“Saan tayo kakain?” is a question that is always hard to answer. Hungry from learning, or just plain hungry, friends usually gather together during their lunch breaks to discuss the possible places they can eat together. One can go to Agno, or to any of the various restaurants surrounding the school. Besides those, though, there are also places within the University that cater to students looking for a quick snack in between classes. Places like Animo Biz and Perico’s never have a shortage of people buying and eating food.

But what of the people who work there? We see them every day whenever we buy food. Some may even know our preferences already based on how often we buy from the kiosk. They exchange quick smiles with us and we go on our merry way. Let’s take a closer look at the lives, thoughts, and inspirations of the men and women who serve up smiles inside the campus.

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An institution

Bloemen Hall currently houses Animo Biz, a collective that serves food and drinks to the Lasallian community. While some of the kiosks run by students come and go every term, the Sandwich Corner has become somewhat of an institution, even if Animo Biz has only been in existence since 2013. One of its concessionaires, however, has been working in DLSU since 1995.

Lito Abines, more commonly known as Kuya Lito, is one of the proprietors of the Sandwich Corner. He can sometimes be seen handing out drinks or taking orders, but he’s always wearing his signature green visor and a smile. Ask anyone about him and they’ll immediately know who he is; everyone knows Kuya Lito as both very welcoming and hospitable.

Pagdating ko sa Manila, ang ano talaga ko noon [ay] makapag-trabaho tsaka makapag-aral,” he shares. During the mid-1990s, Kuya Lito started working for Zaide after a stint in a garment factory as a spreader. At a very early age, he knew that he needed to work hard to fulfill his plan. He left Samar, his hometown, at the age of 18 to help his parents as the eldest child in his family. “Hanap ng magulang na matalungan ko sila para naman mapanibago yung bahay namin,” Kuya Lito recalls. “Nangyari noon, syempre parang nawili na ako sa pagtratrabaho, di na ako nakapag-aral.”

 

For the family

When word got out that Zaide would be closing down, Kuya Lito worried about how he would make a living and help raise his family. He reached out to the canteen committee, which was in charge of the new kiosks and management of Animo Biz, and asked if he could run his own kiosk. “Siyempre, paaaralin ko mga anak ko. Hindi pa rin magiging sapat ang kita ko doon sa pagtratrabaho,” Kuya Lito shares, saying that his salary back then just wasn’t cutting it. Together with Vic Cimafranca and Alex Paca-Anas, two other concessionaires of Sandwich Corner, they pooled Php 60,000 as capital and began operating the kiosk.

Though the capital still lacked at first, they continued with the business. Leaving the campus was a difficult idea for Kuya Lito, who had grown accustomed to the community that he had been working with for so long. Eventually, the business persevered into the cornerstone of Animo Biz that it is today.

 

Perico’s, anyone?

On the other side of the campus lies Perico’s, a canteen that can be found in the LS building. Just like Animo Biz, it is fairly new to the campus, also hailing back in 2013. The canteen’s extensive menu gives one an almost unlimited number of choices of both snacks and meals.

Being around for two years, the staff at Perico’s have seen many things around the school. When asked about some of the interesting things they’ve noticed, Atlas Panlaqui, a waiter, mentions how the surroundings have changed, while also talking about the new people he has met over the years.

On the other hand, Perico’s manager, Veronica Canillo, mentions her dealings with the students. “Out of all the schools we service, DLSU doesn’t discriminate us. Although most students belong to high standards of family living, we don’t encounter any discrimination regarding our service. There may be a gap between us and people from DLSU but they’re [still] respectful people.”

 

On the flip side

Of course, there are always two sides to a coin. When asked what were the best and worst parts of the job, Tina Largago explains the trouble of commuting, and how she always looks forward to going home once closing time comes. Ever the manager, Ate Veronica says, “What’s not nice is when we have suppliers who don’t give us quality ingredients which makes me mad. [But] the good is how La Salle treats us. Especially during Christmas. They have Christmas gifts for our kids and to us also. It’s a big thing for us.”

What if they weren’t working at Perico’s? Ate Tina says she would like to be a fulltime housewife for her family. On the other hand, Kuya Atlas and Ate Veronica dream of having their own business. “I started also with my own canteen before I arrived at the canteen,” Ate Tina explains.

 

To the students

Was there something they’ve always wanted to say to the students? Kuya Atlas simply says thank you for the patronage, while Ate Tina and Veronica mention the importance of CLAYGO. “Sometimes we are short staffed so it would be nice to implement CLAYGO. It’s sometimes tiring on our part to pick up the smallest of trash like plastic cups and tissues. It’s light so I think everyone can do their part and throw it away. We understand if the trash is a lot but when it’s not, CLAYGO,” Ate Tina says. Ate Veronica also adds that she hopes everyone will follow the policy to help out in their own little way.

On a more personal note, Kuya Lito decided to thank the student body as well as the administration for the support and love they’ve shown him throughout the years. “Hindi ako tatagal sa ganitong trabaho namin [kung walang] tumatangkilik sa amin,” he added with a smile on his face. Kuya Lito admits to still looking forward to the little things in his job like his conversations with some faculty members or simple greetings from students. “Hanggang ngayon, dito ako naging masaya sa dati kong mga trabaho,” he adds. “Nagiging masaya kami sa mga nagiging customer namin.”

By Daniel Ian Comandante

By Brittany Aguilar

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