Everyone’s favorite Babu is back!
The first Moro-themed and inspired restaurant in Cagayan de Oro opened in April, 2019 at the ground floor of Saavedra Building (Vines Pension House), Yacapin corner Aguinaldo Streets, Barangay 32, Cagayan de Oro City, just across Wilshire Inn and 110 meters from Masjid Oro Jama-ah along Aguinaldo Street.
Babu Kwan is named after the common term “Babu” for “beloved auntie” in Lanao, Sulu and Maguindanao and “kwan” is a common Filipino term for something intangible.
Owned by couple Abdelnur (Abde) and Norkhalila Mae (Khal) Mambuay-Campong, it aims to restore the Meranaw Culture and Lifestyle shattered by the Marawi Siege, and promote Halal foods in accordance to Islamic laws as mentioned in the Holy Quran and Hadiths.
However, despite its early success in winning over a loyal clientele with its comfort food of Meranaw and Southeast Asian cuisine, BK had to close twice in response to the lockdowns due to the global pandemic.
When it reopened eight months after the first lockdown, it introduced innovative sandwiches such as ebi tempura burger, chicken katsu burger and longanisa sandwich, as well as “quarantine’’ foods like baked sushi, milk tea and pastas, with generous servings that foster sharing and camaraderie among friends and family.
When it re-opened for the second time last Nov. 17, customers of all ages were already welcome, though Khal stresses they continue to strictly observe LGU restrictions and safety guidelines, with store hours now spread longer from 10AM to 10PM daily, so more patrons can be accommodated without compromising mandated social distancing.
“Inclusivity is key in gatherings, whether at home or at work. There’s always someone looking for halal or with strict diet restrictions, and we at Babu Kwan can provide halal and healthy options.”
Besides offering the same Babu Kwan favorites, their menu is now more focused on their target market.
In a bow to the constraints imposed by the pandemic quarantines, BK has also flexed its menu availability with party trays which allow customers to enjoy their food in the comfort and safety of their residences, and brought back the Nasi plates they introduced back in August 2019.
“Compared to when we first launched the Asian Plates (Nasi), they are now more popular because of our menu restructuring,” Khal notes.
Almost 300 Nasi servings have been sold to date, and the family talam too is selling fast because it’s more convenient and quicker for diners to choose compared to a la carte.
“We have family set package, and it’s served in a talam tray, or box for delivery,” Khal said. Nasi Vegetarian is also available as a solo or family set.
Now also available is roti plain and roti cheese for those who want to skip rice.
Roti, roti canai or roti paratha, is a flatbread that’s usually paired with curry sauce of Indian origin. Roti is commonly found in Malaysia and Singapore.
“We have two kinds of roti: plain, and with cheese. And the dip can either be tomato gravy (it’s savory with a hint of curry) and caramel because Babu has sweet tooth!”
“But our Beef Randang remains our most popular since day 1!” Khal exclaims.
Besides its revamped menu, BK continues its advocacy of promoting Meranaw arts through its new physical layout and mural wall painting inspired by Moro artistic patterns.
The mural containing strokes of pink, violet and yellow, the Babu Kwan brand colors, was painted by no less than the owners of Babu Kwan including their 5-year old son, Aayan, BK’s barista/server, Marlon Calinawan, and Chef-in-training, Jibreel Mambuay.
When the Department of Tourism (DOT) launched its Halal Culinary Tourism video series on July 20, 2021, in time for the Muslim festival Eid’l Adha, Babu Kwan and Torogan Kape in Cagayan de Oro were among the establishments highlighted.
Available for viewing on the department’s social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, the series “showcases unique culinary finds in Mindanao,” in a partnership between the DOT and the Brunei Darussalam–Indonesia–Malaysia–Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
Through the development of Halal Culinary Tourism, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said the DOT promotes the discovery and familiarity with the traditions of our Muslim brothers and sisters, stressing that “Halal is not exclusive to Muslims” but is for everybody to enjoy.
Aside from promoting the culinary heritage of Mindanao and familiarity with its culture, Puyat said the project also aims to document culinary practices of the area, create experiences and attractions by local government units (LGUs) and private enterprises for tourists, and promote Halal Tourism industry in the regions of Mindanao through culinary and heritage mapping.
Besides being the only Halal-certified restaurant in Northern Mindanao by the Muslim Mindanao Halal Certification Board Inc., Babu Kwan has also been cited with the Q Asia Publication Quality Excellence Awards in the restaurant category, and conferred the Seal of Quality Service Excellence, based on customer satisfaction.
Even before the pandemic, Babu Kwan was already implementing halal, Islamic laws on food preparation, and food safety and hygiene to the highest standards. The restaurant is vigilant about practicing government-mandated health protocols and food sanitation.
Launched in 2005, the National Product Quality Excellence Awards acknowledges organizations, products and services that show utmost standards of quality.
The product or service is judged for impeccable delivery, fulfilment of commitments, benchmark for manufacturing and production, trustworthiness and value.
Aside from the award, the recipient gets the Seal of Product Quality or the Seal of Quality Service Excellence, which indicates that the product or service was uncompromising, and that it has been commended by the public.