Gerry "Mr. Ube" Chua
In his signature purple sports shirt, Gerry Chua, also fondly called “Mr. Ube,” is usually found standing at the doorway of Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli along Ongpin St. in Binondo. He’s a jolly fixture with matching purple glasses who happily assists customers, bellowing a cheerful “Hello! Welcome!” as they enter the shop, and “Tosia [Thank you!]!” in Hokkien when they leave, arms heavy with goodies.
Eng Bee Tin has mastered the art of producing world- class Oriental delicacies.
In 1912, Mr. Chua Chiu Hong established Eng Bee Tin in a simple stall in the heart of Ongpin, Manila. The stall became well known for its traditional Chinese delicacies, such as hopia, tikoy and glutinous balls.
During the 1970s, Eng Bee Tin stood cloistered in a sea of similar businesses. Its popularity began to wane and its products were getting harder to sell in a competitive environment.
More than a decade passed, and there appeared to be no end to the downtrend. The stall’s hopia proved unpopular due to its consistency. Creditors, suppliers and friends were turning a cold shoulder, wary of doing business with a seemingly doomed enterprise. The business needed a miracle to survive the 1980s.
It came in the form of Mr. Gerry Chua.
As the eldest among the current generation of Chua siblings at the time, it fell upon Gerry to take the reins of the business at the young age of 21. He was armed only with a sincere wish to help his father by affecting a turnaround on the family business.
On what would otherwise be an uneventful day, Gerry felt the need to cool off after a slow day of business with a bit of ice cream. He made his way to the supermarket, where he engaged the saleslady in conversation, asking what ice cream flavor sold the most. ‘Ube’ was the reply.
Gerry then took six jars worth of ube, and blended it into a batch of hopia. After tasting it, he knew he was on to something. He traveled to the province of Pampanga to master the art of ube making under the tutelage of the best halayang ube makers.
Once the first batches of the soon-to-be famous ube hopia started rolling out, Gerry attempted to export them. Response was lukewarm at first, but business eventually began to gather steam as more and more orders poured in from abroad. For the first time in a long while, business was good, and it was about to get better.
Sometime during this period, TV host Cory Quirino wanted to do a feature on Ongpin for her new show, CityLine. Gerry played the gracious host and paved the way for her staff to interview and film around the Ongpin district. Ms. Quirino’s gratitude for this unconditional assistance was expressed by featuring Gerry’s innovation, hopia ube, on CityLine.
Due to this exposure, the business soared to previously unheard of heights. Mr. Gerry Chua then renamed Eng Bee Tin Hopia Factory to Eng Bee Tin Chinese Deli.
Its product line has expanded beyond Chinese Delicacies. One can purchase quality frozen products, Filipino treats, processed seafood, and even breads and cakes – all bearing the Eng Bee Tin label.
The company’s trend of innovation continues to this day, from its fully automated hopia manufacturing processes to its strict hygienic standards of quality control (running the final product through metal detectors, and packaging it in a hygienic pillow pack) one is assured good food that is both delicious and safe.
Never wanting to abandon its roots, Eng Bee Tin remains in the same spot it has occupied for over ninety years. It is a visible landmark in Ongpin, cheerily lit as a testament to its booming business. It strives to be a visible part of the community, evidenced by the purple fire engines it has donated to the local volunteer fire brigade.
Eng Bee Tin products are locally available in various supermarkets, groceries, restaurants, office and school canteens. The company is also one of the biggest international exporters of Hopia, delivering to Asia, the Middle East, Europe and the USA.