Filipina mother whose act of kindness went viral amid pandemic now has restaurant in Dubai

Feby Baguisa says her new business in Deira will continue her passion for helping others in need

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At the height of Covid-19, during stay-at-home orders in 2020, a photo of Feby Baguisa distributing free food in Deira went viral.

The Filipina mother to three became something of a neighbourhood hero in the ensuing weeks, as hundreds of people who'd lost their jobs queued up outside her home daily for packages of food she'd spent the entire day cooking.

Now, after helping thousands of people through the pandemic, the aspiring chef's own dream has come true. Feby's Restaurant and Cafe opened earlier this month at BoonMax Hotel in Deira serving authentic Filipino food.

"It's been my dream since I came to Dubai," Baguisa tells The National.

While she has no formal training, she says she has always been passionate about cooking.

Split into two sections, Feby's Restaurant and Cafe seats 60 people in the main dining area while the cafe accommodates 40. The menu comprises Filipino classics, from stewy beef caldereta to crispy lechon kawali, as well as variations of the noodle dish pancit. Dishes from Batangas province, Baguisa's hometown, also feature heavily.

Scroll through the gallery above for more pictures of Feby's Restaurant and Cafe

Beef caldereta at Feby’s Restaurant and Cafe. Ruel Pableo for The National

A la carte dishes start at Dh35 for a whole fried chicken, while at the weekends there is a buffet with 10 dishes, as well as desserts, priced at Dh69.

"This is really Pinoy pride," she says.

Baguisa's referring not just to her restaurant's concept, but also how the business itself came together, with the help of investors she met through her social work during the pandemic. "I am a firm believer that the more you give, the more you get," she says, fondly remembering the day she began distributing free food outside her home in Deira.

Baguisa was inspired to action in May 2020 when she saw restaurants distributing free food vouchers.

"I was on my balcony and saw this family with children waiting in the queue in the hot sun for the coupons. After collecting the coupons, they'd have to go again and queue up to wait for the food. I thought it would be so much easier if they were just given cooked food," she recalls.

The next day, Baguisa got working in her kitchen. She took Dh500 from her husband and bought supplies to make enough chicken adobo and rice to fill 150 containers. Then, holding up a sign that read "Free food for everyone", she waited in the afternoon outside her home, accompanied by a few friends.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 31 MAY 2020. 

Feby Cachero Baguisa, a Filipina mother of three and aspiring chef. For the past few days at 3PM, Feby has been sitting by the Patchi Building in Al Muraqabat Street in Deira, Dubai, with boxes of food she’s cooked at home, free for anyone who needs it.
(Photo: Reem Mohammed/The National)

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"We ran out of food in minutes. I had to ask some people to wait so we could bring some raw rice and eggs as we didn't want them to go empty-handed," she says.

The next day, there was already a queue waiting by the time Baguisa got to her usual spot.

As word spread of Baguisa's inspiring work, so did offers of help from other residents who'd arrive at her home with supplies — everything from boxes of rice to eggs and meat. "The number grew and grew," she says. "At one point, we gave food to 600 people in one day."

After four months, Dubai authorities visited Baguisa, praised her for her selfless work, but advised her about food safety concerns. "They told me to only distribute raw food," she says.

Two years later, her mission to help others continues. It is also an integral element of Feby's Restaurant and Cafe.

Each of the 17 staff members are people who've lost their jobs during the pandemic. Baguisa wants it to be known that if anyone cannot afford to eat, they will be welcomed without judgement even today.

Feby Baguisa with her staff at Feby’s Restaurant and Cafe at BoonMax Hotel, Deira. Ruel Pableo for The National

"If they really don’t have the money, they can still eat with us," Baguisa, who is the head chef, says.

"When the staff were interviewed, they were all briefed about this. And they all understand as they've been through it themselves."

Baguisa, whose motivation comes from her own personal struggles raising a family in the UAE, says she wants to inspire people to remain hopeful.

"I want to tell people that no matter how bad things get, better days are coming," she says. "You just have to patient and never give up."

Feby's Restaurant and Cafe is open daily from 10am to 9pm on weekdays and 8am to 11pm on weekends. More information is at instagram.com/febysrestaurant

Updated: September 30, 2022, 12:23 PM
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