by Rex Godinez Ortega
Jobless and pregnant. That was what Marie Grace Halibas—the woman behind Margeuries House of Goodies—was in 2006 when she arrived back in Iligan City.
She had been a restaurant manager in Abu Dhabi with a bright future ahead of her when the difficult work conditions forced her to give it all up—including her Filipino boyfriend there.
Left without a father for her unborn child or a means to support herself, Grace arrived home in deep thought.
But the food trade graduate of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) didn’t think for long. As she was won’t to do in times of confusion and adversity, she reverted to what she always loved doing—making pastries.
“Kung wala ko lingaw, mag himo ko recipes [When I have nothing to do, I make recipes],” she said.
Thus, after giving birth to her beautiful daughter, Margeuries, Grace went straight back to the kitchen.
At first, she started selling mango tarts, which she used to do when she was in Cebu City taking her second course at the Culinary School in the University of Cebu. Then she moved on to supplying a major supermarket with her creations.
However, it was not after a friend of hers, Aileen Ann Acosta-Gerona, an anesthesiologist, made a casual suggestion that proved providential, and which charted the course for Margeuries House of Goodies.
“Aileen asked me to make kakanin (rice cakes) for her birthday party,” she said. “And that I should place these in a bilao.”
The delicious bite-sized biko, cassava cakes, puto (with cheese), kutsinta, palitaw, espasol, and pichi2x Grace arranged inside the round shaped, semi-flat winnowing basket became an instant hit.
Just the sight of the colorful and bright native goodies neatly arranged inside the bilao sent the party guests into a festive mood. A single bite of the kakanin, kicked off the celebration in their mouths.
“I realized that people actually missed eating kakanin,” she said. “It was even a new experience for some!”
That was a surprising discovery indeed for Grace as the rice-based native delicacies are actually commonly taken as a snack in the Philippines.
“The ready availability of kakanin locally, however, is another thing,” she observed.
From there, talk of Grace’s kakanin spread by word of mouth until customers started showing up at the family home, which sits along the national highway in Brgy. Sta. Filomena. She even gets asked now to cater to parties of customers who want to provide an alternative dessert choice for guests.
Although Margeuries House of Goodies’ business is still moving at a moderate pace, it usually picks up on Christian holidays, and on Fridays as Maranao motorists on the way back to Marawi City, 30 kilometers away from Iligan, stop by to load up on kakanin.
“It is a favorite pasalubong [coming home present] of theirs,” Grace explained.
Today, the Halibas home’s façade is slowly undergoing a makeover that would transform it into a Kakanin Center of Iligan in the near future.
Things do seem to be looking up for Grace nowadays. A far cry from her homecoming in 2006 where she was jobless and six months pregnant.
But by an act of grace, a wonderful idea was born.
= = =
For more information about the delicious kakanin from Margeuries House of Goodies, visit Margeuries House of Goodies or text/call the following numbers: 0906-381-5088 (Globe) and 0928-750-1682 (Smart).
All photos in this article by Margeuries House of Goodies. More photos below: