For years now Winnipeg has enjoyed continuous growth as a city with no group becoming more noticeable than the Filipino community. So much so that the official second language long known to be French is no longer the case. Tagalog by the numbers has surpassed French and continues to do so every year.
To finally see a Jollibee restraint here in Winnipeg is a true blessing for many Filipinos and a welcome new flavor the rest of all Winnipeggers.
Here is a Free Press article and some photos of the frenzy this has brought to our city today.
Winnipeg’s proud Filipino community — the largest per capita in Canada — is behind Philippines fast-food chain Jollibee’s decision to open its first Canadian restaurant Wednesday right here in River City, the company said.
“The first time I landed in the airport of Winnipeg, I saw a lot of Filipinos. When I checked into the hotel, there were more Filipinos. And then when I went around the mall, there were more Filipinos,” Maribeth dela Cruz, vice-president of Jollibee Foods Corp. North America, said with a laugh. “It was just like being back in the Philippines.”
BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), the world’s 9th largest restaurant company, opens its first-ever store in the country on Ellice Ave. in Winnipeg. Left to right: Philippines Honorary Consul Ronaldo Opina, Jollibee mascot, St. Norbert MLA Jon Reyes, and JP Sumbillo take a selfie with massive bucket of chicken during the celebrations.
The largest fast-food chain in Asia, Jollibee, opened the first of two planned stores in Winnipeg at 1406 Ellice Ave. Also under way is a location at the Northgate Shopping Centre, opening in the spring of 2017.
The much-anticipated restaurant chain had Filipino-Canadians assuming the biggest cities in Canada would be home to the first Canadian store. But the company chose to start out in Winnipeg, home to Canada’s third-largest, and highest per capita, Filipino population.
“Some people would say you have to be in Toronto, or you have to be in Vancouver,” Cruz said at a press conference Wednesday. “But we are so confident to be here in Winnipeg.”
Jollibee Foods, which started in 1975 and is now the ninth-largest restaurant chain in the world, has hired 100 employees for the Ellice Avenue location, many of whom are Filipino immigrants who had worked for the company before coming to Canada.
Belva Recio worked as a Jollibee areas operation manager in Batangas, Philippines, for 17 years before she and her family moved to Canada in 2010. Now, she is part of the team at Jollibee’s first location in Canada.
“We feel the pride and honour,” said Recio. “It’s just really overwhelming to be part of the first team — the pioneer team — that will open Jollibee in Canada. It feels like I never left.”
Jollibee on Ellice is the 35th store in North America. Across the Philippines, Jollibee has opened almost 1,000 stores and has more than 3,000 locations globally, including in the U.S., across Asia and the Middle East.
The restaurant’s most famous dishes include “juicylicious” fried chicken, jolly spaghetti and peach mango pie. The menu may not be reminiscent of traditional Filipino cuisine, but its presence in the city will remind many Filipino Winnipeggers of home.
“Every Filipino wants to be reminded of home, especially at Christmas,” said dela Cruz. “I think by bringing in Jollibee into Winnipeg, that again will bring in memories to many of our Filipinos who have migrated here to the city.”