There is no doubt that Cuenca, Batangas is the Philippines’ Home of the Bakers, as many bakeries thrive in the municipality, and many bakers who work in different bakeries in the country hail from this town.
No less than newly elected Mayor Alexander Magpantay, a proud Cuencaño wants to revive and reaffirm that Cuenca, Batangas be named as ‘Home of the Bakers’ of the Philippines.
The Mayor said, “It’s not enough to have dreams, but to be inspired to take that step to make your dream a reality is what matters.”
From Entrepreneur to Public Servant
Prior to running for office, Mayor Magpantay had decades of experience as an entrepreneur within the local bakery industry in the country. In 1992, he saw the potential of putting up a bakery at a time when community bakeries were a big hit.
“I was an industrial engineer by profession in 1992. I was inspired by two of my uncles who were already in the bakery industry back then. And I thought to myself, why don’t I give this a try? It piqued my interest, and with my mother’s help, I put up my first-ever bakery – Albeth Bakehouse. And from there, I already knew I wanted to focus on that even if I still had my engineering career.” muses Alex Magpantay, Mayor of Cuenca, Batangas.
Back then, business boomed. After months of being in the business, learning the ropes, and providing jobs to locals, he knew he wanted to focus on growing the bakery more, spending 80% of his time making it flourish. After three years, he had already established four bakeries.
“As an entrepreneur, I knew with the expansion I was doing together with my family, I was creating more jobs for the local community, helping family and friends who are unable to invest and are afraid to start a business on their own, and that’s how I started to think deeper and ask myself how I could further help and serve more,” he adds.
To date, Mayor Magpantay’s family manages a total of 38 community bakeries that can be found mostly in Manila, with branches also in other provinces like Bulacan and Laguna. In Batangas, he particularly opened one in Lipa, Agoncillo, and Calaca, Batangas.
Challenging Bakery Industry
Mayor Magpantay first ran for a public position – councilor – in 2010. Back then, he had 12 running bakeries already. Managing both his role as the owner of Albeth Bakehouse and his role as councilor has proven to be a challenge. “What I could not give help as a councilor, I gave it through the bakeries I ran. I was able to help more through the branches of Albeth Bakehouse,” he recalls.
As he worked towards building a strong business in the late ‘90s, Mayor Magpantay looks back on his inspiration in making his business a sustainable one. “Naaalala ko nung una akong nag-business, binisita ako ni Ka Chito ng Tinapayan Festival. Pumunta siya para sabihan kami na pag-igihan ang aming products. Not only did we need to improve and innovate on our products but even the way we did things. Ika nga, hindi na dapat tinatakal ang ingredients, dapat tinitimbang na sila. He has helped us a lot over the years and he has been one of the pillars of the baking industry in the country,” shares Mayor Magpantay.
Over the years, Mayor Magpantay worked hard with his team at Albeth Bakehouse to produce affordable yet quality bread products that you won’t expect from a simple community bakery. They aimed to make good products that are better compared to those found and sold in malls and bigger places. His bakery offered a lot of sweet dough products such as pandesal, monay, Spanish bread, and so many more.
Because of his hard work, commitment, and perseverance to stay in a challenging industry despite all the ups and downs, he has been able to put his four children through good schools. His eldest son helps his wife run the business since his election as Mayor of Cuenca; his second son is soon to graduate from Political Science; his third and only girl is a first year college student taking up legal management; and his last is a son currently in high school. “May potential talaga sa pagbe-bakery. Ito talaga naging bread and butter ng aking pamilya at napapagaral ko ang aking mga anak dahil sa mga bakeries namin. Nung umokay na ang aming bakeries, nakapag-invest din kami sa ibang mga businesses. Malaki pasasalamat ko na pumasok ako sa ganitong negosyo dati,” he recalls fondly.
Reinforcing Cuenca’s Home of the Bakers Stake
As Mayor of the municipality of Cuenca, Batangas, Magpantay is ready to take on to bring back the town’s glory as the Home of the Bakers of the Philippines. He and his team are working closely with relevant stakeholders to ensure that they are able to uplift the status of the community bakers in the town.
“We are working with the likes of Tinapayan Festival, Technological University of the Philippines, and the LGUs of Alitagtag and Cuenca to put up a school that is specific to baking. We are hoping to be able to have a short course related to baking so that more from the community will learn the basics in knowledge, skills, and training to become great bakers,” stresses Mayor Magpantay.
“We are hoping to provide basic training that could enable around 50-60% of what is sold in the schools in Cuenca and Alitagtag to be the baked products produced from the TUP campus in this town. We are hoping, together with the support of all relevant stakeholders including the office of our Governor Mandanas, that we will aim for Batangas to become the baking capital of the Philippines,” Mayor Magpantay emphasizes.
With this potential project, the municipality mayor is hoping to have Cuenca at the top of people’s minds for anything related to baking – learning, progress, skills training, and such. He hopes that through this project, the town will be able to produce more livelihood opportunities for members of the community, and for many to finally see again the potential of community bakeries after the pandemic.
“I am confident that if all Cuencanos work together to come back and open their community bakeries that may have closed during the pandemic, we will be able to progress as a town. We know that we can help budding community bakers through the technical aspect of the business – helping them improve on their operations, build on their methods for production, and even down to selling,” ends Mayor Magpantay.