Dr. Emiliano Hudtohan

Educator, Business Writer, Industry Expert and Entrepreneur

Ate Ems at Agno

Dr. Emiliano T. Hudtohan


Manila Standard Today

Published March 27, 2012

The month of March is International Women’s Month and on March 2 the 4th Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit and Expo was held at the World Trade Center, Manila.  Honoring women in business is in line with feminist guru Christine Page’s announcement that the earth is now in alignment with the Great Mother Galactica and that we are experiencing a “powerful transformation” from scarcity to prosperity.

With the spotlight focused on women entrepreneurs, I publish the second interview series of the De La Salle team of Rose Ong, together with Michelle Bairan, Geoffrey Balderrama, Arianne Jed Batiles, and Jonathan Calugcug.  They interviewed food entrepreneur Emma Banico who owns and operates Ate Ems at Agno, Malate.


Food Business

Emma is known as Ate Ems among relatives, friends and De La Salle students, and she chose that name for her restaurant. With a capital of P5,000.00 she started her food business in 1992 by selling fish ball, kikiam and barbecue at the corner of the Banico ancestral residence in Agno. From a stationary vendor, she became an ambulant food provider, using a kariton that brought her food right at the back entrance of De La Salle Gokongwei Building and De La Salle University.  With a growing demand for ‘fast food’ and driven by her passion for cooking, she registered her business under single proprietorship.

In addition to her rolling food stall, she and her husband Gerry opened a carinderia at the Beach, a parking owned by the Banico clan.  Here, the ‘buy-one-take-one’ lamb chop became her signature menu became very popular among De La Salle customers.


Market Positioning

She is grateful that she started her business with a capital from Gerry. The carinderia at the Beach was later relocated to a resto-cum-residence, constructed from container vans that formed a three storey building.  Getting out of the Beach, strategically positioned her resto closer to the students, faculty and staff of DLS Razon Sports Complex and Br. Andrew Hall. Aside from her regular Beach parking customers, she also serves the De La Salle athletes who report very early to the gym for practice.

There was no stopping to her snowballing interest in food business.  After her pantry experience in 2000 at a call center, she went into a catering business.



Emma carries all the managerial functions of planning, leading, organizing and controlling. Without any advertisement on newspapers or online media, Ate Ems is known for her remarkable dishes.  Part of her strategy is to serve high quality and original recipes. But Michelle Bairan adds that Ate Ems strategy “is not always about how good your food is; it’s about how you make the people want to buy your food, plus the ability to make a long term plan to achieve a particular goal.”

She leads by example.  She wakes up at around 3:00 A.M. and makes sure that cooking is done by 5:00 A.M.  She is assisted by two cooks in the kitchen, one delivery boy for the Agno food stall, one driver for catering services, and one secretary to monitor the food deliveries.

As for the accounting side of the business, she has assigned herself to be in charge.  She feels that she can manage the money and use them prudently to grow her business. She personally ‘allocates and apportions’ the food at Ate Ems, at the food stall, and for catering services.  This is her way of doing control in order to achieve the five digit income for the day.

This she has to do because she used to have a monthly income of 6 digits.  But with new entrants into the food business along Agno, her income, she said, dropped to 5 digits.  According to her peak months are from October to December and her lean months are from April to June. She was proud to announce that her business has put her four children through college.



She said, “If you love what you’re doing you wouldn’t think of your job as a work, rather you will think of it as a hobby or a past-time.” Asked why she decided to go into food business, the research team found out that she wanted to “make a living and give her children the best education that life has to offer” and the other reason is her love and passion for cooking.”

From the experience of Ate Ems, Team Rose Ong “Learned the importance of passion, a boundless enthusiasm to do something which you love.  In life, this is very important for an individual to succeed because passion gives you the drive; the push to do whatever it is, no matter how challenging it may seem. Ate Ems proved this; she is living her dream and is a successful businesswoman; she is able to educate her children in highly respected colleges in the Philippines”.


Woman Entrepreneur

Ate Ems belongs to a new breed of Filipina entrepreneurs. As a mother, she courageously manages the affairs of her family alone [after Gerry passed away last September 2011].  With a well established food business, she stands financially independent, no longer a traditional housewife, but a truly productive breadwinner.  She is both mother and negosyante, balancing her time for the children and her food business.

Ate Ems serves as a fine model of Prahalad’s advocacy to start economic prosperity at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’.  If Ate Ems ‘power of one’ becomes viral among women entrepreneurs, the Philippines may yet experience Gladwell’s tipping point and Redfield’s critical mass towards abundance and prosperity.  The power of one of Jeffrey Sachs will result to the power of many among women entrepreneurs.

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Congratulations to Lalaine Marie Laceda, my MBA-JD student who ranked one of the ten 2012 Bar topnotchers. A graduate of De La Salle University-FEU business and law program, she placed ninth with a rating of 84.04 percent. Lalaine, in behalf of De La Salle and Far Eastern University faculty, I say, we are extremely proud of you.

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