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Hope through hospitality training

romulo cafe london exterior

Romulo Café is helping young women in the Philippines into education and work in the hospitality and culinary sectors.

Romulo Café has been our business partner since 2016. They have raised an extraordinary amount for WONDER’s work with the Foundation for Professional Training Incorporated (FTPI), in the Philippines. Romulo Café and its staff are committed to achieving gender equality and ensuring that every woman and girl has access to a good education. They recognise that the growing hospitality industry in the Philippines and worldwide is an important industry for breaking the cycle of poverty. Over the years, they have raised over £12,000 by adding £0.50 to their guest bills. The money Romulo Café donates goes directly to support women in the Philippines directly impacting the lives of thousands of girls and women.

Our partner in the Philippines, FPTI, provides vocational training in the hospitality and culinary industry. Graduates of FPTI Schools are immediately employed by local and international business establishments offering hotel and restaurant services, with an impressive 100% employment rate of their graduates. By giving to our partner projects in the Philippines, Romulo Café contributes to vocational training and the increased employment rates of young women in the Philippines. The industries our partner project in the Philippines works in is especially appropriate considering Romulo Cafés goal to provide their guests with a sense of Filipino hospitality.

Rowena Romulo, founder and owner, was kind enough to answer a series of questions about her restaurant and her commitment to charitable work in the Philippines.

rowena romulo

Why do you think the work of FPTI is so important in the Philippines?

FPTI believes in dignity through work and prepares women from disadvantaged backgrounds to lead fruitful, productive and honourable lives through careers in the restaurant and hotel industry. This is an industry that is growing worldwide and whether our scholars remain in the Philippines or join the global hospitality and leisure industry, FPTI equips them with world-class skills to not only cope, but grow and flourish in their careers. More importantly, their alumni go on to help sustain businesses in the Philippines by injecting their talent and professionalism into the workforce. I think many of them are seen as role models in terms of what they bring to their jobs. In London, I believe some FPTI graduates have gone on to work and progress to management roles in luxury hotels.

Why did you choose WONDER Foundation as your charity partner?

I attended the WONDER Foundation fundraiser for victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines held at The Savoy in London in the autumn of 2014. In fact, this was probably the moment when the idea of opening a Romulo Café in London took hold, as several Filipino guests asked me then if I was going to open a London branch of the restaurants founded by my sister Sandie and brother in law Enzo Squillantini in Manila. Later, when we opened Romulo a little over a year later, WONDER seemed a perfect fit because of the great things they were doing for their local partner on the Philippines, FPTI. Now we’ve been able to send a number of scholars to their schools, just by asking our generous customers at Romulo Café and Restaurant to put 50p on top of their bill for a worthy cause.

How has your grandfathers’ work inspired the development of the restaurant as well as your commitment to charitable work?

My grandfather was a pioneer and excelled on so many fronts: as an educator, journalist, author, diplomat and statesman. He also had excellent taste in food being quite the gourmand. He worked extremely hard and was extremely proud of being a Filipino. Part of his legacy is my determination to do the best I can in everything I do because by virtue of being Filipino, we are by default ambassadors for our country. Which is why my partner Chris and I are supportive of charities that improve the life chances of Filipinos while helping to raise the good profile of the Philippines.

How has the hospitality industry impacted the Philippines? And how do you believe hospitality training can be used as a tool to escape poverty and empower women?

The hospitality has relatively low barriers to entry which means that all the more those who work in the industry should have the proper training and knowledge. Training is key to lift the standards of the workforce, to make businesses more competitive and indeed profitable. Filipino hospitality is famous, but we should never be complacent about customer service. They say that if the food is poor you might just give the establishment a second chance. But treat your guests badly, and you will definitely send them away for good.

What has been the biggest challenge in establishing Filipino cuisine in London?

It’s been educating people on what Filipino food is about and making them keen to discover and explore our gastronomy and cuisine. We’re not like other Asian cuisines. We are the original fusion cuisine, adapting the best gastronomic and cultural influences and making them our own. We’d like to think that Romulo Café and Restaurant has made a difference by making the world — even one beyond London — aware of our amazing cuisine!

I think we’re now synonymous with fine Filipino food. And pandesal, Filipino food freshly baked at the restaurant. We’re often used by Philippine diplomats, including our Ambassador, to entertain international dignitaries and friends, whether it’s in the restaurant itself, through our outdoor catering services, at global events like World Travel Mart and other festivals. But we are here for every Filipino, to showcase our country in the best possible light

We want people to explore Filipino food, one mouthful at a time. We’re proud of our recent 2019 Kensington & Chelsea Business Award for Best Bar or Restaurant and other awards [including more recently, “Filipino Restaurant of the Year” at the prestigious Asian Curry Awards]. These are achievements we want to share with our fellow Filipinos, to perhaps inspire them, as well as use to shine a light on our great culture.

WONDER looks forward to continuing our partnership with Romulo café and expanding on our barrier-breaking work with FPTI. Find out more about our business partnerships on this page.

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