Floating restaurants: Rebuilding, trying to stay afloat again in Olango

This is a photo of Topie and Dinah’s floating restaurant before Typhoon Odette. | Photo added

OLANGO ISLAND, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu – Olango Island in Lapu-Lapu City is known for its bird and marine sanctuary.

While some islanders used to work in the mainland city of Lapu-Lapu and other towns in Cebu, the majority of them depend on tourism and fishing for their livelihood.

So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and shut down the tourism industry in 2020, residents were the hardest hit.

Then Super Typhoon Odette hit Cebu in December 2021, leaving havoc and ruin in its wake, particularly on Olango Island where high winds destroyed most homes there.

For the residents, it was a double whammy as they had lost their livelihood to COVID-19, and now their homes were literally roofless as Odette’s fury blew off most of the roofs of the houses of Olango residents and even destroyed several of these houses.

NTA

Most of the houses on Olango Island in the town of Lapu-Lapu were destroyed when Super Typhoon Odette hit the island in December 2021, as seen in this photo of houses in a barangay on the island of Lapu-Lapu. ‘Olango, a few days after Odette’s passage. | Photo CDN digital file (Mary Rose Sagarino)

Apart from this, the floating restaurants, which employed many residents specifically in the island’s Barangay Caw-oy before the pandemic, were all destroyed or swept away at the height of Odette’s fury.

Floating restaurants were among the island’s tourist destinations and these structures were anchored out to sea, dotting the area near the shore of Barangay Caw-oy on the eastern side of the island.

This is Armina and Cabana's floating restaurant before Typhoon Odette.  |  Photo added

This is Armira and Cabana’s floating restaurant before Typhoon Odette. | Photo added

These empty restaurants are a beacon of hope for residents of better days to come when the pandemic is over or when the country’s tourism industry is open to visitors again.

And after two years and just when things were looking up for residents to be working again and earning money in the floating restaurants with the tourism industry starting to recover, Odette came along and smothered this hope.

And what was once an area of ​​the sea off Barangay Caw-oy that was dotted with floating restaurants is now just an empty sea.

Fortunately for the inhabitants, few owners of the destroyed floating restaurants are ready to invest and rebuild their businesses.

One of the few to have started rebuilding their floating restaurant business in the area is Topie Boloc-Boloc, owner of Topie and Dinah Floating Restaurant.

Topie said starting all over again was one of the hardest things he’s done since the effects of the pandemic and typhoon hit the business really hard.

He said he was unable to prepare for both crises.

The restaurant has not made any money for the past two years as the floating restaurants have been closed due to the pandemic.

But he still believed things would improve once the pandemic was over, so he took care of the empty floating restaurant, keeping it ready to reopen when tourists visited the island again.

Then Odette arrived.

And since he didn’t expect Typhoon Odette to be so strong, he left everything he needed for the company in his floating restaurant and took refuge ashore.

And just like that within hours, the floating restaurant he had built and maintained for 16 years vanished amid Odette’s fury.

Still, he believed in the business that foreign tourists, who were its main market in pre-pandemic times, would return.

He is therefore investing again in the floating catering sector, despite the risks of additional typhoons which could again destroy the floating restaurant.

“Olango is known for tourism and fresh seafood,” said Topie, who thought that was more than enough motivation to rebuild her business.

And because the restaurant has been closed for the past two years, he really didn’t have the funds to rebuild it.

So he has to borrow money, apply for loans and sell some properties to raise the 3 million pesos needed to restore the business.

But now he has also learned that it would also be better to have a restaurant business on land and not just on the sea so that if a super typhoon like Odette came to destroy the floating restaurant, he could still find a way to earn money.

“Dili gyud diay ta kasalig aning negosyuha. Maayo sad diay nga maghinay og negosyo nga dili sa dagat kay labi na og naay bagyo, dili ta ka operate, Topie said.

(We can’t really depend on this business all the time. It’s also good to slowly have a business on land because if there’s a typhoon I can still operate and earn.)

Meanwhile, Henry Apa, assistant supervisor of the Armira Cabana floating restaurant, hopes the restaurant owner will rebuild the business so that he and the others have jobs again.

Apa said they were also unable to prepare for the typhoon.

In fact, the restaurant manager, a Chinese national, stayed in the floating restaurant because he was convinced that the structure was large and reliable.

Apa said they tried to convince him to evacuate but he just ignored them.

The Chinese national was one of the people who died in Lapu-Lapu city due to the typhoon. The floating restaurant was rented by a Chinese for 20 years.

Apa said Kuya Nik, who was the restaurant’s original owner, told them he would start restoring the floating restaurant within a year.

“Lipay kay para naa nami trabaho kay mao gyud to amo gisaligan,” Apa said of the restaurant owner’s plan to rebuild the business.

(We are happy because for us we will have jobs, which we have depended on for our livelihood.)

He said that after the typhoon and when the floating restaurant was swept away and destroyed, he would go out to sea and fish to earn money and have food on the table.

Her children, who work, have also helped.

Apa said one of the things he learned from the crises was to save money, even a little, for any disaster.

Apa and the owners of the floating restaurants hope more tourists will visit the island again.

In preparation for the expected visitors, the owners and their employees are already vaccinated.

Topie also said that on April 8, her restaurant had already opened and started welcoming guests, serving them fresh seafood with a refreshing and relaxing view of the sun, sea and sky or maybe, the moon. , sea and sky adorned with stars.

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