fast-food restaurants

Ugbo 24/7: A taste of Tondo in upscale BGC

Isagani de Castro Jr.

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Ugbo 24/7: A taste of Tondo in upscale BGC

TONDO FOOD. Former Manila Mayor Isko Moreno's business venture, Ugbo 24/7, offers Tondo food in upscale BGC in Taguig, Metro Manila, on March 10, 2024.

Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

Former Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno opens a new restaurant in upscale BGC, which offers Tondo food, such as Tumbong Soup (pig's intestines) and Dila Asado (pork's tongue). Plus, wise words from Ugbo 24/7's inspiration.

MANILA, Philippines – At the corner of Upper McKinley Hill in Megaworld’s One World Square in upscale Bonifacio Global City (BGC) is a restaurant that stands out in the whole area: Ugbo 24/7. 

At night, Ugbo is hard to miss because of its bright red facade and colorful signs inside, and it’s one of a handful of food establishments that are open 24/7.

Ugbo is just a few meters away from coffee shops and food places such as Starbucks and Army Navy, and just a few blocks from Italian-inspired Venice Grand Canal Mall and high-end condominiums such as McKinley Hill Garden Villas.

Ugbo 24/7 is the latest business venture of actor and former Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. It opened last February 17. 

The name Ugbo is taken from a food strip in Velasquez Street, Tondo, Manila, a lower-income neighborbood where Moreno grew up in, and where he often went to eat when he became a Manila councilor starting in 1998. 

The restaurant can fit from 30 to 40 people. 

LIMITED. Ugbo 24/7 offers a limited menu of four dishes as shown in its menu board behind the counter where workers wait for customers to order, on March 10, 2024. Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

Ugbo’s menu is sparse. It has only four dishes: Lechon Kawali (crispy fried pork belly), Beef Camto (beef shank soup), Tumbong (pig’s intestines) Soup, and Pork Dila (Pork’s Tounge) Asado. All set meals called Solb come with a big serving of soy-flavored rice with free beef/pork soup. An extra serving of rice costs P20. Solb is Filipino slang for hunger satisfied.

Minus the rice, the Lechon Kawali costs P160; Camto, P150; Tumbong, P145;  Dila Asado, P150. 

Camto and Tumbong can be spiced with toyomansi (soy sauce with kalamansi) or chilimansi (soy sauce with chili and kalamansi). 

The Solb Meal (with rice and soft drinks) Lechon Kawali costs P200; Solb Meal Camto is P190; Solb Meal Tumbong is P185; and Solb Meal Dila Asado is P190. 

TUMBONG. Ugbo 24/7’s Tumbong (pig’s intestine) Soup with soy-flavored rice plus ice tea costs P185. Isagani de Castro, Jr./Rappler

Ugbo 24/7 team captain Chi Magnubay told Rappler on Sunday, March 10, that their best seller is Lechon Kawali. 

After 10 pm when most restaurants are already closed, Magnubay said Ugbo 24/7 offers Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) workers an alternative to the usual frozen meals that are sold in convenience stores, and to 24/7 fast-food chains such as McDonald’s.

Frozen meals in convenience stores are usually cheaper, from from P50 to P150, but Ugbo 24/7’s edge is their meals are freshly cooked, and they come with a big serving of the Filipino’s favorite staple, rice flavored with soy sauce, and free soup.  

During the store’s opening, Moreno said he was happy to introduce Tondo food to other people in the capital.

“Masayang masaya ako, maipapakita natin na yung pagkaing Tondo ay pwedeng pagkain sa BGC,” he said.

(I’m very happy that we are able to show that Tondo food can also be food here in BGC.)

He added that Ugbo 24/7 is a “start of a journey for us to give opportunity to our fellow men to have jobs, to create jobs and oportunities for everyone.” 

He said the dishes in Ugbo 24/7 are the same as what he used to have in small eateries such as Rado’s Lechon, located in a small alley in Simon Steet, Tondo, Manila.

Home of the saddest: A life lesson from Isko Moreno

Home of the saddest: A life lesson from Isko Moreno

Ugbo 24/7 has a television on a wall which plays a video on how its meals are cleanly prepared.

Moreno said in a press conference when he was mayor of Manila that Ugbo used to have only a few eateries. It’s now a night food street popular among the masses with a wide array of food offerings, including Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, American, Mexican, and Middle Eastern cuisine. 

Baboy galore! A list of the 300-plus pork dishes that got the Philippines a Guinness World Record

Baboy galore! A list of the 300-plus pork dishes that got the Philippines a Guinness World Record

During the restaurant’s opening, Moreno cited one of the pioneers of Tondo food, the late Conrado “Rado” Bautista, who took over the eatery Rado’s Lechon from his sister in 1994 or 20 years ago. Like Ugbo 24/7, Rado’s Lechon also offers only four dishes: Lechon Kawali, Tumbong, Camto, and Dila Asado.

In an interview with food website Tikim TV before he died in November 2022, Bautista said he continued Rado’s Lechon after he lost his job in La Tondeña Distillers Incorporated, now Ginebra San Miguel. The website dubbed Bautista “Hari ng Tumbong” or King of Tumbong.

Ugbo 24/7: A taste of Tondo in upscale BGC

Life was difficult back then, he recalled, and he said he had to work hard in order to provide for his wife and three children who were still in school at the time.

Bautista said he studied how to clean a pig’s large intestines so that its bad odor would go away, and he was able to “perfect” the method. 

“Naperfect yung paglinlins. Yung tumbong namin ay walang lasang dumi ng baboy. Nililinis lang mabuti, nilalamas lang ng asin, tatlong beses lamasin ng asin, tapos babanlawan mabuti, tapos pakukuluan. Unang kulo, tapon; pangalawang kulo, tapon. Pangatlo, pag inamoy at wala nang amoy, pwede nang palambutin mabuti. Tapos pakukuluan mo uli, pakukuluan uli, para mawala yung amoy ng dumi ng baboy,” he explained. 

(I was able to perfect the cleaning. Our tumbong has no bad taste that comes from the pig. We clean it well, we knead it with salt three times, then we wash it well, then we boil it. First boiling, throw the water; second boiling, throw. Third boiling, when there’s no more smell, it can now be boiled again to make it soft. Then we boil it again.)

He also sought advice from someone who worked in a Chinese restaurant on how to improve his Dila Asado (pork’s tongue). 

OPEN. A chef cuts meat in Ugbo 24/7’s open kitchen where dishes such as Lechon Kawalli, Dila Asado, Tumbong, and Camto are prepared. Isagani de Castro, Jr/Rappler

“Inimprove ko yung panlasa. Nagtanong ako kung papano timplahin, may nakausap akong nagtatrabaho sa Chinese restaurant, tinuro sa akin kung papaano maging lasang Intsik. Sumikat na yung Rado’s Lechon,” he said. 

(I improved the taste. I asked about the mixture, I was able to talk to someone who worked in a Chinese restaurant who taught me how to make it taste like Chinese [pork asado]. And from there, Rado’s Lechon became popular.) 

Pag ikaw po ay nagtitinda, ‘wag mong isipin yung kita mo. Isipin ‘nyo po na yung kumakain sa inyo ay nasisiyahan, sapagka’t kung ‘di po nasisiyahan, yun na lang po ang kakain sa’yo. Ang nangyayari po sa amin, kumain po yung dalawang tao, pag balik, may kasamang apat.”

– Conrado ‘rado’ bautista

Due to his perseverance, Rado’s Lechon became a successful eatery. From only 3 kilos of meat in the ’90s, it now handles at least 15 kilos of meat a day. Bautista said he was able to build a concrete house and buy a Toyota Fortuner from Rado’s Lechon’s earnings. He was also able to put his three children through college. 

Asked for his advice to food entrepreneurs, Bautista said it is important to always have fresh ingredients, and to put customer satisfaction as a top priority, even over profit-making. 

“Pag ikaw po ay nagtitinda, ‘wag mong isipin yung kita mo. Isipin ‘nyo po na yung kumakain sa inyo ay nasisiyahan, sapagka’t kung ‘di po nasisiyahan, yun na lang po ang kakain sa iyo,” he said. 

(When you’re selling, don’t think about your profit. Think about the people who patronize your place and how to keep them happy, because if they’re not happy, your customer base won’t grow.)

“Ang nangyayari po sa amin, kumain po yung dalawang tao, pag balik, may kasamang apat. Ang sabi, dito masarap kumain. Ganun po.” 

(What happen to us, when two people come, when they return, they bring along four others because they tell others that our food is good. That’s how it is.) 

Bautista said he had urged his children to focus on their education, and to love what they do for a living.

“May kasabihan po tayo, nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa. E nanghihingi ka ng awa, e tamad ka naman, paano ka aasesnso? Kailangan magsumikap ka sa sarili mo, isipin mo kung papano ka kikita ng magandang paraan na hindi manggagaling sa masama ang ipapakain mo sa sarili mo,” he said.

(We have a saying, God gives mercy, but it’s up to us to do the work. Even if you ask mercy from God, if you’re lazy, you won’t progress. You have to persevere, think about how you can earn cleanly, where the money doesn’t come from something bad.) 

His daughter-in-law, Jasmin Bautista, remembers this important advice: “Laging niya sinasabi sa amin, kailang alagaan at kailangan may love palagi.”  (He always told us to take care of the business and love it always.)

Moreno, during the opening, said he hoped that Ugbo 24/7 will grow and branch out soon. 

On Friday, March 15, Ugbo 24/7 partnered with Globe Business to “deliver a better connectivity experience for customers.” 

Globe told Rappler they will help Ugbo 24/7 understand its customers better – such as what they like, their behaviour, among others – with the help of data and new marketing technologies.

“Makikita nyo kung gaano kalinis ang pagkain sa isang iskinita ng Velasquez Street na ngayon ay sikat na sikat na Ugbo sa Tondo, and we’re happy to share to the entire country hopefully not later, but soon,” Moreno said during the opening. “Malay mo.”

(You will see here the clean food from a small alley in Velasquez Street that is now famous in Ugbo in Tondo, and we’re happy to share this to the entire country hopefully not later, but soon. You’ll never know.) – 


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Isagani de Castro Jr.

Before he joined Rappler as senior desk editor, Isagani de Castro Jr. was longest-serving editor in chief of ABS-CBN News online. He had reported for the investigative magazine Newsbreak, Asahi Shimbun Manila, and Business Day. He has written chapters for books on politics, international relations, and civil society.