HIS STORY: There’s a part in the movie How to be Yours where a familiar showbiz fixture makes an appearance right there with Gerald Anderson and Bea Alonzo: Super Tuyo, with its colorful logo showing up on the shelves of the supermarket where the scene is set.
That cameo is there thanks to the movie’s assistant director, Gilberto “GBert” Tongo, Jr., who is also the driving force behind the growing Super Tuyo lineup. The brand’s website is full of testimonials from celebrities and other showbiz folk, from director Olive Lamasan and actress Angel Locsin (who count among his first big customers), to Kris Aquino and Vice Ganda.
The lowly tuyo has come a long way from when GBert’s dad, Gilberto Tongo, Sr., used to make bottled tuyo - seasoned and flaked, ready for eating - for homesick friends and family away in the United Arab Emirates, who couldn’t fry up their own dried fish because of its strong smell. “This is really his recipe!” says Gbert, who goes on to say, “My dad was a seaman-cook for almost three decades, and my mom is from Via Mare catering, so you can say we’re really a family of food enthusiasts. Even my brother is now a cook aboard ships.”
Though, at first, GBert didn’t seem like he was going to follow his family into the food business, the business followed him. When he was starting out as a production associate, he served a bowl of chili-garlic tuyo to his bosses at Star Cinema, “and after they tasted it, order na sila! So every time I go to work, I would bring microwaveable containers for orders of tuyo.” The big break came when direk Olive decided to give Super Tuyo as part of her Christmas giveaways. Word spread, and now the ST logo is familiar to many customers in the industry.
GBert “acquired” the business from his dad in 2012, investing just P20,000 to bottle the product and release it in three variants (Original, Famous Spicy, and Sweet Spicy). He joined bazaars, put up a website, redesigned the logo, and went full-throttle with Super Tuyo. It paid off, and GBert now has a couply of regular employees and hires a few part-time workers to help out during the peak season. The product range has grown, and customers can now choose between fillet and flakes, among a range of sizes, and from a variety of spiciness levels. This month, GBert will relaunch the Super Tuyo Friends line, featuring other types of seafood.
GBert takes orders online, and ships nationwide and through a number of individual dealers and outlets. And of course, he still hasn’t lost his original market: Super Tuyo also comes in smaller plastic packs, ready for transporting abroad to homesick Pinoys. “My main market is still the overseas Filipino population. The message me on Facebook to ask, ‘Kailan mo ba dadalhin ‘yan dito?”