Filipino trafficking survivors come together to overcome pandemic struggles with food business

JERSEY CITY — Filipino trafficking survivors Cecil Delgado, Michael Aznar and Michael Barclay, who left their abusive employer in Florida back in 2011, found jobs at an exclusive airport lounge in New Jersey just a few months ago.

But because of the coronavirus pandemic — all three of them were placed on furlough.

“For 2 months, were not doing anything, nag-close yung lounge, so we were just sitting here doing nothing, chilling… one time, we made inasal. That’s my favorite. So we posted it on Facebook,” said Cecil.

Little did they know that one Facebook post gone viral could turn their pandemic life around, with a little help from Uncle Sam.

“I told Mike, ‘why don’t we have an inasal business?’ I said, while we’re not doing anything, and while we’re getting money from the government, why not invest it into something?

So, with their combined stimulus money and unemployment checks from the federal government, the enterprising friends started their own Filipino food delivery business called Inasal Central.

Michael Aznar makes sure the chicken inasal is perfectly grilled, while Cecil Delgado cooks the java rice and packs each meal for delivery.

Michael Baclay is in charge of the drinks — with his ice-cold gulaman and sago.

“During the lockdown, aside from doing the business, I think we’re helping the community too. Because while they’re on lockdown, we provide delivery service. The restaurants mostly offer curbside pickup.”

Since they opened, the team added other Filipino favorites, pork sisig and pork barbecue to their menu — and now, they handle more than 100 orders every weekend.

“Sometimes, people think there’s no hope during the pandemic. There is hope if you are skilled and resourceful. If you need to earn money, you’ll find a way.”

“Though today is not a good day, but we’re still like hoping tomorrow will be a better day, you know.”

For the business partners, this is also their way of giving back.

Money from these gulaman goes to the church in the Philippines.

For now, it remains to be seen if these furloughed workers will go back to their old jobs eventually — or if they will continue to explore opportunities — as entrepreneurs.

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