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Managing cafés, baking delectable cassava cakes and raising seven children in Baguio all make up a day-in-the-life of Techie Pantaleon.

While Manileños flock the Northern Region in the summertime for the cooling breeze, Techie Pantaleon and her brood have been calling “the mountains” home for more than a decade. “I consider myself taga-bundok (from the mountains) now,” she says with a proud smile.

Originally from Manila, the Pantaleons made Baguio their permanent residence only when Techie’s husband was appointed golf director of Camp John Hay back in 1999. “At the time, since he was the golf director, I offered to sell some of my baked products at John Hay. They allowed meto put a pasalubong corner in the golf club. We started only with the cassava cake – which has been my mom’s recipe for over 60 years now. She made me promise that I was the only one who could make it, so I put up a secret place in my commissary where I made the cassava cakes. I also baked some cookies and other cakes, which we supplied to the golf club’s restaurant.”

In 2001, she decided to put up a small bakery and café called Everything Nice Cake Shop and Café along Marcos Highway with the blessings of her mother, Lulu Maravillas, and her in-laws, Polo and Ging Pantaleon. “It was my first time to venture into that type of business, and I was a bit scared – we weren’t known, and I was just about to test the market,” she says. “But I knew if we had good products,
people would find us.”

She recounts her early observations of Baguio City’s cafes and bakeries, with hopes of offering something new. “When I started, I would go to the different bake shops here in Baguio and see that everyone was using chipboard packaging and stapler, and there was no label. I thought it would be nice for people to give cakes as gifts that were packaged well, so that’s what I tried to do. It was part of the concept of Everything Nice.”

The family opened a second store in 2003 at the Mile Hi Center after their products gained a good following, and in 2009, Tetchie sensed it was time to target a bigger market. “That’s when we opened a store in SM, but just a counter
space.”

In spite of their steady success, Techie believed that making small changes was necessary. “When I opened the store in SM, I felt we had to level up and modernize,” she recalls. “I talked to an ad agency to help improve on the logo and
color tone. For the interiors, I wanted something that looked ‘country’ but with a modern approach.”

Everything was running smoothly, until an unforeseeable incident. Techie’s husband passed away, leaving her to raise her children and run a burgeoning business all by herself. “I was aged twenty to twenty-nine years old when I had my
children. I have four boys and three girls. Five were born in Manila, and the last two were born in Baguio. I’m now forty-two years old. My eldest is now turning twenty-two, and my youngest is turning thirteen.

“When my husband passed away, I had to go through a lot. But we were okay. I remember when my seventh child started school, I said: ‘No more stopping!’ I never had a bakery business or anything in the past; I only had seven growing
kids I needed to feed!” she adds with a laugh. From baked goods, she started offering meals inspired by her own tastes and preference for culinary twists. “We have chicken tamarind, callos, spareribs and crispy tilapia,” she says. “We also have pasta dishes like the carbonara and seafood pesto a la crema.”

Techie reveals that on top of such bestselling fare, their Baguio longanisa and original coffee blend are their signature products. “When I was trying out local coffee, I discovered that Arabica dies in your mouth when you taste it. Also, when
beans are stored too long, they aren’t as shiny anymore and become dull in color. Luckily, I was able to find a supplier who roasts beans only when you order, so it’s always freshly roasted beans. We made a blend of Benguet Arabica and Barako.”

Like her original dishes, the coffee was an instant hit with patrons. “Since everyone’s serving the same thing, we have to have a little edge,” she points out. “This is the same way with our baked goods. We have the Ultimate Chocolate Crinkles, cheesecakes and other cakes. They all have to have something unique
about them.”

Perhaps for others, juggling a business while keeping a household of growing teens is more than enough to fill one’s plate, but Techie Pantaleon manages to do so with such admirable optimism, grace and ease. “I would say the secret is that you have to be positive all the time,” she nods. “There were moments when I felt like giving up, but I didn’t because the passion is there. I think that’s the real secret; you have to love what you’re doing because it doesn’t feel like working. Even if you have to work on Christmas Day.”

For this mother and entrepreneur, life has been as diverse and pleasant as her Everything Nice menu – conventional, but with a surprising twist – and always gratifying.