100 days of happiness in Hawaii

If given the chance to get a taste of your favorite food—especially one that reminds you of your roots, wouldn’t you go and try it as often as you could? This longing for his favorite Chickenjoy and Jollibee Spaghetti, among others in the menu, prompted a young Filipino living overseas to experience everyday delicious food at Jollibee when it opened its first store in Hawaii last December.

Jollibee’s branch in Waipahu is its 26th outlet in the US. When it first opened its doors to customers, it expectedly attracted a large number of Filipino-Americans and their friends. Everyone wanted a taste of the distinctly Pinoy and langhap-sarap treats that they either grew up with or heard about from friends and relatives.

For 25-year old Gabe Torno, a Filipino born and raised in Hawaii, a visit to Jollibee soon meant so much more than just getting his snack fix. It also enabled him to discover his Filipino roots.

Torno is the author behind Diary of a Jollibee Kid (http://www.jollibeekid.com), a blog that chronicles his 100 consecutive days – and succeeding weekly visits – to Jollibee Waipahu.

“I first encountered Jollibee when I visited the Philippines along with my sisters in 2000. I remember the meaty spaghetti and the crispy and juicy chicken that made me want to go back to the Philippines one day. There was something about the food, the people, and atmosphere of Jollibee that made it special,” he shares.

Like most Hawaii-born Filipino-Americans, Gabe’s immersion in Filipino culture was limited to his experiences at home. And it was only in college at the University of Hawaii-Manoa that Gabe began learning about his heritage in earnest, taking Tagalog classes and becoming involved in the activities of the Fil-Am community. But even with his increased immersion into the Filipino culture of Hawaii, he could not forget his initial Jollibee experience during his first visit to his home country and its growing importance in Philippine pop culture. “When I went back in 2009, the first thing that I wanted to do was go to Jollibee and taste the food once again,” says Gabe.

Diary of a Jollibee Kid was meant to be an online chronicle of his attempt to set a personal record of consecutive store visits. Gabe had initially planned daily visits for the store’s first year, but abbreviated it to 100 consecutive daily visits, and weekly store visits henceforth. Each post documents food orders and service quality, and often segues into discussions of his extracurricular activities in school and the community.

Gabe’s love for Jollibee is not limited to its food, though he counts Jollibee Spaghetti, Chickenjoy, the Breakfast Joys meals, and halo-halo (offered in US stores) among his favorites. For Gabe, Jollibee is a place where he can sit back and relax in between hectic activities, a sort of home base where he can experience the everyday delicious food he has quickly grown to love. And herein lies Jollibee’s charm. “Although I haven't visited any of the Jollibees in the mainland USA or any place other than Philippines, I know that each Jollibee brings the taste of home everywhere it is located,” he says.

And that “taste of home” – not just the affordable and great-tasting food but the warm and friendly ambience of every Jollibee store – is what makes Pinoys anywhere in the world keep coming back for more of the familiar and well-loved langhap sarap goodness of Jollibee.