High school teacher Lzeil Cabalquinto-Hernandez is only one of the many others who have jumped into #quarantinebaking—except she makes puto like no one makes them.
With the help of her 19-year-old brother Aljun Cabalquinto, she makes the native delicacy more festive with edible smiley faces, Mickey Mouse, stars, and what have you.
Lzeil said she was idling when it came to her to decorate the puto she sells using the technique of nail art—which she teaches to her students at the Aniceta De Lara Pimentel High School in Camarines Norte.
The 33-year-old instructor recounted her light-bulb moment in this interview with PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) on September 11, 2020, via Facebook Messenger.
“With enough time staying at home during the pandemic, I decided to explore my passion in cooking and baking...
"Until one day, I tried applying the idea... what if I also put a design in my puto just like we do on the nails?
“My brother and I started making strawberry design using the available materials in our kitchen, like barbecue sticks.
“Surprisingly, when I posted our puto artwork on May 3… lahat sila na-amaze doon sa unang creation namin."
She continued, "Marami na ang nagtanong kung magkano daw iyong strawberry puto.
“After that, my mga nag-personal message sa akin na magpapagwa sila.
“Meron agad nagpagawa ng tatlong bilao na may 50 pieces… doon na nagsimula iyong mga request ng cartoon character designs.”
WORKING ON A TIGHT BUDGET
In the same interview, Lzeil shared she made a small investment to launch her customized puto business.
The exact amount of PHP998 bought the ingredients—“five kilograms of flour, three kilograms of sugar, 500 grams of baking powder, one tray of egg, margarine, milk, and the strawberry flavor.”
She did not need to buy her baking equipment; she simpy borrowed from her sister-in-law.
With determination and high hopes, Lzeil and Aljun went to work.
She said, “Dati din po, nanghihiram lang ako ng steamer sa kapatid ni husband. Maliit lang iyon pero pinagtiyagaan namin hanggang nakabili na ako ng malaki na gamit na namin ngayon.
“Hanggang sa paonti-onting dinadagdagan namin iyong stocks ng mga ingredients like flour and sugar, and iyong additional tools like mixing bowls, wire whisk, tray, etc.
“Sa ngayon almost 200+ na iyong puto cups namin na dati ay mga 50 pieces lang.
"Kaya mas mabilis na kaming nakakagawa ng maramihan.”
They earned a total of PHP9,100 for the whole month after launching their puto.
And the orders have been coming since then, Lzeil said, “Every day, iba-iba rin ang request ng customers.
"Ngayon meron ng Minnie Mouse, Hello Kitty, emojis, Dora the Explorer, Spongebob and Patrick, Sonic the Hedgehog, Disney Cars, gender reveal, and different flowers.
"Meron din during Father's Day. As in marami na sila.”
BUSINESS BUILT ON TEAM EFFORT
Lzeil continues to deliver freshly baked puto to her customers despite her busy schedule in school.
And the teacher-baker is specially thankful to her younger brother who has been assisting her from day one.
She said, “Challenging talaga on our part pero buti na lang sobrang tiyaga din ni Aljun in helping and assisting me. Siya kasi talaga ang magaling sa pagdrawing.
“After starting the design, saka ako tutulong para mabilis kami matapos. Minsan after lunch na din kami natatapos kahit 3 a.m. kami nagsimula.
“Time management is very important. Gabi pa lang ay nire-ready ko na iyong mga kakailanganin namin sa mga order.
"May nakalagay nang tubig sa steamer, nakalagay na rin iyong mga cups sa loob ng steamer.
“Kaya kapag kailangan ko magreport sa school, minsan 3 a.m. gising na kmi ni brother para before 7 a.m. ready na ako para pumasok sa school.”
Lzeil also said that having a postitive mindset has helped her managed her roles as a teacher, baker, and entrepreneur.
She said, “Kahit nakakapagod at minsan nasasayang yung ingredients namin, hindi kami nawalan ng pag-asa.
“I always tell my brother that if you love what you are doing, you must enjoy it para hindi ka makaramdam ng pagod. And by doing so, your output will be perfect.”
She added, “Also, in everything we do, we must always seek God's guidance dahil hindi po namin ito kaya kung hindi kami guided ni Lord. And I know that God has a plan for us.”
Lzeil’s 100-piece customized puto bilao is available online for PHP730. To order, drop a message to Lzei Hernandez on her Facebook page.