The Woman Behind Jesmer Store
by Oliver Carlos
In the 1990s to the mid 2000s, an eatery was very popular among students and employees of UPLB who ply the road leading to the Raymundo Gate of the campus. The eatery served very delicious meals at very affordable prices. During its peak, the store was even featured on a cable television show, LB Talk. The name of the carinderia: Jesmer Store. The proprietor: my mother-in-law, Mrs. Jessie Q. Liwanagan.
Jessie, whom her children call “Nanu” (an endearment term from the root Nanay) was born on January 20, 1951 in Aklan province, in the Visayas. She comes from a large family, having 10 siblings. Her parents were rice farmers. At the early age of 13, she went to Los Banos, Laguna to look for work. She was taken in by fellow Aklan town-mates living in UPLB.
In her kids’ growing years, aside from being a fulltime housewife, Nanu cooked meals for Indian, Nepali, and Bangladeshi UPLB graduate students. She would make rounds in many apartments and prepare South Asian dishes there.
In the early 1990s, she put up her own mini restaurant which she christened “Jesmer”. The name came from her name (Jes) and her husband’s (Mer). Nanu didn’t expect that Jesmer would be a hit among the budget-conscious UPLB undergraduate students. She was able to build a large clientele base due to her quality products and her warm and motherly aura. Many of the students consider her as their second Mom. They felt so at home in Jesmer Store. LB Talk reporters Lourdes Caballero and Roy Cruz mentioned this in a comprehensive feature story they made for the popular cable TV show.
There were also a handful of needy students whom Jessie helped by allowing them to eat for free at Jesmer Store. They would pay her off later when their allowances arrive from the provinces. Sometimes it would take months for their money to come in, but it’s fine with Nanu, she understood them fully well. Her clientele later on extended to employees who needed lunch at their offices. In addition, Nanu also went into catering services on special occasions. She never ran out of clients.
Things had a difficult twist though beginning in 2010 when Jesmer Store relocated a handful of times. Although in the same area of Umali Subdivision, the new locations were farther from the main thoroughfare, the center of gravity of the customers. Jesmer’s original loyal patrons in the original site also graduated and have resided elsewhere in the country and abroad.
Today, Nanu has stopped her eatery business mainly because of the pandemic. There are no more on-site students in UPLB, the dorms and boarding houses are now empty. But she still accepts food orders from friends once in a while to keep her busy in her retirement.
Looking back, we can see how God has been so faithful to Nanu and her entire family. Through thick and thin, God has always been there for the Nanu, whom her children call “The Proverbs 31 Woman”. Now, as Nanu begins her 70th year, I and my wife honor her with these Bible verses from the said chapter:
“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies….She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household…..She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. She makes sure her dealings are profitable….She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy…..She is clothed with strength and dignity….She carefully watches everything in her household…..Her children stand and bless her…..a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised……Reward her for all she has done…. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.” (Proverbs 31:10–31, NLT)
From Blog is Life, happy 70th birthday Nanu!!! God bless you more and more.