A Man and His Isawan

by Andrea Tubig

He stepped out of his jeepney, together with his team, carrying heavy sealed containers. He approached us and apologized for the delay. Dressed in a simple red t-shirt and shorts, he kept saying, “Teka lang po ma’m.” and “Pasensya na ma’m, saglit lang po.” He made us sit on a bench and hurriedly assembled a huge umbrella that will protect all five of us from the rain. Then, he started working on his grill and went to work.

Who would have thought that this polite and simple-dressed man is the owner of the most flocked isawan in the country?

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Mang Larry before Mang Larry’s

Just like other entrepreneurs, Lauro “Mang Larry” Condencido Jr., owner of the famous Mang Larry’s Isawan, was just a simple man who wanted to try his luck in the world of business. “D ko akalain na mag go-grow ‘to kasi gusto ko lang naman ‘i-try(I did not expect this (business) to grow because I just wanted to give it a try).” he says

Back then, Mang Larry was an aspiring chemical engineer. In fact, he did not have any formal background in business nor did he had any plans to start one. All he knew was that he wanted to become a professional chemist one day.

Unfortunately, Mang Larry was in his second year of college when he decided to drop out of school and support his family. He first worked in ABS CBN under the quality control department. “Nagtrabaho ako noon sa quality control, sa mga gumagawa ng pelikula. Kaso, messenger lang Before, I worked in the quality control, ).” he says.  “Kaibigan ko sila Willie Revillame at Aga Mulach. Sila, mga artista, ako sa laboratory, ‘d kasi ako pwedeng mag artista, diba (I was friends with Willie Revillame and Aga Mulach. They were actors whereas I worked in the laboratory, since I’m not suited to be an actor, right)? he adds jokingly.

Although his first job as a messenger was far from what he initially dreamt of, it was this first job that served as his ticket to his success. Part of his job as a messenger was to run errands for the various chemists and engineers in the quality control department with whom he became good friends with. “Sila yung nagturo sa akin kung paano gumawa nung mga special sauce at flavoring na ginagamit ko ngayon sa pag gawa ng mga isaw at barbecue (They were the ones who taught me how to make the special sauce and flavoring I now use in preparing the innards and barbecue).”

Humble Beginnings

It was in the year 1984 when the idea of starting his own business piqued Mang Larry’s interest.

“Gusto ko magbukas ng kainan para sa mahirap at mayaman (I want to open a food chain for the poor and the rich),” he shares. He remembered receiving a letter of permission to open a stall beside the concessionaire near Area 2 shopping mall near the post office of Kalayaan Residence Hall in UP Diliman which happened to be the location of the first ever branch of Mang Larry’s Isawan.

It was February 26, 1984 when he first entered business. With a starting capital of only Php 40.00,  he sold sticks of pork large intestine, betamax (pork blood cubes), walkman (pig ears), chicken and pork isaw (chicken and pork intestines), and pork barbecue. Customers have the option to dip these in either special sweetened vinegar or spicy vinegar.

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“Ang ginawa ko, mula sa maliit na puhunan, hinayaan ko mag-grow. Baka kasi talagang ganoon, sa maliit ka muna mag uumpisa. Kaya hinayaan ko nalang (What I did is from a small capital, I just let it grow. Maybe because it is really meant to be like that; you have to start small. So I just let it be.),” he says.

And from there, he left everything else to fate.

What Makes His Isaw Click?

Literally speaking, what makes isaw from Mang Larry’s different is the absence of that orange food coloring present in all kinds of skewered street food. Mang Larry proudly shares that all their products are prepared naturally, without preservatives and whatnot. Having worked in the quality control department before, quality is the first and foremost priority of his business.

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Aside from his delicious and quality street food, Mang Larry is also known for his one of a kind camaraderie towards his customers. Mang Larry’s target customers are primarily students, professors, and residential owners of University of the Philippines Diliman. Mang Larry shares that he was never fearful of his business spiraling down since there are more than a thousand hungry people inside U.P.

Mang Larry personally takes orders and addresses his customers by name and not just “ma’m” or “sir.” He also takes time to chat with them.

“Iyong una kong mga customer, mga freshmen. Mahilig sila tumambay dito habang nag gigitara. Sabi nila, ‘Mang Larry, gagawan ka namin ng kanta. Sasama namin sa album’ (My first customers were freshmen. They loved hanging out here, while playing their guitars. They told him, ‘Mang Larry, we will make you a song. We will include you in our first album’).’“

And who were these freshmen? None other than the Eraserheads themselves  remaining true to their word by dedicating their first album, entitled Cutterpillow, to Mang Larry.

Struggles and Success

Mang Larry’s Isawan served as their family’s anchor from poverty. Because of the in-demand popularity of his street food chain, he was able to send all his children to school. It was also through his isawan, that he helped his relatives overcome poverty. In fact, his team consisted of his siblings, cousins, and nephews.

However, the desire to help everyone has its drawbacks and Mang Larry had to learn it the hard way. He once partnered up with a Chinese businessman who, turns out, just used his name to open up several branches without his consent. “Syempre, hindi ko naman kayang tulungan lahat ng kamag anak ko. So, nakipag team up ako dun sa isang Intsik na businessman. Binigyan ko siya ng mga tao, mga kapatid ko, pinsan, para magtrabaho sa business nila. Pero, ginamit lang kami.” Upon hearing the news that their business was forfeited, he immediately ordered these branches to be closed.

Nevertheless, Mang Larry’s isaw business continued to flourish. He eventually opened other branches in universities serving serve street food to people from all walks of life. Aside from the usual isaw he sells, he has added a variety of products in their menu such as siomai and fruitshakes. He is also invited to give entrepreneurial talks to universities and business events.

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What’s Next For Mang Larry

What’s next for the man behind the country’s most popular isawan? Aside from opening other branches all over the country, Mang Larry plans to put up his own restaurant which will serve rich Philippine cuisine.

When asked what advice he can give to budding entrepreneurs, Mang Larry answers, “Dapat marunong kang makisama sa mga tao. Matuto ka mag alaga sa mga customers mo. Kasi kung wala sila, nasaan ka ngayon (You should know how to deal with people. Learn to take care of them because without them, where are you now)? Sure enough, with 500-600 customers flocking his stall daily, Mang Larry sure knows how to take care of his customers.

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Indeed, Mang Larry has gone a long way from a simple office messenger to one of the nation’s most successful entrepreneurs. And yet, despite his fame and fortune, he still continues to be the same humble and hardworking man whose only desire is to work hard for his family and to spread the uniqueness of Philippine culture one isaw stick at a time.

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22 comments

  1. Whoa! What an interesting back story. It’s so cool how he learned how to cook just by being a messenger in a lab. And with such a small capital, too! Two thumbs up for Mang Larry! 😀

  2. Patricia Matias · · Reply

    Great article! Interesting and inspirational 🙂

  3. Anonymous · · Reply

    Interesting article 🙂 Nothing really is impossible. Kudos.

  4. KD Montenegro · · Reply

    Mang Larry’s story is just one of the many real life stories of simplicity that has gone far. Truly amazing!

  5. woah. nice article. 😀

  6. I don’t really eat street food cause my mom never allowed me. Joke! I eat like fishball and kwek kwek and kikiam but all the other weird body parts like the chicken feet and the isaw, I’ve never found them even remotely appealing. I also don’t eat balot cause it looks nasty and I never ever want to try it. Isaw on the other hand is something I considered eating because people told me about how good the Isaw in UP tastes. I love the fact that Kuya Larry worked in quality control for a while. I think he’s the best guy to trust if I ever wanted to try out isaw. On a side note, being an ID Major, I would like to change the layout and colors of his signage. That’s all! 😀 🙂

  7. Shane L. · · Reply

    I love street food! But I don’t often get to eat it because of stuff. :)) Anyway, I found this really interesting, and really informative. It makes me want to go out there, go to Mang Larry’s, eat barbecue and chat with this really inspiring person. The article itself was also well-written, and paints a fantastic picture of Mang Larry himself. (Also this made me really hungry.)

  8. Kudos to Mang Larry who thought of quality and service (to his customers) rather than the usual prospects of those in business like how to put more money in their pockets! We need more Mang Larry’s in this world ^^

  9. Lara Acosta · · Reply

    Interesting article!
    What Mang Larry said about his street foods being safe from preservatives and food coloring is really reassuring. I’d like to try some of his street foods sometime!

  10. Kev Regalado · · Reply

    No wonder Mang Larry has reached where he is now. A man that kind deserves much blessings. The first time my Ate brought me to Mang Larry’s, she had so many stories to tell about how genuinely nice he is. I hope to meet him the next time I go there for the legendary man with his isaw stall (because stand sounds a bit wrong) :))

    Good job *insert secret term of endearment here*! 😛

  11. Kev Regalado · · Reply

    i hope to meet him the next time i go there–the legendary man with his isaw stall*

  12. Wow! Truly amazing and inspirational! I cry for joy for Mang Larry! Cheers!

  13. Jiah Margallo · · Reply

    I love Mang Larry’s isaw! ❤ And I never knew that the Eraserheads were his first customers 😮 Very entertaining article 🙂 🙂

  14. Ana Francesca Paz · · Reply

    I’ve read the other article about Mang Larry’s and this explained further the history of Mang Larry’s isawan. I like your article it is not only imformative but inspiring too.

  15. Anonymous · · Reply

    This is really inspirational! :O 😀

  16. Inna Magpantay · · Reply

    Inspiring! Mang Larry is indeed an example of the fruits of hard work and passion!
    Nice article also. It is really entertaining.

  17. Kcarolynne · · Reply

    Great article. Catchy first paragraph.

  18. I am genuinely proud of this article as a teacher. It’s rich with details, entertainment value, and more important, subtle touching insights. It really shows how passionate you were about your topic that I have not sensed/felt in other articles. Great job, Andy!

    1. Yay! Thanks Ma’am. 🙂 -andy

  19. Great profile of a great man 🙂

  20. […] people patronize the street food cart with the most delicious sauce. How do I know? This is how Mang Larry’s in UP become a legend of his ‘isaw manok and isaw […]

  21. […] people patronize the street food cart with the most delicious sauce. How do I know? This is how Mang Larry’s in UP become a legend of his ‘isaw manok and isaw […]

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