Our coming is the result of four generations of great cooks and thinkers. They bequeathed a powerful recipe that stirs anyone who dares sample the purple gem (jam) believed by our ancestors and now by modern science to be an elixir for good health. These individuals from four generations hold the key to the foundation of what is now known as the Bohol House of Ube.
The earliest recollection we can trace the recipe to is from a lady of high standing and social grace, Anunciacion Luza Reyes, who we believe to be the most likely originator of our ube jam recipe. Mama Anon, as our grandparents fondly called her, was schooled in the best finishing school in Manila of the 1920s. Married to Ilocano Julio Reyes, the first District Engineer in Bohol, she was known to be a good cook, best remembered for preparing big banquets at the Luza ancestral home in Baclayon, Bohol. We could just imagine how she would have glided in the kitchen managing her concoctions as her audience of friends watched in awed silence.
One in the audience was her favorite niece, Juanita “Nena” Luza Labad. Nena was so keen to observe all the food preparations. She must have apprenticed with Anon while gaining her favorite aunt’s trust. Not long after she was taught how to make “The Ube Recipe” among many other delectable non-Boholano recipes like adobo, mechado, relleyenong bangus, kare-kare, all of which she learned by heart.
“The Recipe” was entrusted by Anunciacion Reyes to Juanita “Nena” Labad who was as par with her fabled aunt. Lola Nena, as how I addressed her (because she is the mother of my father) was also an extravagant party hostess and Ube Jam is always one in her arsenal of food treasures especially during the Christmas season. Because of that, we have been accustomed to the intoxicating smell of ube jam as a signal for the nearing Noche Buena. Lola Nena loved to strut with her masterpiece in tow showing it with pride to everyone as she made sure that everyone had their portions of the ube jam which made all of us clamoring for more. Because of her, it has been our tradition to cook ube jam annually for Christmas and our family and home has been known to friends and acquaintances to have the most magical ube jam in town.
Juanita Labad had six wonderful boys and the eldest is Lutgardo Labad who is one of the protagonists in the creation of the Bohol House of Ube. Lutgardo or as I call him “Tito Gardy” is a brilliant mind endowed with extensive skills in the arts, a true renaissance man. Tito Gardy is a music and theater director who through the years has spawned plenty of connections to many famous and important people in various fields of the arts. It became a devotion for him to sell and give ube jam to those people during the holidays and ube has become synonymous with Gardy. For more than 30 years, Gardy is still religiously selling them to the same people every Christmas because they actually expect their supply of ube every year! He is happy doing it even if he spends more than what he can earn from it. He is their Ube Santa!
Alexander Labad is the second son of Juanita Luza Labad. A logical thinker, a great problem solver and a jack of all trades! He accepted life challenges like a big cat stalking his prey. He enjoys every bit of it. I think I got some of my qualities because he is my father. When he suffered a stroke, he was unable to work and was devastated knowing that he could not provide for us. While doing extensive therapies conducted by himself, he slowly tried to figure out a way on how to earn again. He first tried fixing weighing scales, then clocks, VHS players then DVD players. He was not satisfied with what he was earning so he then thought of making and marketing ube jam. The tourist market coming here to Bohol was starting to grow exponentially. He started slowly at first then went full-blast. We used to call our product Mama Nena’s Ube Jam (during those times we sold only ube jam but later my dad added barquiron, in different flavors, with the ube-flavored variety of course).
My mom – Maria Elba Dolotina Labad, was then of big help to my dad because my mom was a starting as a tour guide. She got connections from her fellow guides and introduced them to our business. My dad was responsible to the whole logistics, for the workforce, for maintaining customers and established a trusting consignee market. He made the business flow. It went on for several years but his life was cut short and the business is now my responsibility.
I am thankful for my ancestors for smoothing out the road I now tread. Without them I might be doing other things aside from this fulfilling career. The previous generations indeed imparted things beneficial to my present company’s success. The first generation’s ube recipe was a special invention by my great grand aunt Anunciacion Luza Reyes, or Lola Anon. The second was the love to impart local culture through family food undoubtedly embodied by my lola Nena, Juanita Luza Labad. The third generation has been the selfless pledge to share a unique legacy to friends and partners in cultural work by Tito Gardy, Lutgardo Luza Labad. And last, making the tradition profitable and maintaining it as a business was what my dad, Papa Alex, Alexander Luza Labad, bestowed on me.
I now posses gifts, secrets and values they have shared but in yet different proportions and ways. The only edge I have is the new age technology and the knowledge to use them to my advantage. I also have the passion to strive harder and to explore new horizons. I have created the BOHOL HOUSE OF UBE as my tribute to my ancestors and family who has unselfishly empowered me with a precious heritage I am truly proud of and committed to further develop and improve.
Franz Emmanuel D. Labad
Owner / General Manager, Bohol House of Ube
Baclayon, Bohol, Philippines