SOMEONE ONCE told me that a good breakfast was a sign of a good life: someone has spent time, money, and care to make sure you’re properly nourished in the morning. Of these three options, Manu Mano, a small bakery in Banawe, Manila, chooses to occupy the space carved out by love.
BusinessWorld paid a visit to Manu Mano earlier this week, and CEO Samantha Gonzales said that since effort and time went into making their hybrid pan de sal and their baguettes, surely, that means love is behind it?
Manu Mano is made up of five people: Samantha Gonzales, Alexandra Versoza, Madeleine dela Torre, Cyril Cabotage, and Richie Manapat. Mr. Manapat is the baker at Panaderya Toyo, lending Manu Mano an urban pedigree. Meanwhile, Ms. Dela Torre, daughter of the owners of Banawe Bakery, lends some traditional and mass appeal to the story, although Ms. Dela Torre insists that she’s in charge of operations, and says that she isn’t a good baker). Ms. Versoza meanwhile, took an internship in Panaderya Toyo, and from here learned the techniques in making good bread, making it a mission to spread the word about good bread.
Manu Mano’s bread uses unbleached flour, so the flour takes weeks to whiten, age, and develop flavor, without the use of added chemicals. Ms. Gonzales said that it takes about six to eight hours to make their bread, baked upstairs in one of Banawe Bakery’s empty kitchens. Ms. Dela Torre meanwhile, says that their hybrid pan de sal (literally “salt bread,” small buns which make it to breakfast tables around the country) doesn’t take away from her family’s customers: Manu Mano’s artisanal breads cater to a different market, and are prepared another way — completely by hand.
See, that’s where Manu Mano’s name comes from. It used to mean a crude way of doing things, without the refinement of machinery. However, the team behind Manu Mano wants to honor the tradition of doing things by hand. In fact, the logo itself is a story of honoring hands: Manu Mano’s logo is taken from Albert Durer’s work, Praying Hands. Ms. Gonzales repeated the legend of the story behind the work: the famed German artist came from a large family, and they could only afford to send one child to study art, though two boys in the family wanted to do so. Through a coin toss, Albert went on to study art, while his brother went down to the mines, and funded his brother’s studies. Years later, when Durer had already achieved a measure of fame and fortune, Albert wanted to repay his brother’s sacrifice, but it was too late: Durer’s brother’s hands had been ruined through hard labor. The legend goes that Durer’s work was made to honor his brother’s hands.
In any case, BusinessWorld had a taste of what hands can really do with their artisanal hybrid pan de sal. Ms. Gonzales explains that it uses the word “hybrid” in the name for it is a weaving of two worlds: the Filipino pan de sal, and then the techniques and taste behind Western sourdough bread. She said that they adjusted the taste a bit so Filipinos won’t be alienated by the taste of sourdough. The result is — well, positively heavenly. It makes one immediately smile, when one tears apart the bread, of quite substantial weight and density, with just the right amount of airiness that lends to a good chew. The taste approaches something refined yet familiar, and the addition of Auro’s chocolate and cashew spread doesn’t hurt either. The baguette, meanwhile — well, remember that scene in Ratatouille where Colette teaches Alfredo that you can tell how good a bread is by its sound? BusinessWorld tried the same trick by cracking on the baguette’s crust and hearing a crunch like shoes on autumn leaves. It was true: the music in the bread predicted its taste, combining the crunch of a good baguette’s crust with the firm crumb.
In the near future, they plan to offer loaves and churros.
The bakery opens at 6 a.m., and while they originally said that it stays open until about 3 p.m., they’ve had to revise it to “until supplies last.” No matter, because one can choose to order from Grab Food and Lalamove’s Pabili service.
Ms. Gonzales said that they chose the location because most of the partners grew up around the neighborhood, and furthermore, the surrounding communities of Quezon City don’t really have many good bread choices, and the more expensive neighborhoods of BGC and Makati already have their own options. This was proven by people coming from as far as San Juan to get bread from Manu Mano.
The trip is sometimes for naught, however, as one customer proved. He arrived at about 10:30 in the morning only to find out that they’d ran out of bread.
Manu Mano is at Banawe corner Sct. Alcaraz, Quezon City. For details call 0996-642-2755 or check out their Facebook and Instagram pages at made.manumano and @made.manumano. — Joseph L. Garcia