Filipinos Success’ Stories:
Kaya Ko, Kaya Mo!
If I can, You surely can!
By Marianne Yvonne Rosal and Marjorie Carmona Newman
“Life is full of surprises, but you have to open them hoping for the very best.”
Bayani and Lorena Alacantara
Owners of Panciteria de Manila
The phrase “life is full of surprises” rings most definitely true for the owners of the beloved local pinoy restaurant in Edmonton. Bayani and Lorena Alcantara did not expect to be owners of Panciteria when they first moved to Canada. But life has a way of turning lemons into pancit.
Bayani Amir Alcantara, from Cainta, Rizal was born on Jan. 25, 1968 to the late Dr. Jesus Alcantara and Paz Alcantara. He finished elementary and high school at the University of the Philippines Diliman Q.C. He graduated with a degree in Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology.
He met his wife, Lorena Alcantara, while in college at Trinity University (formerly known as Trinity College) in Quezon City. The college sweethearts got married and became parents at the young age of 20. They are blessed with 4 beautiful daughters who are now all grown up, Lormirra, Lorraine, Loren and Lois.
Bayani did not start out in the restaurant industry. He worked at St Luke’s Medical Center for 9 years and at The Medical City for 2 years as a cardiovascular technologist.
However, in 2002, the couple made a decision in order to obtain a better future for their children and decided to immigrate to Canada. Bayani’s first job in Canada was as a janitor at Weber Centre 101. From there, he was able to get a job at Dynacare Kasper (now Dynalife Dx) as a laboratory assistant. To make ends meet for his growing family, he decided to switch careers and get a job in Fort McMurray when the economy there was booming. However, while there were a lot of opportunities for his career, he found being away from his family difficult, especially having four teenage girls. He then made the decision to go back to Edmonton to join an insurance company.
2012 was the year that Bayani and Lorena decided to open a restaurant business. It all started when his mother-in-law became a permanent resident and had nothing to do at home. To keep her busy at first, the couple looked for opportunities for her to babysit. At that time, Bayani’s brother’s girlfriend had been working at a daycare and suggested that the couple open one.
They initially decided to pursue this venture but the defining twist occurred when, in opening the daycare centre, the location they found available at that time was open for restaurant opportunities. Turning their lemons into lemonade, they decided to go for the restaurant business, seeing as their mother-in-law had restaurant experience in the Philippines for 15 years.
The struggle didn’t end there. They encountered the obstacles of starting a business in Edmonton, for instance, financing the restaurant business as first-time entrepreneurs. As luck would have it, they found a downtown location in Chinatown that was suitable for the restaurant that had a retiring owner who was willing to give counsel. This owner became their mentor in their first business venture, asking him for advice from building maintenance to running a restaurant.
Despite all the struggles, the restaurant finally opened in August 2012 as a fast-food place serving breakfast and pancit. The word spread and soon kababayans in Edmonton were demanding that they expand the menu. From then on, Panciteria has grown into a full-size restaurant with karaoke nights as well as live bands playing every Friday and Saturday nights. From being a breakfast chain, the restaurant not only caters well-loved filipino traditional cuisine now, but also showcases local talent and appeals to pinoys of all ages, especially the young generation.
The restaurant has since moved to a downtown location at 15326 Stony Plain Road. While the business has certainly expanded, the couple maintains it as a family business.
To kababayans who want to startup their own restaurant ventures, the Alcantara’s advice can be summed up as:
1. Pray and ask for guidance from the Lord.
2. Involve your family.
3. Know your whys and why are you doing it?
4. Confront your fear, stay away from negative people.
5. Trust your capabilities, know your strength.
6. Think big and start small.
7. Find a good mentor.
And finally, to serve up their last food for thought: “Success is not defined by having nice cars, a big house or lots of money. Success is a journey with your family and having a good life.”