“If you impressed your Filipino mom, you are out for something good. You have to make sure it passed a Filipino mom test, because Filipino moms will tell you the truth.”
A “Filipino mom test” helped a 39-year-old Filipino-American on his journey towards success.
Jake Deleon was born in the Philippines but raised in New Jersey. When he was two years old, his family decided to migrate to the United States in hopes of a better future.
“Growing up, they used to cook Filipino food all the time. My earliest memory is just helping my mom and my grandmom make Filipino food at home. Lumpia, pancit molo, turon cause we would sell them to friends and family. We didn’t have lot of money in the early days, so any kind of income we bring in the family is always a big help,” he shared.
He used his love for Filipino food to establish his own brand in the U.S.
Since most of his family members are also staying in the U.S., cooking and eating together became their bonding moment.
“For Filipino families like mine the food is always equal to love. Even if my parents are so busy with work, we always have group dinner together they would make their own style of adobo, caldereta kare-kare. Every time I think about happy times in the family, it’s always around food. It’s just part of our culture,” Jake said.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Jake learned that several Filipinos were battling in the frontlines.
“This got me really curious. It got me inspired to know about our community. I do a simple search on Google and it turns out Filipinos are a huge part of the US population,” he recalled.
“If this is so true that we are a big part of the community how come when I go to all the major supermarkets in the US not asian stores, there’s actually no Filipino food on the shelf. It seem to me like a big disconnect, like a big representation,” he added.
In March 2020, he established Fila Manila — a company that introduced famous Filipino dishes in a jar.
He used the $1,200 stimulus check from the government as an initial capital for his business.
“I just felt like now is the perfect time to Filipinos to raise their culture and be proud of their cuisine that is when I started Fila Manila,” Jake said.
Jake initially worked on his products in their home kitchen. The original recipes came from his Filipino parents but he added some twists to adapt the needs of American consumers.
Jake also makes sure that his Filipino family would taste his products first before offering them to his customers.
“Once I finished the recipe, I had my family tried just to make sure it passed the Filipino test,” he said.
Fila Manila’s sauces make every meal special. They will simply add the meat, seafood, or vegetables to the sauce and voila— a taste of the Philippines!
All Fila Manila sauces are vegan, naturally gluten-free and dairy-free, no artificial additives and preservatives.
It is available in different flavors —Adobo, Caldereta, Kare-Kare, and Spicy Adobo.
Fila Manila is available in several supermarkets in the U.S. as far as Hawaii. They are also the number one seller on Amazon Online in three separate lists in August 2021.
“I’m very proud because finally you know people always look down of Filipino food. Oh it’s unhealthy, it’s dirty, it’s chemicals. No we are the first all-natural Filipino food brand,” he said.
Jake offers his success to his parents who worked hard as immigrants to provide them a better future. He’s also glad that his father was able to witness his journey before passing away this year.
Jake said that their target market is not just Filipinos. He shared that nine out of 10 of their customers are actually Americans and other nationalities.
“Even for folks who are not Filipino, they could to learn about our food, our people and they now how friendly we are, we love to share our food. I think that’s spirit of community that really gets people excited about Filipino food. It’s who we are, it’s what makes us different,” Jake stressed.
Most of his employees in the company are Filipinos as he aims to help and give back to the Filipino community in the U.S.