Pouring in the caramelized sugar, taking two spoon fulls of pearl sagos, scooping the soft tofu before layering the caramelized sugar yet again, taking two more spoon fulls of pearl sagos, and finally topping it off with condensed milk just to give it that pang of sweetness, Kuya Herminio Sabayo ardently serves yet another eager customer one of his cups of taho.
Having started serving these childhood reminiscent treat in the year 1998, Kuya Herminio Sabayo still passionately wakes up every day to indulge his customers with his own brand of taho.
His story of serving taho outside the Ateneo de Davao University started one hot afternoon in the year 2001. After having walked around the streets of downtown Davao City, looking for prospects for which he can serve his taho, the young Kuya Herminio had a faithful encounter that marked his title as the Ateneans’ Kuya Taho.
Kuya Herminio remembered resting his aching shoulders as he placed both of his tins of taho ingredients on the ground that day. Then, he began to stretch and wipe his sweat, unaware of how significant his next customer would be.
A man came up to him who gently placed a hand on his shoulder. The man asked, “Tagpila dong?” A bit caught off guard, he stumbled with his words and ended up saying “Ah! Naa’y kinse, baynte ug baynte-singko sir”. To which the man had answered “Kanang baynte daw.”
After having been served, the man had complemented Kuya Herminio for his flavorsome taho and introduced himself as, the now late, Father Rodolfo Malasmas. He smiled at Kuya Herminio and recognized that the young taho vendor had been walking here and there searching for a place to vend his taho.
Fr. Malasmas patted Kuya Herminio on the back, pointed towards Ateneo and said “Tistingi lang diha,basig maka-jackpot ka.”
With a chuckle, Kuya Herminio responded with “Sige sir, pagbalik nako ugma”
At first, Kuya Herminio was nervous about the idea of selling in front of the gates as he might be ignored by the students of a pristine school. He was worried that his simple treat wouldn’t be appealing to the Ateneo community. Still, he tried. The afternoon of the next day, Kuya Herminio started selling his taho where his official spot had been secured, just outside AdDU Jacinto gate.
From 2 o’clock in the afternoon until 6pm in the evening, Kuya Herminio happily awaits for anyone who wish to be served his well-prepared cup of taho. With prices ranging from 15 to 25 pesos, one may enjoy the delicacy. As he continued to sell his brand of taho, he grew to know that many Ateneans love to indulge the child within themselves.
“Dili man madugay ang sturya kay mangutana ra man sila pila o muingon unsa nga size ilang gusto pero naa ra man na sa ngisi nila ug mga salamat nila gud. Perme jud basta Atenista mupalit mupasalamat sa akoa. Mga buotan nga mga estudyante dyud mamalit. Makabati ko og murag worth it nga magsige’g balik-balik diri.” he states.
Catering to the guards, students and even teachers of Ateneo, Kuya Herminio is pleased with the people who purchase his taho. On occasion, he can be seen giving the weary guards of the Ateneo Jacinto gate cups of taho for free just to liven up their spirits and save them from hunger.
One of the guards has only this to say about Kuya Herminio, “Maayo to siya kay perteng but-ana ba unya okay pud kaayo nga kauban labaw na og ulan-ulan kay naa jud mi’y makasturya diri.”
The taho business had been the bread and butter of Kuya Herminio and his family. As what Kuya Herminio says, “Mao na dyud ni. Sakto ra man pud sa income. Lipay man mi nga pamilya unya wala man problema kung muistorya ta og kwarta”.
Kuya Herminio has been providing for his supporting wife Lacel, who often times travels to Jacinto from their house in Doña Pilar, Sasa to check on how Kuya Herminio is doing. Sometimes, she brings him his lunch or some snacks. The taho vendor has four children; two sons, Samjay and Samwell, and two girls, Humphry Joy and Hazel May, for whom he not only provides for but also cares for.
Just like any loving father, Kuya Herminio dreams of fulfilling the dreams of his children. The eldest of which, Hazel Mae, dreams of being a teacher.
“Ang gusto ra nako malipay sila, kung unsa may kinahanglan ana paningkamutan nako.” Kuya Herminio states while he smiles, signifying that he passionately will, as long as he can, deliver his children’s dreams to them.
With every purchase of his sweet caramelized treats that bring out the child within all of us, we also bring Kuya Herminio closer to his dreams of giving his children the life they want.