UNDAS Reflections: Ilonggos on Business and Tradition

Cris Antonio |

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The Philippines celebrates its own version of the Day of the Dead from November 1 to 2 – collectively known as ‘UNDAS’. During this time, Filipinos visit the graves of family members and pay respects by lighting candles, bringing flowers, and offering prayers. 

It’s an old tradition that even pandemic limitations can’t erase. But what if you can’t go out? Or what if they close cemeteries?

Local businesses can bridge that need. Let these Ilonggo entrepreneurs show you how they help keep traditions alive with new and exciting products.

Stella PH: Combining Grit and Delight

Filipinos can turn almost everything into a feast. There’s sweet spaghetti for birthdays; macaroni and buko pandan salads for Christmas; and crispy lechon for barangay fiestas. So why should Undas be any different? 

To remember our departed loved ones, we serve sticky rice dishes such as valenciana, biko, suman, sapin-sapin, and kutsinta. These are often sweet, easy to prepare, and always a crowd pleaser. It’s in this atmosphere of cooking, sharing, and passion that Stella owner, Nikki Perfecto-Dolar, grew up in.

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“I grew up in a family that treated weekends like fiestas. My family trained me to do business at a very young age. I started Stella because of my love for food.”

Like many others in her field, she too, felt the limitations and challenges brought on by the pandemic. But her grit and personal energy keeps her on her feet.

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“We had to change the setup of how we sold our products. But it continues to sell even if new brands started popping up. I think people have accepted the twist we gave our dishes. It’s more than traditional Filipino food now.”

Nikki regularly experiments with different tastes and combinations to woo the discerning Ilonggo palate. “Ilonggo buyers are loyal to local brands, but they’re influenced by trends, too.”

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One of her latest creations? A hearty KAKANIN BILAO filled with suman, suman sa latik, kutsinta, lumpia, and puto bumbong. This is perfect for gifting or sharing during this season of reflection.

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Save yourself and loved ones time, money, and energy by ordering Stella’s KAKANIN BILAO! Check out Stella’s Facebook page for more details: Stella PH

Mi Amore PH: Determination Always Smells Sweet

Why do we light candles during Undas? Is it to help the departed find their way in the darkness? Or perhaps it’s to help us find pause in the middle of our busy year to remember them. 

Candles don’t just provide light. For fans of Mi Amore’s handcrafted scented candles, they’re also a source of warmth and comfort. Made from 100% pure soy wax, they’re eco-friendly, too. What began as a small hobby now has a steady following, plus a Shopee store!

“We started giving them as presents to friends and families. We got good feedback so we decided to sell them. We wanted something different that would set us apart from the rest of the candle makers here in Iloilo. That’s why we chose blended fragrance oils.”

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Who wouldn’t be intrigued with product names such as Neverland, Great Gatsby, King’s Landing, and Central Perk? Imagine your room smelling like ‘Bridgerton’. But there’s one scent we all want: success. How does that look like for Mi Amore founders?

“My partner and I both grew up with parents who started from nothing, to owning and growing their own businesses today. We saw the sacrifices they made, and hardships they endured to get to where they are… for us, the most important characteristics are passion and perseverance. You need to love what you do to have the determination and confidence to make it happen…”

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Use this season to look back at how far you’ve come. Then re-fuel your focus with Mi Amore’s handmade SOY CANDLES. 

Hurry though, they only make small batches to ensure quality!  Visit Mi Amore’s Instagram to see their latest offerings: @miamoreiloph

Harlowe Blooms: Creativity During Challenging Times

While Undas is an old Filipino tradition, it doesn’t mean that we can’t look at it with fresh eyes. We can use these days for silent reflection. Does loss really mean gone forever? Or can it mean transformation? 

That is what will cross your mind when you see the beautiful bespoke flowers from Harlowe Blooms. From the creative mind of Nellene Uy Dellota, her creations are not only aesthetically pleasing but practical as well. She too, believes that loss can be reframed:

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“The pandemic was hard for everyone, especially business owners. But with marketing, you can still find ways to recover. I don’t think the pandemic provided me with a loss; rather, a challenge on how I can improve and develop more ideas.” 

She loves adding personal touches to her products, giving them a true customized look and feel. 

“I’d ask myself, what if I was the buyer? Is this something I’d get for myself? I also love brainstorming ideas not present in the market; and I think that’s my edge.” 

With the way her bloom boxes sell out so fast, she’s definitely onto something. Straightforward, passionate, and strategic, Nellene keeps herself grounded with hard work.

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“I used to think that having multiple feedback would make me feel successful, but I was wrong. A successful business molded with experience and failure will help pinpoint the things you have to improve. Also, a healthy bond with your customers can add up to your success…”

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Harlowe Blooms are the pretty pat on the back you’ll want to give yourself. Use these BESPOKE BLOOMSto enhance your spaces, or gift them to someone you treasure in your heart. 

See what’s available by following Harlowe Blooms on Instagram: @harloweblooms

Ill City Clothing: Making Noise with Good Branding

If there’s one reason for a Filipino to do anything, it’s for love. And during Undas, we show that love by showing up. And perhaps there’s no other city in the Philippines that’s more loving, more accepting, and more (ahem!) fun, than Iloilo City. 

Maybe that’s why Ill City Clothing owner, Bam Araneta, chose this urban setting as the inspiration for his brand.

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“…I have so much love for Iloilo! I wanted to represent it through a clothing brand… Ilonggos are very picky and hard to please. But if your product is good, they will support you and even promote you themselves.” 

What began in 2014 with a couple of his friends is now a thriving brand with thousands of followers. Designs are simple, yet sleek. They’re perfect for street, casual, or even a punk look. Bam shares though, that it’s not without hitches: 

“The struggle was with the shipment and production of our shirts…And now, the numbers went down due to the pandemic. But I have faith in Ill City that it will be back to its old glory…”

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Wondering how he can seem calm and unfazed by these challenges? 

“Choose a business that you’re passionate about…My dream is to have a national brand…Being successful in a business that you are passionate about is already an accomplishment.”

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Like Bam, why not wear your affection on your sleeve? Show your love through unique Ill City Clothing. Make the most out of their BUY 1 TAKE 1 PROMO until October 31! 

Follow Ill City Clothing on Instagram to see new deals and designs: @illcityclothing033

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Author Portrait

Cris Antonio

Cris Antonio is a freelance Copywriter, Editor, and Speaker. If she’s not writing or editing, she helps business owners and young adults build their presence on the Web.