UP Diliman institution Mang Larry's Isawan first opened in 1984 and moved around the campus before settling in its current location near the Alumni Center
If there’s one other thing that’s as iconic as the Oblation and “Zorro” at the University of the Philippines (UP) campus in Diliman, it’s got to be Mang Larry’s Isawan.
Established in 1984 by Lauro Condencido Jr., fondly called “Mang Larry” by students and casual diners alike, Mang Larry’s Isawan and its grilled chicken and pork intestines on sticks have stood the test of time.
“Institusyon na ako dito (I’m already an institution here),” Condencido jokes. "Sabi nga nila, ‘haligi ka na ng unibesidad’ (They tell me that I’m already a pillar of this university)."
UP students have been flocking to Condencido’s food stall since it opened for its famous barbecued gizzards, especially during the months of January to March when the rains have stopped. Condencido shares during these months, Mang Larry’s accommodates around a thousand customers and sells around 3,000 sticks of isaw (grilled chicken/pig intestine) a day.
The beloved food cart of UP actually got a major makeover in August 2017, when the simple stall was transformed to a full-scale food joint complete with tables and chairs that can seat around 20 people. Aside from its usual barbecued gizzards, intestines and other grilled pig and chicken giblets, the upgraded store now also offers grilled meat and seafood rice meals and beverage selections.
The makeover coincides with Mang Larry’s Isawan relocating for the seventh time since 1984 to Balagtas Street near the UP Alumni Center. Before that it was previously found near the Kalayaan Residence Hall, the UP Post Office, in the parking lot of the College of Law and near the arcade and UP swimming pool.
Chicken gizzard and intestines (isaw) are the specialty at Mang Larry's
Despite the frequent moving, Mang Larry’s never lost touch with its loyal customers. These days, Mang Larry’s is not only famous among UP students and alumni but to other casual diners outside of campus, too. “Almost all colleges in NCR (National Capital Region) kumakain sa akin (I have served customers from almost all colleges in NCR),” he says. “Hindi ko na alam kung paano dumami nang dumami (I don’t know how the business got big).”
Condencido recalls starting the business 33 years ago with only Php40 in capital for 15 kilos of chicken and pig giblets. He set up his trusty grill stand near the house of his aunt, where he and his family were residing, and sold isaw for 50 centavos a stick. (The current price is now Php5 per stick). For him, the grill stand was only meant to provide additional income for his family.
It wasn’t until 1995 when Condencido decided to resign from his day job in LVN Pictures Inc., where he worked as a janitor, to focus on his booming grilling business. It was also during this time when he named the business “Mang Larry’s Isawan.” “Kasi lahat ng tawag sa akin ng mga estudyante Mang Larry's na (Because all the students already call me Mang Larry’s by then),” he explains.
All his hard work has paid off. To date, he now has six branches in Quezon City, with the one in UP being the largest so far. His other branches include one near Far Eastern University Diliman, Grub Hub food park in Visayas Avenue and three branches along Maginhawa Street. He’s also planning to open a branch in Tomas Morato, which will be his last food cart-style branch. “Kasi mahirap din 'pag marami,” he explains. He manages all the outlets by himself.
Apart from branch expansion, Condencido has also been able to provide for his family through his grill stations. He was able to send all his five children to school. He proudly shares he has already graduated an accountant, a manager and a nurse through his business. Two of his children are still in college.
Condencido has really come a long way since he first moved to Manila from Tiwi, Albay in Bicol. “Ako, pinakamahirap na ako sa buong bayan namin eh (I was already the poorest in our town),” he reminisces. “Damit ko, bigay-bigay lang ng kapitbahay namin. Kasi sobrang hirap namin. (We were so poor that my clothes were only given by our neighbors).”
The UP landmark is frequented not just by university students but by people from all walks of life
Coming from a broken and poor family in Bicol, he shares his motivation really stems from his children. Though it wasn’t really his dream to be an entrepreneur, he grabbed the opportunity to run a business in order to provide more for his own family.
“Ang gusto ko talaga noon either law or engineer (What I really wanted back then was to pursue law or engineering),” Condencido says. But due to financial constraints, he wasn’t able to realize that dream.
“Syempre 'pag iniwanan ka ng magulang mo... ‘Yun ang sinabi ko na hindi ko gagawin sa pamilya ko at hindi ko ipararanas 'yung dinanas ko sa pamilya ko (Of course when your parents leave you… that’s what I don’t want my children to experience),” he says. Now, he proudly shares he and his family enjoy living in their own house and lot, and with seven cars.
Still, Condencido doesn’t let all these achievements go to his head. He still makes sure to be as hands-on in the business as he was 33 years ago, this time in all his six branches. “Wala akong pahinga. Naghihiwa ako, nagtutuhog ako. Hindi ako 'yung amo na porke amo ka, hindi [ka na magtatrabaho] (I don’t actually take time to rest. I slice the giblets, I skewer them. I’m not the type of boss that just because I’m already a boss, I don’t work anymore),” he says.
Every morning, Condencido still wakes up at 4 a.m. to go to market. These days, each of all his branches needs around 200 kilos of pork and 120 kilos of chicken every day—20 times more than the mere 15 kilos he bought when he first started. He then returns around 5:30 a.m., then starts preparing the products to sell. He also makes rounds in his branches in the afternoon.
There are plans to open a a full-service restaurant of Mang Larry's in the near future
Now that he has mastered running his grill stations, Condencido’s next goal is to open a full-scale restaurant in the next four to five years. He also plans to enroll in a management course, if time permits.
“[Running a business is] the best. Sabi ko nga, ang pangarap ko lang noon mapag-aral lahat 'yung mga anak ko, may bahay na matitirhan, kumain, okay na. Eh binigyan ka ng pagkakataon ni Lord, i-grab mo. ‘Wag mo sayangin yung binigay niya. Kaya ako hindi ko sinasayang (My only dream before was to send all my children to school, have a house to live in and eat every day—that would have already been good. But if God gives you an opportunity, you should grab it. That’s why I don’t waste it.),” he says.
Pauline Macaraeg is Entrepreneur PH's data journalist. Follow her on Twitter @paulinemacaraeg