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Filipino store opens in Bloomfield, P.E.I.

Besides ingredients for meal-making, Ruby Gadbilao demonstrates her Bloomfield store also carries ready-to-eat snacks, like cheesecakes.
Besides ingredients for meal-making, Ruby Gadbilao demonstrates her Bloomfield store also carries ready-to-eat snacks, like cheesecakes. - Eric McCarthy

BLOOMFIELD, P.E.I. — In response to an observation that the growing Filipino community in West Prince really seems to enjoy baking, Ruby Gadbilao is quick to correct.

“We love cooking,” she said. “We never call it baking, because, in the Philippines only rich people have ovens.”

As part of that growing Filipino community, Gadbilao said she was well aware of the challenges in finding traditional Filipino ingredients for cooking and for snacks.

So, she and her partner, Kent Clements, converted a family room in their Bloomfield Corner home into a store. Sari-Sari Retail opened over a month ago, and Gadbilao said many of the Filipino workers from the area have found their way around back to her store’s yellow door.

Sari-sari means “everything,” the store’s owner and manager explains.

“Here in my store, I can get everything for what they need. For everyday use, they can find it here.”

Gadbilao stocks rice, noodles, soy sauce, lumpia wrappers, a variety of frozen fish including tilapia, bisugo, small tuna and the Philippines’ national fish, the milk fish. The shelves are lined with many other traditional ingredients and even snack foods like chips, cheesecakes and wafers, but it is when Gadbilao posts that she has fresh vegetables that the number of customers beating a path to her yellow door really swells.

Her inventory continues to grow and has reached the point where she needs to bring in more shelving.

With approximately 240 Filipinos currently employed at three local fish plants, Gadbilao believes there is a ready market for her new store, and she believes that number could soon grow, noting the possibility of family members of some of the workers, including somewhere between 30 and 100 children, arriving this year.

“The West Prince area is going to boom,” she declared.

“For every Filipino, it’s a dream to go to Canada,” said Gadbilao, who has been living and working in West Prince for eight years.

Her daughter, Elijah, joined her four years ago.

Store hours for Sari Sari Retail are currently mornings and evening with Gadbilao greeting customers until her night cleaning shift starts and Elijah and Kent taking over after school and work hours. The store is also open on Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 9 p.m.

Gadbilao welcomes the challenge of running a store.

“I have big dreams for myself and my daughter,” she said; “big dreams to be successful in life and big dreams to try everything and don’t give up.”

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