Dahlia Agbanlog knew early on that Pinoys living and working in Qatar would want to eat traditional meals that reminded them of home. Transitioning to working at a foreign land isn’t easy, and chomping down on Adobo served by fellow Pinoys certainly helps your mind feel at ease in a foreign country, she reasons.
Dahlia Agbanlog has serving OFWs a taste of home ever since 2001, when she first visited her brother in the Arab nation. It was her first and last visit—she never went back to the Philippines, deciding instead to make a life for herself in Qatar, and bring a taste of home to Pinoys based there.
Agbanlog told Rappler that her first restaurant opened in 2001, and consisted of just her, her brother as the chef, her father as cashier, and another relative as a dishwasher. The very first day that her restaurant opened, lines from the cashier spilled over to the streets, which was a hint of things to come.
That first restaurant eventually closed down due to a downturn in business partnerships, but Agbanlog did not give up. After that, she opened the first Nayong Filipino restaurant in Mesaieed in 2004. She later closed that branch two years later to open a new one in Al Khor, sensing that there would be a flood of Filipinos that were flocking to the country to work, amid the start of the migration that would make Qatar the third most populated country by Filipinos.
She grew Nayong Filipino from a simple restaurant serving Filipino, Chinese, and Singaporean food to a food provider that supplies different kinds of Filipino bread to around 100 shops in Doha, Qatar. Her employees have grown from three people to 45, with a majority of them Filipinos.
She also opened up a new restaurant, JKCMom (named after her children) just this year. Located in the Twin Towers along Al Jazeera Street in Doha, which is the same building of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA), it serves the many Filipinos who get various requirements at the agency.
Not bad for a woman who used to sell Tupperware for a living.
“I never imagined that things would turn out this way. I wanted to be a doctor and my first job was selling Tupperware!” Agbanlog says.
Agbanlog knows that determination and hard work is the difference between striking out and striking it big. As for advice for budding entrepreneurs, she has pretty solid advice.
“I would say that you just have to stay curious and enjoy the learning process. Everything can be learned. Everything can be turned into an opportunity,” said Agbanlog.