Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pie Story

Some decades back, an American couple were on a teaching program at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos, Laguna.  One of the members of their staff was a Filipina who worked as their secretary.

When it was almost time for their term at the university to end, the couple, thinking that their loyal and efficient secretary would need something to fall back on should she lose her post when they left, thought of paying for her to get classes in cooking and baking.

Well, a few months after she finished the course, the couple's teaching term did end and she lost her secretarial post at the university.  Putting her newfound baking skills to task, this creative woman took an ingredient that was easy to find in her town -- buko or very young coconut meat.  She came up with a recipe to turn the sweet, soft, white coconut meat into a pie.  Emboldened by encouragement she got from family and friends who tasted her sweet concoction, she decided to set up a small shop selling only buko pies.

What she did not realize when she first put those pies up for sale was that she would be spawning a whole industry that has put their little province of Los Banos, Laguna in the consciousness of every Filipino (and even a few foreign) gourmands.  She also did not expect that years after she first opened her little bakery, a hundred or so other bakeries selling buko pies would mushroom all over Los Banos and even invade some of the malls in the city.

As a child, we would take the hour and half drive to Pansol, Laguna to swim in the crystal clear hot springs and our mini-vacations would always be capped with a visit to the little bakery where this province-wide industry started.  It remains simple -- people say it is the same structure that was put up when the business was started many, many years ago.  Yet long lines of cars and people indicate just how popular this place is.  To this day, despite the hundreds of bakeries just like it selling buko pie, D'Original Buko Pie remains the Queen of All Buko Pies.  The original owner's children have managed to maintain the lightness and crispiness of its golden crust and the buko filling is still made out of the sweetest, most tender morsels of young coconut.  It is so good I could eat a whole pie all by myself.  My relatives in the United States always schedule a trip to Los Banos just to get another taste of these pies.

What makes this story remarkable for me are two things: first, the woman who created the recipe for the pie had no idea just how big it would be.  She simply needed to make some money for her family -- and she just put her new skills and creativity to task. To date, hundreds of households earn their income from selling buko pie and it is, as I mentioned earlier, a huge money-maker for the town.    Second, you never know what a random act of kindness and concern for someone in your circle can start.  The American couple's concern for their Filipina secretary was, in a manner of speaking, the flint that lighted that fire.  They just wanted to make sure she would be alright in case she lost her job when they left.  Well, to my estimate, she did more than be "alright".

How about you? How brave are you when it comes to putting your skills and creativity to task? Have you helped someone out just because you felt they needed it, without thinking too far ahead of how they would pay you back or if they would even make use of the help provided?

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