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Jollibee, Greenwich employees share stories of courage during Zamboanga siege 

Published Nov 20, 2023 4:30 pm

There’s no better way to “discover” a leader than during the darkest times. 

When a siege broke out in Zamboanga in Sept. 2013, no one knew what was coming. What was certain was the fear enveloping the city. For area manager Alex Requieron, the fear was not only for his life and his family’s, but also for his team. 

Despite the uncertainties, he felt a sense of duty—he knew there was something they could do. They couldn’t just run away and leave their community. “Kahit nakakatakot ang sitwasyon (Even if the situation was scary), we opened several stores to serve the people of Zamboanga during that time,” Requieron said. 

The decision to keep the store open amid the war meant finding solutions to issues he had never faced before. “Giyera ‘yun; walang playbook doon,” he shared. (“It was a war; there’s no playbook for that.”) 

During the Zamboanga siege, some Jollibee store employees stayed behind to continue serving meals to evacuation centers.

They experienced running out of stock and working with the commissary to reroute the supplies to reach the stores faster. They were not alone in this pursuit. Requieron also received support and assistance from other area managers. Lard Bernardo, a former area manager whose stores were closed at that time, helped deliver the store’s daily sales to the bank.

Kahit managers and crew ay affected. Nawalan ng bahay, nasunugan, nasa evacuation center…Pero nung nag-decide tayo na kailangan tayo ng community, maraming nag-volunteer. Maraming tumulong,” he recalled. (“Even the managers and crew were affected and lost their homes or moved to evacuation centers…But when we decided the community needed us, many of them stepped up.”) 

Alex Requieron (leftmost) with his team and colleagues during the Zamboanga siege.

Requieron said customers had to wait in line for a long time because they had limited manpower, but the people remained grateful with food already getting scarce. In two branches, the crew could hear gunshots. Still, all employees who chose to remain were steadfast in their duties, providing meals to customers and donating to those in need. 

The same experience was true for Greenwich restaurant manager Jessica Toribio. “When the siege started, nakita namin ang mga tao na nagtatakbuhan. Marami nang umalis. Ang naiwan na lang sa store ay ‘yung guard, ako, at isang crew.” (“When the siege started, we saw everyone running away. A lot of them already left. The only people left in the store were the guard, me, and a crew member.”) 

Jollibee Group donated food to the local government, army, and police.

In the days that followed, Greenwich staff prepared food to donate to siege victims and the police. When asked how she felt back then, Toribio said she was scared. However, like Requieron, her desire to serve was far greater than her fear. Knowing that most people in the city had no more food to eat because of stores closing, she knew they needed to keep the store open.

“Proud ako sa sarili ko na nakatulong kami dahil sa mga pagkain para sa mga siege victims,” she said. (“I am proud of myself because of how we helped by providing food to siege victims.”)

Bayanihan spirit shining through 

Through the efforts of different sectors, Zamboanga City powered through the three-week siege. Companies like the Jollibee Group served the community, while the army and the police ensured the safety of Jollibee and Greenwich employees. 

“Visible ang mga sundalo at mga pulis sa labas ng store,” Toribio recalled. (“The army and the police were visible outside the store.)

Requieron echoed this observation: “Kahit nag-close na, nakabantay pa rin sila. Every time na maghahatid ng pagkain sa evacuation center, may kasamang sundalo.” (“Even if the store had already closed, they were still looking after us. Soldiers escorted us every time we brought food to evacuation centers.”) 

One with Jollibee Group 

During the siege, the Jollibee Group ensured that displaced employees were provided lodging, and employees who continued to serve were safe throughout the crisis. It also provided therapy to help affected employees process what happened.

Toribio recalled feeling a strong sense of family at the time, with how everyone was checking in on each other. “Kailangan mag-reply kapag chine-check kung nakauwi na ba ang mga crew,” she said. (“You must reply when they check if the crew members got home safely.”) 

Meanwhile, Requieron acknowledged the employees who have shown their heroism during the challenging period: Pam Yu, Marianne Tan, Jessly Fidel, Emman Rivas, Jane Faustino, Jennielyn Sariego, Bryan Real, Farrah Jamang, Johairah Renabor, Leah Bernardo, operations director Jun Reyes, and regional business unit head Ana Aluyen.

A decade after their perilous experience, both employees continue to thrive in their respective business units. Requieron believes he will retire from Jollibee, while Toribio continues to embrace her first workplace. 

For Toribio, who once served as her family’s breadwinner, her job at Greenwich allowed her to provide for them and help her brother graduate. Most of all, she built strong relationships with her team. “Ang isang empleyado tumatagal because of the people you work with.” (“An employee stays at a company because of the people you work with.”) 

As for Requieron, he feels that he belongs to the right organization. “This is the company na panghabambuhay. Safe ka rito, alaga ka rito, pamilya ka rito. At ‘yung pagiging pamilya, hindi lang sa empleyado, but pati sa community,” he added. (This is the company you can work with all your life. You are safe here. You are cared for. You are a member of the family here. And the sense of family is not only among employees. It also extends to the community.”) 

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Editor’s Note: This article was provided by Jollibee Foods Corporation.