I got up at 4:45 am on Sunday, the 15th of January… thinking and hoping that we were ready for the probable deluge of folks for Sinulog at our Mango Avenue Branch of Zubuchon. I had to get to the restaurant early or get stuck in the crowds of millions expected to attend. But first, I headed to our lechonan to make sure production was under control. Over 50 lechons were to be cooked that day, and we had turned down dozens of other orders to ensure we didn’t overextend ourselves. But the sight of dozens of pigs, already on bamboo poles, was merely a hint of what was about to hit later that day…
Preparations had started the night before and by 6am, the first dozen or so lechons were just an hour or two away from being fully cooked. The lechonan crew would finish their last lechon for the day by late afternoon, and to buoy flagging spirits, I offered up the release of 2 cases of beer for the crew AS SOON as the pigs were cooked. :) Trust me, Sinulog turns into one humongous street party that consumes millions of liters of beer in one day!
It’s actually far more efficient to roast a lot of pigs at the same time… but the intense heat was almost infernal. Our lechonan has specially angled roofs, to guide hot air out on one side, to try and make sure that the other side of the lechonan is more comfortable for the folks who stoke the fires and keep watch over the roasting pigs… It is an extremely difficult job to do day in and day out…
We made it to the restaurant by 7:30 or so, well before we had planned to open at 9am. I even had to help carry 28-30+ kilo lechons several hundred meters through the assembling dancers to make sure we had stocks when we opened the doors. The restaurant staff were all dressed in black Zubuchon t-shirts, for Sinulog, and at their request, in jeans and sneakers to help survive the double shifts that day. They were thrilled that I did a quick interview with a comedian from GMA7, for an upcoming pilot show of his that will air in February, and they got a couple of shots with the budding celebrity… It seems a small thing, but it isn’t, photos of staff in magazines, or with this celebrity or that are treasured and appreciated a great deal. :)
The calm before the storm…part of the crew pose for a group photo outside our Mango Avenue Branch.
We had a little stall with drinks, chicharon, fast meals and lechon outside to provide a quick serve station throughout the day… all seemed very manageable until about 10:45am. Then suddenly, without much warning, wave after wave of customers started to arrive and order meals. We clocked 865 covers who sat down to meals inside the 60 seater restaurant in a period of 12 hours. It means each seat turned over some 14x in half a day! And that isn’t counting the 1,000 plus folks who purchased fast meals, beer and chicharon from the outside stall at the same time. Let’s just say it was a tsunami of diners, nothing like I had ever seen or experienced before. Service must have indeed suffered, but the crew handled the day brilliantly, in my opinion. Against all commercial sense, I put a stop to the meals at 11pm, despite another say 3-4 solid hours of customers left… I thought the crew had had enough.
Things outdoors were getting incredibly rowdy, and the complex we are in must have, combined, sold some 3,000 cases of beer (72,000 bottles) in less than half a day! The staff were exhausted, but pumped with adrenaline, and we had our best day, by far, businesswise, EVER. :)
That’s me, at the door, slowing the influx of diners. I am happy we closed when we did. No untoward incidents, all staff survived the weekend and made it home fine. We have learned some valuable lessons for next year’s madness. We closed for lunch the next day to help get more time for crew to sleep… On behalf of all of us at Zubuchon, I would like to thank everyone (including many readers!) who dropped by the restaurant(s) over the Sinulog holiday… we truly appreciate your business. Maraming Salamat!!