Bangga (intersection in Hiligaynon) Totong is an intersection that leads to two villages in Bacolod City. Go straight ahead and the road leads to Felisa, a mainly rural barangay that is soon to be transformed as the eight-lane Bacolod Economic Highway will cut through the entire length of the village. To Bangga Totong’s right is Handumanan village, a resettlement area that communist allies or fronts, as the military says, have long derided as a token government housing project.
Near Bangga Totong lives Mona Dia Jardin, daughter to a farmer leader who was rumored to have supported rebels. He once led a farmers organization in a fight for land. It was far from peaceful.
Mona Dia, a former councilor and former Felisa village chief now sits as corporate secretary of the local water utilities firm. She also owns local businesses with his husband Ramon who is now village chief of Felisa.
The latest venture an “incidental” project, a pop-up restaurant nestled right in Mona Dia’s home.
Called Diara Food Stop (name is portmanteau for her name and that of husband Ramon), the eatery is a quaint little creation that maximizes the space – it has an elevated loft for those who want to be exclusive, a little veranda with a table for two, and man-made falls to help cool the place.
But really, it is all about the food.
Cheap, filling, and most of all delicious.
Anyone who has been to University of St. La Salle has probably had tasted, at one point in their lives, the food that Mona Dia offers in her restaurant now.
Devoured mostly by students looking for cheap yet satisfying eats, her food items are hot sells during lunch – chicken skin, fried siomai, tocino. Served with a bit of chili-cum-fish paste sauce.
The pandemic has changed everything, though.
For one, the temporary cancellation of face-to-face classes have forced Mona Dia to strategize and ensure that her workers – whom she calls her family – would still keep their jobs.
“I have three branches, all in or near La Salle,” she tells DNX. One of those branches, in Main Strip Alley, had to be closed as it was impossible to keep up with the rental when the pandemic has reduced the number of customers to almost nil, zero.
And so Diara Food Stop was born.
The pop-up sits right on Mona Dia’s front yard, an instant eatery born out of the need not to maintain business but for purely humanitarian purposes.
It offers the same type of food that she offered in La Salle, and more.
“We have chicken skin, fried siomai, tocino. But we also added nacho fries, quesadillas, and the non- traditional burgers: chicken fillet, chicken skin, siomai, and our regular burger,” she says.
The best-sellers, she reveals, are the nacho fries (“servings are big but at only P75 per serving”), and the chicken fillet burger.
But of course, the hardest to beat is the chicken, Diara’s uncontested Queen of the menu.
Diara also offers free delivery to customers within Felisa and Handumanan (with delivery charge in other areas in Bacolod).
The eatery has been operating for one and a half months now, and so far there are no signs of letting up. Maybe what they say is really true.
Blessings do come to those with good intentions, something that pushed Mona Dia to start the business to begin with.
“They are my family,” she says, “and nobody leaves family behind.”