She came to Canada as a worker in a fish processing plant. Today, her store helps other workers feel closer to home.

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This is the first part of a three-part series in May — Asian Heritage Month — about the people who brought Asian flavors to rural Prince Edward Island.

Ruby Lubigan came to the island from the Philippines 11 years ago to work in a fish processing plant in western PEI. Like many other temporary foreign workers, she came to Canada in search of a better future.

Now a Canadian citizen, she runs a grocery store at her home in Bloomfield called Sari Sari Retail while working full-time at a bank in O’Leary.

“Everything that happened to me was a surprise,” Lubigan said.

“When I left my country, I never thought, I never dreamed that I was going to be here in Canada. Because my life in the Philippines is really poor. We can’t have food three times There was a time when we always only ate once a day,” Lubigan said.

Lubigan named the store Sari Sari, which means “variety” or “everything” in Tagalog. Here, customers can find a variety of products from different countries. (Thinh Nguyen/CBC)

The “everything” store

Since Lubigan’s arrival in 2011, she had noticed a growing number of foreign workers in western PEI, particularly from Asian countries like Thailand and the Philippines. So she started planning a grocery store selling foods from these cultures and opened it in 2018.

“I decided to open my business…so they can cook whatever they want, whenever they want,” Lubigan said. “It’s really important for us to make our own cultural food. We miss our home.”

And she named it Sari Sari, which means “everything” or “variety” in Tagalog.

“My store has a little bit of everything. I have Japanese, I have Thai, Chinese and Filipino food,” she said, adding that some locals believe her store sells clothing at because of the word “sari”.

Lubigan kept his groceries in the living room of his house, which is now a storage space. (Thinh Nguyen/CBC)

At the time, Lubigan ran the store in the living room of his house. Not many people knew about it, so whenever she heard about events happening in communities in the West Prince area, she went there to talk to people and introduce them to her store, she said. declared.

At the time, she was working full-time as a housekeeper at Westisle Composite High School.

“It’s hard to manage your time for this. But I keep telling myself that I started this business, and I know that my hard work will be rewarded one day.”

island morning8:15The island store helps the Filipino community feel a little closer to home

Ruby Lubigan, owner of Sari-Sari Grocery in West PEI, says she opened the store to help the Filipino community feel a little closer to home .

“It feels like home”

Her business soon outgrew the show, so she moved it to a building on her land.

She’s happy the store is now the go-to place for area immigrants to buy the ingredients they need to cook food from their cultures, Lubigan said.

Many come to the store to buy ingredients for adobo, which is often considered the national dish of the Philippines. It’s a delicious dish of braised chicken or pork, cooked in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, she says.

Lubigan received the Emerging Business Growth Award from the West Prince Chamber of Commerce last month. (Thinh Nguyen/CBC)

Other popular dishes that people prepare with ingredients purchased from his store are pancit bihon – stir-fried noodles with vegetables – as well as sinigang, a sour soup dish.

“Most of us can’t go home right away, and above all [because of the] pandemic,” she said. “But if we cook something, it feels like home.”

Lubigan does not want to stop there. Cooking is her passion, so she’s expanding her garage to build a take-out counter, where she’ll cook and provide breakfast all day.

She won’t serve foods like hash browns and sandwiches, but something Filipinos can eat several times a day, Lubigan said.

“My breakfast all day will be fried rice.”

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