Could UP Diliman's Famous Mang Larry Be Opening a Full-Service Restaurant Soon?

Mang Larry's Isawan has been selling isaw and chicken barbecue since 1984.

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 thing that’s as legendary as the Oblation and “Zorro” at the University of the Philippines 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 their grilled chicken and pork intestines on sticks have sated the hunger of generations of UP students. "Institusyon na ako dito (I’m already an institution here),” Lauro jokes. "Sabi nga nila, ‘haligi ka na ng unibersidad (They tell me that I’m already a pillar of this university)."

 

January to March, Mang Larry shares, are always particularly busy. During those months, Mang Larry’s Isawan accommodates around a thousand customers and sells around 3,000 sticks of isaw (grilled chicken or pig intestine) a day.

 

The establishment got a major makeover in August 2017, when the simple stall was transformed into a full-scale food joint complete with tables and chairs that can seat around 20 people. Aside from its usual barbecued fare, the upgraded store now also offers grilled meat and seafood rice meals.

 

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.

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Isaw is Mang Larry's specialty

 

Despite the frequent relocation, Mang Larry’s Isawan never lost touch with its loyal customers. These days, it's not only famous among UP students and alumni, but other casual diners outside of campus, as well. “Almost all colleges in NCR 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).”

 

Mang Larry recalls starting the business 33 years ago with only P40 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 P5 per stick). For him, the grill stand was only meant to provide additional income for his family.

 

It wasn’t until 1995 when Lauro decided to resign from his day job at LVN Pictures Inc., where he worked as a janitor, to focus on his booming grilling business. It was also at that 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. His other branches include one near Far Eastern University Diliman, Grub Hub food park on 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 himself.

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Apart from branch expansion, Lauro has also been able to provide for his family through his grill stations. He proudly shares he has already put through school an accountant, a manager, and a nurse through his business. Two of his children are still in college.

 

Mang Larry has 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),” Lauro says. But due to financial constraints, he wasn’t able to realize that dream. 

 

Syempre 'pag iniwanan ka ng magulang mo...'Yon ang sinabi ko na hindi ko gagawin sa pamilya ko at hindi ko ipararanas 'yong 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 is proud to say he owns his own home along with seven cars.

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Still, Mang Larry 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 'yong 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 day, he wakes up at 4 a.m. to go to the market. These days, each of his branches needs around 200 kilos of pork and 120 kilos of chicken—20 times more than the mere 15 kilos he bought when he first started. At 5:30 a.m., he starts preparing the food he'll be selling throughout the day. In the afternoons, he personally checks the other Mang Larry's branches.

 

There are plans to open a full-service restaurant of Mang Larry's in the near future

 

Now that he has mastered running his grill stations, Mang Larry'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 'yong mga anak ko, may bahay na matitirhan, kumain, okay na. Eh binigyan ka ng pagkakataon ni Lord, i-grab mo. ‘Wag mo sayangin 'yong 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.

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This story originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com.ph. Minor edits have been made by the SPOT.ph editors.

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