Saturday, October 1 2022

Hundreds of people lined up in downtown Vancouver on Friday, eager to try the city’s first fried “Chickenjoy,” palabok noodles and Jollibee’s popular spaghetti.

The popular Filipino fast food chain opened its first British Columbia outlet on Friday on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver.

And as has happened with branch openings in other Canadian cities, anticipation saw fans line up for hours, some overnight, in the shade of the iconic mascot of the chain – a bee wearing a chef’s hat and a bow tie.

“It feels like home,” said Nylette Ilustre, from Cavite, Philippines. “It’s a big problem for us. We’ve been eating it since we were little.

“I’ve been to Toronto; every time I come back I always pack my bags with Jollibee.”

Jollibee is one of the Philippines’ most popular restaurant chains, famous for its fried chicken and spaghetti in particular, a fact that was confirmed by many people waiting in the Vancouver queue on Friday.

Founded in 1978, the chain now has more than 1,400 outlets worldwide, although it took 20 years to open its first North American store in California.

British Columbia is the fifth province in Canada to have one, with seven branches already operating in the Greater Toronto Area, five in Alberta and others in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

Metro Vancouver is home to more than 123,000 people of Filipino ancestry, according to the 2016 census. At five percent of the city’s population, that’s more than double the community’s share of Canada’s population.

For many Vancouverites with ties to the Philippines, a Jollibee openness is long overdue, especially among new immigrants looking to make friends and connect with their homeland.

Customers line up outside the Jollibee fast food restaurant during its grand opening. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

When Nashreen Bautista first moved to Vancouver from the Philippines six months ago, she said she struggled to find a place that reminded her of home where she could share food with people. sharing the same ideas.

“I was literally looking for any sign of Filipino culture,” she recalls. “Jollibee is actually my childhood.”

So when she heard there was one opening in Vancouver, she and several friends “woke up so early” to wait in line.

“For Filipinos, it’s more than food for us,” she explained. “That’s how we bond with each other.”

“A victory for the Filipino-Canadian community”

“We’ve waited a long time for this to finally open,” said Ramon Padilla. “We can taste Jollibee food from the Philippines again.”

He said his favorite foods are the restaurant’s palabok noodles, fried chickenjoy and spaghetti.

For Zekie Ramirez, the experience is “like a home away from home”.

A satisfied customer enjoys his chicken outside the Jollibee fast food restaurant during its grand opening in downtown Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

As he stood in line, he recalled instances from his childhood where rumors of a Jollibee opening would spread…but never happen.

“All my Filipino friends…we would all be excited,” he recalled. “Creating the anticipation has only gotten better. I think it’s a win for the Filipino-Canadian community. It took time.”

Harley Sanga said he often travels to Seattle to eat there. He said he last ate at a Jollibee in 2019 in the Philippines.

“I’m a 100% superfan,” he said. “We’ve all wanted it here for so long, so we don’t have to travel all over the world.”

Paul Rulloda was also lined up waiting for the grand opening, who said the chain’s spaghetti and chicken and sauce were his favorites.

“Since I was four, since I was a baby, I’ve eaten their spaghetti,” he told CBC News. “It’s so good that Jollibee came here and we finally have him.”

For many, the opening of the Jollibee fast food restaurant was an event worth waiting for. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Customers lined up in their hundreds for the official opening of Jollibee in Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Anyone to take away? Customers examine their loot from the Jollibee fast food restaurant during its grand opening. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

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