When my mom passed away in early 2011, I decided to come back to my home province of Camarines Sur, some 450 kilometers south of Metro Manila, to be with my father who was alone in our family house. I managed a small rock bar for a month called Wharf Galley Rock Cafe that was located along Elias Angeles Street in Naga City. I set up my own business, but decided to keep Wharf Galley as a trade name, for the bar that I put up at the second floor of Avenue Square, a lifestyle center located in Magsaysay Avenue – the night life strip of Naga City. I ran it for nearly a year but closed it in February 2012. I went back to Manila and took some much needed rest. I was invited back to El Nido to sub as a high school science teacher at the school where I taught grade schoolers back in 2005 in July 2012. After a few months back in El Nido, I finally decided that I wanted to come back and live here.

Although my first big business was the restaurant and rock bar in Naga City, and the first one to ever have a physical location, it was not my first venture into enterprise. I had an online shop called Kikayism that I and my friend PJ Valenciano put up back in 2009. I had another online thrift shop in 2010 that had web pages in Multiply and Facebook and partnered with Xend for the shipping. Kikayism was a participant in the Global Pinoy Bazaar at the Rockwell Tent in Makati in 2010. I made a lot of friends and contacts in the Yabang Pinoy network. Though to be honest, and this is going to be the first time that I will openly admit this, my first business ever was when I was nine and I was selling candies and snack food to my classmates during recess. I saved a lot of money from my small scale enterprise in my grade school years and deposited my money in the local bank. I was such a funny kid because my family was not poor and I really did not need the money to send myself to school or anything. I just liked the entire process of going to the market at the end of the day, after school, to buy stuff, and sell them.

When I closed Wharf Galley in Avenue Square, I took back with me a wealth of extremely important business lessons. It seemed like I did a very expensive crash course in entrepreneurship. I made a promise to not give up on being an entrepreneur but also vowed that I would start a smaller enterprise next time, probably with just one or two staff. I wanted things simpler, and of course, easier to manage.

I started the early stages of planning in January 2013. I made and studied business plans for a milk tea shop, a boutique, a bakery, a laundry shop, and a travel services company (not really an agency). The hardest step was looking for a place to lease in El Nido. I wanted a small and inexpensive space to lease because I did not want another 208 sq.m. place with a 30-member staff. I wanted a simpler life and a smaller business. The planning stage took nearly a year, and four different locations all over El Nido that did not fall through. One owner changed her mind about leasing, another did not push through with construction, another could not give a proper contract, another one was too far outside of town, until finally, some time in September, I found a place. Construction was started in early October and I documented this process as best as I could. All the photos here were taken by my Samsung S4.

October 15, 2013

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It took nearly three days to complete the door and other basic carpentry stuff inside the roughly 15 square meter shop.

October 17, 2013

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October 22, 2013

And it took nearly a week to complete the tiled floor.

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We started painting and shelving work shortly after, which also coincided with the jellyfish incident with my daughter, and one can imagine the difficulties I had to go through during this period. I was alone taking care of my daughter who was taking a lot of medication while trying to supervise the painters and carpenters working at the shop as best as I could.

I had two painters painting the entire area, and it took the both of them nearly a week to complete painting everything. Note that the shelves are pre-made but they were completely white when I bought them in Puerto Princesa and had them painted in bold primary colors of red, blue, yellow, and black.

When we first started painting, my neighbors were commenting on how plain white everything was. I am no interior designer nor architect so I had enlisted the help of one of my friends who was one by profession in conceptualizing the look and feel of the shop. We went looking through posts in Pinterest and I had her help me with the measurements and over-all design. In any case, if you know Cubao Expo in Quezon City, that was the look and feel that we were going for.

October 27, 2013

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And finally on November 5th, we were nearly ready with the opening.

November 5, 2013

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The ceiling lamp’s glass broke during installation from being screwed too tight. The electrical wiring installation took three people and nearly a week to complete. I only have three light sources and one series of sockets in the shop, and one light and socket in the back kitchen. If it were really up to me, I would have had the electrical wiring installation done when the ceiling was being built but the owner had a different idea. We did the installation after painting was completed.

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In the photos are my daughter Lia and her best friend Noa who is our neighbor in Lorenzo’s Beach Cottages in Corong-Corong Beach where we lived for a few months.

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We were meaning to do the soft opening on November 8th, but Yolanda made landfall, and we moved the opening to November 10th. When we opened, the painting of the back kitchen wasn’t even finished. Neither were the plumbing, sink, and exhaust fan. We were only open for a week in November, then my daughter and I had to go to Manila for some important meetings and we came back in December. The shop re-opened in December 11th.

More photos and story in Part 2. 😉