Jollibee Canada made quite the splash when it opened it’s third branch in the Scarborough neighbourhood of Toronto a couple of weeks ago. Two heated tents were put up outside the location, with sub-zero temperatures still prevailing. That didn’t discourage Filipinos from far and wide from coming to line up. Whether it was because of fond memories of growing up with Jollibee, or for the promise of free chicken for a year, people lined up for hours just to be able to say they were first. Still, honourable mention goes out to that one guy who waited 17 hours in line to be first in Toronto to have his Jollibee.
Canada’s Filipino population continues to grow at an incredible pace. By some estimates, there are now more than 800,000 Filipinos in Canada. It’s the third largest Filipino community outside of the Philippines, and the fastest growing cultural group in Canada. The fastest growing language in Canada? You guessed it, Tagalog.
How did this even happen? At the turn of the 20th century, the Philippines was all about the United States. Some of us here at FilipinosInCanada.com are old enough to remember a time when the best things in life came from the US, that if you wanted a better life, going to America was the way to go.
The story goes that in the 1950s, a small group of Filipino doctors living in the United States decided to cross the border and go to Canada. They ended up settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Today, Filipinos can be found in every province of Canada, making positive contributions in every field of human endeavour imaginable. There’s even a large group of Filipinos up in Nunavut. Nunavut! The average temperature in the winter: -40 degrees celsius (without wind chill). To put that in perspective, remember that exposed skin freezes in just 10 minutes. Standing in the cold for any amount of time is never fun (TBH we try not to do it too long ourselves, we kind of value our health that way).
Imagine our surprise when we first heard that Filipino restaurant chain Jollibee was opening their first branch in our very own backyard (Scarborough). Surprise because 1) we first heard about it 5 years ago, 2) they already had 2 branches up and running in Manitoba and 3) the signage was first up for the one at Seafood City in Mississauga. We thought we were never going to get our own Jollibee, so we were pleasantly surprised when we finally did.
Local blogs like BlogTO and Narcity were reporting about the opening several weeks prior to the opening, helping Jollibee build the hype. Both blogs have teams of super enthusiastic writers covering everything of interest in the city, so when they got word about the opening, they were all over it like white on rice.
FilipinosInCanada.com was at the grand opening on Easter Sunday. We arrived at 5am to find two huge tents full of people already there. At 5am! It was cold too, with a gusting wind. Fortunately, Jollibee checked the weather, so the rented tents had heaters.
We had a quick chat with Jollibee’s marketing boss lady Diane Yorro. She was visibly excited at welcoming the very first person through the door at 7:00am. They’ve been doing a dry run to smooth out the wrinkles over the past few weeks, and even had a soft opening for a select few VIPs and friends (we weren’t invited). All that food they prepared during the training phase had to go somewhere, so it was rather nice of them to bring a few buckets of ChickenJoy (oh, excuse us, Crispy Chicken) to the Philippine Consulate.
Ms. Yorro was kind enough to invite us in to pass the time. We guess that she saw just how cold we were (we didn’t bring toques or gloves, because April). We went in to join the rest of the media guys who were already there.
The atmosphere inside the store was one of serene quiet. The crew in the back quietly did their work, while the staff in the front were practicing their smiles and welcome routines. There were a couple of people wiping down the table tops for the upteenth time, and management guys checking and double checking to see that everything was alright.
Jollibee came out and gave each member of the crew one big high five each. During the prayer, Jollibee NA big boss Jose Minana, Jr. said: “This is the day we’ve all been waiting for, let’s do a good job!”.
As the doors opened, in came the crowd, led by the first guy in line. Paul Magbujos waited for a solid 17 hours in the cold. When asked why he stood in line for so long, he said: “Wala lang.”
He didn’t start off the day thinking he’d stand in line for Jollibee, but on the bus from Niagara, he said to himself, what the heck. 17 hours later, his name became part of Jollibee history (as the guy who waited 17 hours to be the first customer of Jollibee Scarborough).
Congratulations Paul. Hey, enjoy that free ChickenJoy for a year, eh? All the best!
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