Arquilato Kusina: Shining a light on Filipino Heritage culinary

Spread on green banana leaves, Afiq Omar and Ziqah Omar serve a rainbow assortment of their signature dishes including beef longganisa (sweet sausage), Lumpiang Ubod, Pancit Canton, and many more – a feast that you eat with your bare hands.

According to the founders of Arquilato Kusina, this hands-on tradition is called “Kamayan”, a Filipino word that derives from the word “Kamay” which translates to “hands”.

Founded in 2020, the idea behind the home-based business started when the two siblings simply wanted to expose Filipino culinary heritage and preserve the legacy of their family dishes that they had the fortune to enjoy since childhood.

Born out of COVID-19, although the foodpreneurs have always had a strong passion for food, they discovered their love for cooking during the pandemic after spending countless hours in the kitchen, learning family recipes.

Over the years, as their business grew, Arquilato Kusina gradually expanded their operations from selling Filipino cuisine to producing their very own frozen products which include their homemade longganisa.

Aside from that, the siblings also collaborated with local businesses and organisation for events and projects.

“One of the few projects we did was the `Kamayan Feast`, a collaboration with The Mixbros and BigBwn Brunei which took place at Kg Bolkiah Community Development centre,” he recalled.

“We’ve been running the business for over one and half years now and the response that we have received has been very humbling as we are overwhelmed by the demands for Filipino cuisine from both our Bruneian and Filipino communities,” he said.

Serving a culinary heritage to a new generation

Each and every dish made by the siblings reveals the unique canvas of flavours of their heritage and vibrant culture.

“When it comes to Filipino cuisine, people are familiar with chicken adobo, tapsilog, and halo-halo. For our family, our main dishes and desserts date back to our ancestors,” Afiq shared.

“During our ancestors’ time, around the late 1800s, they were the head chef that served the Spanish pastors in their community. Hence, a lot of the dishes we make today are derived or adapted from them,” he said.

Though neither of the founders had experience running a kitchen—Ziqah worked as a freelancer in film production and Afiq studied Linguistic—the siblings felt motivated by their family and friends to share more of their heritage cuisine into the mainstream and wanted people to be able to enjoy the foods that he grew up on.

“We come from a cross-cultural family. Our dad is Bruneian and our mother is a Filipina. We grew up getting a taste of both worlds and found joy in the food, to a point where our private celebrations incorporate both Filipino and Bruneian food,” he shared.

According to the founders, the name “Arquilato Kusina” is a nod to their mother’s side of the family.“

That’s why we chose her family’s name ‘Arquilato’ to be a part of the business name and ‘Kusina’ means kitchen. In a sense, you could say “welcome to the Arquilato family’s kitchen”, Afiq explained.

The secret to Arquilato Kusina’s foundation and success lies in the family heirloom recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation which have not been altered since its founding, said the founders.

Growing up, the siblings would learn from watching their family in the kitchen preparing dinner meals from scratch. Not only does their family create every dish with passion and love, but each dish holds a personal story to them.

“Each item that we sell at Arquilato Kusina, comes from a recipe that was passed down from our nanay (mother), tita and tito (aunt and uncles), lola and lolo (grandparents), and every time our mother would make this food, she made it adamant to tell us the story of how, why, the value and for what occasion do we make these dishes. Thus in the memory of our family, we wish to share these stories and legacies with everyone,” he said.

Now, behind their home-based kitchen, you can find Ziqah prepping ingredients for the savoury dishes whereas Afiq would be folding and shaping the dough into pandesals or Spanish rolls that he would then fill with Yema, an egg yolk custard, or with Lola Blanca’s signature chocolate ganache.

According to the siblings, the family-owned business is popular for their Longganisa; a Filipino homemade sweet and savory beef (or chicken) sausages. To make their signature Longganisa, fresh meat is minced properly and marinated in a course of three days for maximum flavour.

On the sweeter side, their Blancacita’s Chocolate Indulgence, a delightful treat based on their grandmother’s recipe, is one of their popular desserts.

“The Blancacita’s Chocolate Indulgence is a rich layer of chocolate cake made with our Lola Blanca’s signature chocolate ganache that uses refined cocoa to create a blissful sensation,” Afiq shared.

At the beginning of their business journey, it was not smooth as they had to endure several setbacks in their quest in opening a home business.

From the lack of staff to logistics, starting a business during a pandemic has not been easy for the founders.

“One of the major challenges that we faced is in the form of our own house. As we are home-based, the amount of dishes we can make is limited to our storage and supply. Additionally, our cuisine has a lot of complex or technical aspects that it requires a lot of time and patience to make, thus despite the demand we are not able to accommodate as much,” he said.

The siblings also had no background in the food and beverage industry when they first founded Arquilato Kusina.

“Although in the beginning, we were running the business based on limited knowledge we had, after joining DARe’s Microbusiness Bootcamps and other financial workshops, we have learned a lot from understanding one’s business structure to managing our finance,” he shared

Moreover, what’s keeping the siblings motivated are their family and friends who are the biggest supporters of their homegrown business.

“The love and support that we have received from our family, and friends, as well as our customers, have allowed us to share so much of our culinary heritage and as well as open up opportunities to collaborate with many amazing people in the F&B scene, NGOs and many others,” he said.

One of the biggest milestones for the small business was being invited by the Embassy of the Philippines as guest chefs for their ‘Merienda Ceña’ which was hosted by the Philippine Chargé d’ Affaires, Pete Raymond V. Delfin for the Deputies of ASEAN Diplomatic Missions.

For the young founders, the private event served as a recognition for all their hard work and resilience and also represented an important chapter in the business journey.

Arquilato Kusina continues to grow and is continually seeking to upgrade its products and services.

When asked about the business’s future plans, the founders said they hinted at the possibility of opening a proper restaurant and central kitchen.

Arquilato Kusina also hopes to expand its products and penetrate the regional market to be able to provide Halal Filipino cuisine across all four districts.

“In terms of the long-term goal, we hope to expand our frozen goods from Longganisa to other Filipino foods such as Beef Tapa, Chicken Tocino, and Bangus, and partake in the Halal Food trade,” he concluded.

This article was first published on 05 February 2022 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 179 |


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