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'Sarap ng pag-ibig na babalik-balikan'

Tropical Hut love story: Meet a Pinoy couple who found love in the burger joint in the '90s

By Sofia Valderama Published Jun 27, 2022 1:23 pm

Nostalgia seems all the rage these days, with Pinoy fast-food chain Tropical Hut becoming the latest talk of the town.

A recent tweet of a market surveillance analyst that went viral has driven Pinoys to show their “overwhelming support” for the once forgotten fast food brand first established in 1962.

With the trending news, Aviegail Landicho, 25, took the opportunity to reminisce in a recent Facebook post and share the love story of her parents, Vichael ‘Bong’ Landicho, 48, and Romina Landicho, 48, whose romance bloomed at the Tropical Hut Novaliches branch during the '90s.

According to the eldest daughter of the couple, their love grew as a pair of working students through hard work, perseverance, and a few love notes scrawled on tissue papers at the fast-food chain.

In an interview with PhilSTAR L!fe, Romina Landicho said that finishing studies was her and her husband’s common goal even before they met each other. She was taking an Education course at Metro Manilla College while Bong was attending Alejandro Colleges and supporting himself through college before pursuing Electronics and Communications Engineering.   

Their paths crossed when they met at Tropical Hut’s employees orientation together with other new hires. While both of their schools in Novaliches were near the Tropical Hut branch, but the two were assigned to different schedules covering four-hour shifts daily including one day off. Romina Landicho told PhilSTAR L!fe that since her classes started at 3:00 in the afternoon, her shift at Tropical Hut was from 11:00 A.M. to 3:00 P.M. while Bong Landicho studied in the morning and worked from 6:00 P.M. to 10:00 P.M.  

When someone failed to go to work during Romina’s shift, Bong went to work in place of the absent employee. He shared that he and Romina were able to get to know each other more as colleagues and ended up spending more time together. 

“No’ng nagkasabay kami [sa morning shift] for a few days, do’n kami nagsimulang…hindi naman close kaagad pero kasi magkasama na kayo do’n sa shift so mas nagkaroon kayo ng time na magkita nang mas matagal,” Bong Landicho shared. 

Romina and Bong’s friendship resulted in a budding romance as Bong started to see “something different than usual” in Romina. It happened one day, when Bong was not feeling well and with a kind heart, Romina visited Bong during his shift to bring him medicine. 

“Sabi ko bakit ako binigyan ng gamot ni [Romina]? Tapos natuwa ako kasi hindi siya common [sa akin]. ‘Yong extra effort na bibilhan ka niya ng gamot tapos bibigyan ka niya, eh hindi naman kami masyadong close,” Bong Landicho said.   

After seeing Romina in a new light, the two were teased by their workmates and called “Mama Mina and Papa Bong” which led Bong to court Romina. It was when a new service crew came around who liked Bong but he did not like her back. 

“May service crew na bago na may crush kay Bong tapos ayaw niya. So naghahanap siya ng dahilan para maka-escape siya doon sa girl. No’ng time na ‘yon, pa-out na ako dahil papasok na ako sa school, tinuro ako [ni Bong] at ginawa niya akong reason [na ako ‘yong nililigawan niya],” Romina Landicho told PhilSTAR L!fe. 

While their feelings developed, a new manager took charge of the Novaliches branch and established a new policy stating co-workers could not date or else they would be rotated to a different branch.  

Even though the pair were originally assigned to different shifts, they became more careful with their actions. Since there were no cellphones at the time, Romina and Bong had no other way to maintain communication with each other but through love letters. Bong talked to Romina through love notes written on tissue paper and food coupons and dropping them in Romina’s locker circa 1994 to 1995.   

“No’ng binawal na, gumawa na kami ng mga way para ‘di kami makita,” Bong said. “‘Di na kami nagse-stay sa store sa labas na lang kami,” Romina chimed in.  

Bong confessed that he approaches Romina first to discuss problems and misunderstandings. “Siya na mismo kasi yung nag-oopen kung ano man yung naging issue tapos inaamin niya kung may fault siya. Basta mafeel mo lang na sincere at totoo ‘yong sinasabe niya tapos walang secrets, okay naman sa akin,” Romina Landicho told PhilSTAR L!fe. 

“Hindi naman magbabago ‘yong style mo kapag magboyfriend kayo at ‘saka mag-asawa kasi ang totoo niyan, hindi kayo makakarating na mag-asawa kung hindi nag-work no’ng mag-boyfriend kayo eh,” Bong Landicho added. 

After the viral tweet about Tropical Hut, the two looked back at the time that they were once working students and how much the fast-food chain contributed to their life as a married couple and as individuals. 

Bong reminisced, “Napakaraming memories, mga kaibigan. Tapos ‘yong late night work, ‘yong hirap. Mahirap din mag-work sa fast-food eh.” 

Romina also said that they used to visit their friends at the Tropical Hut branch located at Fairview, Quezon City. But later on, the management had to close the branch. There are also no existing branches in Bulacan, where they currently reside.  

The couple told PhilSTAR L!fe that their favorite items in the menu are the famous Clubhouse sandwich, spaghetti, burgers, and their meals. 

Bong and Romina Landicho have now been together for 26 years with four loving children who witnessed the secret to their parents’ lasting and strong relationship–respect and honesty.  

Photo by Bong Landicho provided to PhilSTAR L!fe

“Sabi nga ng anak ko, iba yung generation nila sa generation namin [pero] kung ano yung love na naramdaman namin noon, gano’n din yung love sa generation ngayon. So yung respect at pagiging honest niyo sa isat isa, mahalaga na nando’n pa din kahit anong generation yan,” Romina said.