Strong, Independent, Filipina: Meet the Businesswomen of Coron
Jacqueline Haessig Alleje of Follow Your Taste
Perhaps rather ironically, our first Coron Businesswoman isn't Filipina at all. Having migrated with her family from Switzerland in 1988, Jacqui’s father opened a Swiss Restaurant in Antipolo, Rizal before she came diving in Palawan in the 1990s and dreamt that one day she would live here. That dream is now a reality as in September 2019 Jacqui opened her own yoghurt ice cream café, Follow your Taste, located in the heart of Coron Town.
Her ties to Antipolo are still present though, as her Filipino husband runs a dairy farm there while her sister runs the family business which is still going strong. She sources all fresh ingredients from her husband’s farm and coming from a family of restaurateurs, Jacqui is no stranger to high quality products.
11 Likes, 0 Comments - Rizal Dairy Farms (@rizaldairy) on Instagram
When you get to know her a little, it’s hardly surprising that this determined woman has succeeded in fulfilling her dreams. In her spare time, Jacqui is quite the athlete who cycles to work, has completed a triathlon and, perhaps unsurprisingly considering her country is home to the alps, loves a good hike. In fact, she’s completed an 800km hike called the ‘Santiago de Compostela’ in Spain not once, but twice. The stamina and strength of will demonstrated to complete a feat like this has certainly translated into her business. This woman gives everything her all and lives by the mantra that ‘with a healthy body comes a healthy mind’.
That’s why every item served in her café is free from artificial ingredients. She works with local suppliers to make fresh and healthy treats that you don’t regret putting in your body. She’s even brought with her a taste of home, a Swiss Farmer’s breakfast of a potato Rosti and a fried egg which we recommend trying over a chat with the woman herself.
This woman gives everything her all and lives by the mantra that ‘with a healthy body comes a healthy mind’
Marina Bulaong of Coron Yoga
Marina exudes positive energy. Born in Manila, she has spent the last 3 years living and working in El Nido but has now seen a gap in the market in Coron for what she calls ‘her addiction’: Yoga. She believes that Palawan is the ‘final frontier of the Philippines’ and is determined to cash in on the increasingly large tourist industry here. It’s a totally new thing for a lot of the locals who she is still persuading to open up to her passion but has a commendable attitude towards her work.
Discovering her passion for the exercise at just 19 while she was taking pre-natal sessions, pregnant with her son, Marina sees Yoga as so much more than just its physical form. She says it was the only thing that calmed her down during her turbulent pregnancy and has practiced this form of active meditation ever since.
‘It’s so much more than the pretty girls on Instagram’ she explains, ‘in India they consider it to be the science of reaching mental liberation.’
Having spent 6 months in India dedicating her life to learning about the traditions of the stretches, she stresses the importance of the mental side of this meditative sport. ‘It’s so much more than the pretty girls on Instagram’ she explains, ‘in India they consider it to be the science of reaching mental liberation.’
You can drop into one of her sessions on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday at HOP Hostel, contact her directly for private sessions in your resort or alternatively book a 5 day session through the tour operator, Amazing Philippines.
Watch this space though, as in the coming months she plans to open a small café a couple of kilometres out of town attached to a large hall space to spring her business into action.
Eacel Janubas of Le Voyage
Eacel is a calm and softly spoken woman who runs Coron’s number 1 café according to Tripadvisor. Le Voyage is an admirable business venture serving some of the best vegan pancakes we’ve ever tried and the woman behind it is just as impressive.
From Mindanao in the Southern Phillipines, she moved to Coron in January 2017 before opening her business here 3 months later. Although not a vegan herself, she watches her meat intake and has tried the diet before, using it to cleanse her body and improve her health in times of need.
22 Likes, 0 Comments - Le Voyage (@levoyage_coron) on Instagram: "#vegan #smoothiebowl"
Before the café she had run a trekking tour agency in Mindanao which her brother looks after these days and although she spent 10 months managing a café with a friend in Luzon but didn’t want business to tarnish their friendship so decided to leave. She loves to read in her spare time and has green fingers at home growing cacti, succulents and a variety of herbs. As a woman, she seems thoughtful, caring and honest; qualities that are expressed through her food.
The story behind Le Voyage is fascinating, too. Travelling the Philippines back in 2016 Eacel was couchsurfing in Old Busuanga when she fell in love with the place. She realized she wanted to move here and Belle, the Chinese woman she was staying with, happened to have the capital to open a café in Coron.
RT @AFARmedia: "What I’ve learned is that the majority of people are good. Most are not racist or misogynist, and the greater part of my experiences have been positive, largely because of the strangers that I’ve met along the way." #longreads https://t.co/XIjsNFvMSp— Couchsurfing (@Couchsurfing) February 11, 2020
3 months later and Eacel had moved here before opening the café with Belle just weeks later, which has now become the most successful in town. Don’t take our word for it though, go and try it yourself!
Veronica of Full Lotus & Fresh Bites
Having moved to Coron last February, Veronica’s first year in the town has been fruitful as she has managed to get both a vegetarian restaurant and café up and running. Originally from Manila, she actually spent ten years as a fashion designer focusing on wedding dresses, to make people feel beautiful on their special day. Now though, she makes people feel good through food and after her first restaurant, Full Lotus, was a great success, Fresh Bites had been opened as a sister cafe. This is testament to Veronica’s knowhow in the industry and passion for food, 23 years a vegetarian herself.
Extremely well-travelled, she has taken a yoga course in Nepal and adventured all over Europe. Wherever she has gone, she has made it a priority to take a cooking class, learning how different cultures all around the world nourish themselves, from the vast amounts of garlic used in Italian cuisine to the wide variety of spices sampled in India. This reflects in her cultured menu, featuring everything from ‘Tostadas’ to a ‘Kathmandu wrap’.
She calls Lotus a ‘mindful kitchen’ and I think she herself is a mindful woman. She considers mind, body and soul to all be connected.
She calls Lotus a ‘mindful kitchen’ and I think she herself is a mindful woman. She considers mind, body and soul to all be connected and is extremely conscious of the environment. Passionate about being in the ocean, she’s doing her bit to protect the beautiful coral reefs around Palawan and it is precisely the island life lured her from Manila to Coron.
Michi Sotto of SUP Central
Michi is a woman of many surprising talents. Another Manila born and raised entrepreneur, she has the edge of a city girl in Coron. Like Veronica, she has thirty years’ experience designing bridal dresses before her retirement in 2018. The two actually met on a television show back in the Filipino capital before finding each other again in Coron. Majoring in Fashion Design at the Art Institute of Seattle, Michi was chosen for a scholarship by designer Carolina Herrera, the only person from candidates in 147 countries. She later became a dean of fashion design and sees herself as an intrinsic teacher who loves to pass on her skills and experience by mentoring passionate young people.
In addition to this, she has been managing and selling real estate in Coron since 2016, most recently a property in Fernvale. This is only a side venture though and as if her skill set wasn’t broad enough, she has been an ASI (Academy of Surfing Instructors) instructor for six years running an SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) Touring company in Coron as well as her own SUP school.
Voted GRID Magazines SUP Queen, she’s constantly developing awareness of the sport and connecting all the movers on the SUP scene.
Paddling out into Bacau Bay with her is a unique opportunity to paddle among the mangrove mazes of the only tree that grows in saltwater. Mangroves consume three times more CO2 than the trees of the Amazon rainforest and you can do your bit for the environment by planting one as you float through the natural corridors they create. You can experience it for 2500PHP per two and a half hour tour and as the CEO of ASI Philippines, there really isn’t a better woman to learn from.
She sees Coron as a hotbed for tourism and explains that ‘opportunity has come very easily’ here. Like Jacqui, she has also completed a triathlon but now focuses on paddling as her main sport of choice as it is not so physically demanding. Voted GRID Magazines SUP Queen, she’s constantly developing awareness of the sport and connecting all the movers on the SUP scene. Yet another inspirational woman making things happen in Coron, don’t miss the chance to paddleboard in what Michi calls ‘the most beautiful place in the country’.