LILIW, Laguna – With only word-of-mouth and personal blogs as unsolicited forms of publicity, a coffee shop cum restaurant here has become another reason why tourists keep on coming to this town, aside from the cheap yet quality footwear it offers.
Other than the people residing within the town, Arabela has also enticed those from nearby towns as well as those from far cities like Manila.
Cora Relova, a member of the Pila Historical Society Foundation, who is now based in Manila, drives for at least two hours to visit Arabela. “Each meal is delightfully presented. With its reasonable prices, Arabela makes the long drive to Liliw more enjoyable.”
She adds, “I keep coming back because a good treat has a way of becoming a habit.”
Relova spends most of her weekends in Arabela, about 110 kilometers south of Manila.
Arabela – owned by brothers Victor, 63, and Bobby Camello, 44, with his wife Antonette, 44 – started in 2004 with literally two tables.
The two tables then were not intended for customers’ use. The owners just put the pasta dishes and pastries that they wanted to sell to buyers within the neighborhood.
The space they occupied then was in front of their family’s shoe store along Rizal Street here and was intended to be a plain source of additional income.
The shoe store was later transferred to another spot a few blocks away from its former location.
The restaurant’s name came from those of Bobby and Antonette’s two daughters, Ara and Bela.
Given the demand that the owners observed from their small food business then, they were pushed to put up a formal food business since their customers kept on coming back with their number increasing.
The business, which started with only P3,000 as capital, grew more than what the owners expected.
From pasta and pastries, Arabela added coffee, steaks, and fruit shakes to their menu.
“We are overwhelmed by how the people responded to our business. When we started five years ago, the food items that we put atop the two tables we used would be sold out after just an hour or two,” says Victor.
Soon after the three owners formally opened Arabela as a restaurant and coffee shop, more people started visiting their place.
“At first, we found it surprising how even prominent people are eating in our place,” notes Victor.
From mayors of different towns and cities, Arabela has also become a favorite restaurant for many celebrities and business entrepreneurs.
Arabela offers affordable price for each food item that even students can afford.
Contrary to the usual prices of popular coffee shops and restaurants that most people know, one can sip a cup of coffee in Arabela for just P50.
Most of the pasta dishes in Arabela like lasagna and carbonara are pegged at P75.
“If the price is right, and the food is palatable enough, people will really come back,” says Victor, who now understands why their customers keep on recommending their business to their respective networks of friends and contacts.
The owners of Arabela do not have to spend money in advertising their business.
“The customers that we have served are doing the promotion for our business, even if we are not asking for it,” Victor shares.
The restaurant cum coffee shop, which can accommodate around 30 people, is usually seen fully packed.
Despite the outstanding demand of their business, the three owners have no plans of expanding their business by putting up branches in nearby towns.
“There have been a lot of suggestions on how we can expand our business. Some people are telling us that we should put up more branches but we chose to let them down,” Victor claims.
Victor, along with Bobby and Antonette, wants to maintain the character of Arabela.
“Our business may not be that unique anymore once we put up other branches. The best thing about our business, and the most gratifying, is that people are willing to travel two to three hours just to eat in our place,” Victor says.