako nga ang trabaho ko lang dito, mascot. Mabuti nga meron ng Tonton na ganyan [official mascot]. Pupunta ka sa store, makikipag-kuwentuhan ka sa guest, magpapa-picture. Pero aside from those wala na, e. Si Rossel na talaga. Siya ’yong think-tank. ’Yong painter nga dito, siya.
“At ang matindi do’n pagka may inisyu kaming tseke na walang pondo, siya ang magbabayad. May events company sila [with her partners with OutBox Media Production Agency]. Buti na lang, meron s’yang kumpanyanyang sarili n’ya.”
Anthony counts the ways why running a business with his wife bolters their almost 10-year marriage. “Una, magkasama kami sa opisina, ’tapos, hanggang sa matutulog na kami, nagi-stratigize pa kami. ’Yon bang pagka me pagkakataon na iko-connect mo sa negosyo ang pinagu-usapan n’yo na personal.
“Nakakatuwa, nakakabuo kami ng mga ideas together kahit nakahiga na kayo. Imagine kung walang ganitong negosyo, ang pinagu-usapan namin ’yong negosyo n’ya sa Outbox at ’yong trabaho ko. Okay rin naman ’yon pero mas maganda kung magkapareho ang ginagawa namin.”
He explains further how and why marriage and business can mix in their case. “Ako kasi, kuwan ako, magaling akong taga-pakinig,” he begins. “Maganda na maging consultative lagi ang mga decisions. Meaning, as a couple running this kind of business, especially so that we invest a lot in this kind of business…
“So, sabi ko, kung magkakamali man tayo, dapat, maliliit na pagkakamali lang. At gano’n din naman s’ya. Sabi n’ya sa ’kin, ‘Bago natin desisyunan e pag-isipan nating mabuti.’ Napakaimportante that the husband listens to his wife, and the wife listens to her husband."
Anthony adds that their business discussions don’t affect their marital decisions. “Ano ako, magaling akong tigasunod. Pagka sinabi ng misis ko, okey agad ako, lalo na pag diskarte sa bata, kung saan maga-aral, o kung sa’n pupunta, o ano ang gagawin. Okay ako, wala kaming pinaga-awayan. Kaya nga nagtatawanan kami, e. Sabi ko, ‘Ang pinaga-awayan natin, ibang tao at negosyo, e.’ Alam mo ’yong maga-away kami, halimbawa ’yong isang driver namin dati, ang dami ng utang. Ako naman si kulokoy, pautang nang pautang na hindi pa nakakabayad sa dating utang, sasabihin [ni Rossel], ‘Inaabuso ka na n’yan, e!’ Sasabihin ko, ‘E kailangan ng tao, e.’ Ang paga-away namin, tungkol sa ibang tao pero ’yong sa amin, sa aming dalawa, issues namin, wala, e.”
He gives a knowing smile and announces: “Pa’no naman, ano pa ang hahanapin n’ya sa akin? Sige nga! Guwapo na ’ko, may sense of humor, macho-nurin.”
Perhaps one of the most important discussion the couple has had in bed is their decision to partner with The Bistro Group of Restaurants, which is behind the popular restaurant chains TGIFridays, Italiannis, Denny’s, Texas Roadhouse, and Buffalo Wild Wings. The partnership, he explains, is geared toward the expansion program of Ka Tunying’s Café, which includes franchising.
Anthony explains further: “Kasi minsan, ilalagay din sa isip mo, ‘Ano ba ang future ng Ka Tunying’s Café if Bistro will take over? Di ba, parang, sila na ba ang nakikialam lahat-lahat dito? Madi-diminish ba ’yong, mada-dilute na ba ’yong authority natin over the business? Mahabang usapan namin ’yan. Pero sabi ko nga, if you are consultative e ang magiging ending pa rin, ‘Eto, ha, ito ang desisyon. Tayong dalawa ’to. Wala sisihan ’to. Sige, pinkie promise.’”
Ka Tunying’s Café has two branches in Quezon City (at #88 Visayas Avenue and on the ground floor of Caswynn Building on Timog Avenue) and one in Pasay City (on Level 4 of NAIA’s Terminal 3).