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This Bachelor Built a Home and a Business to Support His 11 SiblingsHis success was fueled by his desire to get his family out of poverty.by Kitty Elicay .
IMAGE Paul del Rosario
There is a private dining space called Kinalimera in an area in Guadalupe, Makati that will make you think whether you've come to the right place. The only markers are the white facade and the brown gates. And the location, along a one-way street, is not in a gated subdivision. In fact, it's a regular route for public jeepneys.
It's a regular-looking house, and it's why you can't help but go "wow" when you enter the gate and head down the stairs. It opens to an impressive courtyard that has a cozy, inviting feel, especially when the sunlight is streaming down the open space. It's a beautiful place to hang out, lounge around, and, yes, eat like you're at home. Except here you don't have to worry about the meal-planning and cooking, the dishwashing or even the dress code (you dictate it!).
Doing all the worrying for you is Chef Raul Ramos, who, until a year ago, was working alongside Chef Myrna Segismundo as the assistant vice president and head of operations of 9501, the executive restaurant of ABS-CBN Corporation. While he is now retired, the 59-year-old has not let up on his passion for cooking — and his family. It's this familial love that brought us here in the first place, and their story is worthy of a Maaalala Mo Kaya episode.
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Our country is known for its strong family ties. In a survey conducted by a life insurance company in 2016, it was found that Filipino adults are very generous to each other and like to offer mutual financial support. Parents are the de facto breadwinners, but it is not uncommon that a family depends on one of the children, often the eldest, to bear the responsibility of providing for the whole household.
Chef Raul, who is a bachelor, isn't a father nor is he the eldest in the Ramos family. He is the third of 12 brothers and sisters, and at 16 years old, he was already working to help support his siblings. “Baka maiyak ka sa hirap ng buhay namin noon,” he tells this writer jokingly.
His father was a policeman, and his mom had a small store. They didn't make enough money to make ends meet for their large family. No one asked the chef to step up, but he realized early he needed to do so.
Raul first got a job at a machinery factory, where he cut templates of galvanized sheets for eight months. Then, at 17, he landed the job that would eventually launch his career. “I had a friend who was going to apply at Mandarin Oriental. I begged him to bring me along,” Raul shares.
This was 1976, and the hotel just opened in the Philippines. Raul had no experience in the hotel industry, but Bruce Simeoni, a French-Italian expat who was part of the hotel, hired him anyway.
Raul was assigned to the kitchen as a steward — "That’s a fancy name for dishwasher," he says. It was hard labor. “During that time, ang lakas ng mga hotel. Minsan nililibang ko ang sarili ko, binibilang ko ‘yung lahat ng nilalagay ko dun sa machine [that washes the dishes]. Minsan pitong libo na hindi pa ako tapos!” he exclaims. “’Pag tapos nun, tatawagin ka na dun sa pots and pans. Ang lalaki ng mga kaldero.”
Simeoni noticed his hard work and eventually offered him a spot at Tivoli, Mandarin’s main restaurant, as a busboy. Raul also managed to go back to school, thanks to Simeoni’s help. “Tatanungin niya muna ako, ‘Anong oras ang pasok mo?’ Tapos i-si-schedule niya ako pang-gabi o pang-umaga. Nakakatuwa dahil binibigyan niya ako ng pagkakataon.”
Raul made sure those opportunities were not wasted. He was promoted to junior waiter, climbed the ranks, and at 23, he became the restaurant’s manager.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
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Raul’s rise did not go unnoticed. Pretty soon, Sign of the Anvil, one of Manila’s top restaurants at that time, tapped him to oversee its operations. Sign of the Anvil chefs often went head-to-head with chefs from various hotels in culinary competitions. The restaurant’s general manager at the time and Raul’s would-be-mentor, Chef Myrna, convinced him to take up formal cooking lessons. Raul took short courses while working at the restaurant and eventually joined the competitions where Anvil competed.
“Fortunately, nananalo rin ako,” he tells us.
Raul's younger sisters would later reveal it was the early marriages of their two eldest sisters that pushed Raul to work at such a young age.
“May usapan silang tatlo — walang iwanan. Kasi kami, maliliit pa. Labindalawang sunud-sunod,” his sister and one of his youngest siblings, Imelda Ramos, shares. “Pero iniwan siya [nung dalawa], nag-asawa agad sila. Kaya parang nag-rebelde siya. Umalis siya ng bahay," says his sister, Imelda.
Raul did not wholly abandon his family. In fact, his younger brothers and sisters continued getting their allowance from him. Back then, they didn’t feel any shame asking him for money because “walang hihingian. Siya lang talaga.” Later on, they discovered Raul would save the tips he received as a waiter, and he gave it to them as their everyday baon.
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Poverty led Raul and his siblings to live apart, a situation that motivated Raul to work even harder. At the time, he felt his sole purpose was to bring his family back together. In 1989, Raul did just that, saving enough money to buy a lot in Guadalupe and build a house where all his 10 siblings can live.
The property marked a beginning of sorts for the family. Imelda recalls she felt they were given a chance at a comfortable life. “Noon, hindi kami kumakain ng three times a day. Ngayon, nabibili na namin ‘yung gusto namin. Nakakapag-grocery na kami,” she says.
With all of his family under one roof, Raul saw an opportunity in putting up a catering business with his siblings as staff. “It wasn’t necessarily because kailangan nila matutong magluto. Kailangan naming gawin ‘to para kumita kami,” he says.
At the beginning, things were difficult. Raul was still working full-time, and his siblings did not have any experience in the food and beverage industry. “You had to guide them and dapat ang expectations mo hindi ganun kataas,” he says. But he also knew they had it in them to do the work well. “’Yung kahinaan mo, pwedeng lakas ng ibang kapatid mo.”
His siblings found their stride and learned who was best qualified to take on certain responsibilities in the business. They did it so well that most of them have forged their paths in the same industry.
At present, one of Raul’s sisters, Cora, resides and works as a chef in Canada. His brother, Rene, is a sous chef at Solaire Resort & Casino, while another brother, Randy, works as a chef at a luxury ship. His other brother, Lito, manages the family's property (and soon-to-be events place) in Liliw, Laguna, while two more brothers, August and Junior, have their sari-sari stores.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Save for his sister in Canada, his brother in Laguna, and his brother on the luxury ship, the rest of Raul’s siblings and their mother still live in the same compound Raul bought, together with his nieces and nephews. (One sibling passed away when they were younger.) Raul prefers it this way.
“Nakikita ko kasi na nagkakahiwa-hiwalay. So I said, I’ll take the responsibility,” he says. “Hindi naman nilagay sa akin [yung responsibility]. I really took it.”
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Huwag kang mamamatay ng mahirap, kasi kung mahirap ka na nung nabubuhay ka, tapos mamamatay ka pang mahirap, may problema ka.
A comfortable life
To this day, Raul's word is the law in the family. “Gusto niyang mabago ang buhay namin kasi hirap na hirap kami. Kaya kailangang baguhin niya,” Imelda says. “Sa kanya, lahat nagsimula. Siya lahat ang gumawa; kung hindi niya ginawa at kung hindi siya ang tumayong tatay, wala kami.”
His nieces and nephews have so much respect for their Tito that they automatically seek his guidance whenever they have problems. “Kasi ‘yung mga magulang namin sa kanya rin nag-ko-consult,” shares Jayvee, one of Raul’s nieces. “So mas madalas iisipin, namin kay Tito muna [mag-consult]. Siguro kasi respect na rin.”
The family admits there are conflicts especially when all live under one roof. Just don't expect them to share it with anyone outside their circle. If there is anything to discuss, they will do so among themselves and probably on a Sunday when all of them gather in the courtyard for one big family lunch or dinner.
The family's Sunday tradition is what inspired Raul to open up the house to private dining affairs after they decided to stop with the catering business. When there are bookings, everyone pitches in including the nieces and nephews.
“Automatic na. Alam na namin na kapag may event, lahat kami tulong-tulong talaga. Hindi na kailangan sabihan — alam na namin ang kanya-kanyang part namin,” says Irish, one of Raul’s nieces.
And since it's a family who cooks and serves you, you get the kind of pag-aalaga that reminds you of your childhood days at lola's house. Besides, you get Raul's vast culinary experience; he makes a new menu from scratch for every party and one that fits your budget.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
The family is comfortable enough to rely on word-of-mouth when it comes to the private dining business. But they refuse to let that level of prosperity, if you will, to get into their heads.
Imelda shares a funny story: “Makikita kami ng mga kapitbahay, tatanungin kami, ‘bakit kayo naglalakad? Mayron naman kayong tatlong kotse.’ Kapag sinusundo namin ‘yung mga pamangkin namin sa eskwelahan, makikipaghabulan kami sa jeep. Tatanungin kami ng driver, ‘bakit hindi kayo mag-kotse?’ E, P7.50 lang ang pamasahe. Ganun kami ka-praktikal. Kasi mahirap din ‘yung masyadong masagana.”
They all could have moved to houses in a private subdivision, but they chose to remain in Guadalupe because it’s where they grew up. “Sabi namin, ‘di naman tayo mayaman na mayaman bakit tayo sasabay sa kanila? Pero kapag nasa lugar tayo ng mayayaman, aayusin lang natin yung itsura natin, hindi natin kailangan maging mas mataas pa. Simple lang dapat,” says Imelda.
We did wonder out loud why Raul never thought of putting up a full-scale restaurant, but the bachelor says he likes to play to his strengths. “’Yung restaurant na full operations, hindi ko kakayanin ‘yun. Hindi ako mahilig mag-ambisyon na ‘ah, dapat ganito.’ Kapag ayaw ko, ayaw ko. Kapag gusto ko, gusto ko,” he says.
Raul is a respected chef in the industry, but beneath his toque is a simple, family man with a big heart, whose only desire was to see his family safe, happy, and whole.
“Lagi kong sinasabi, huwag kang mamamatay ng mahirap, kasi kung mahirap ka na nung nabubuhay ka, tapos mamamatay ka pang mahirap, may problema ka. Kaya hindi kami umunlad-unlad kasi ang dami namin. Pero I took the challenge — yung karamihan namin ginawa kong positive para umunlad.”
Now that he’s achieved that, he can sit back with ease and look at all that he’s reaped with a smile.
For inquiries on Kinalimera, visit their Facebook page, or call 758-2159 or 0917-7148683.