CEBU CITY, Philippines – She’s the brain behind Asukar, and like asukar (sugar in Cebuano), her creations remind Cebuanos that life is a sweet adventure.
Gia Dayle Mayola, fondly called ‘Eya’ by those close to her, has been whipping up some magical and indulging treats from the confines of her home in Liloan town in northern Cebu.
The 23-year-old writer, former magazine editor, and content producer started Asukar with her signature confectionaries such as fresas y tablea, a mouth-watering surprise of strawberry and tablea, and tiramisu layered with mascarpone cheese.
From what seemed to be a simple child’s curiosity, Eya’s passion for cooking would eventually lead her to discover the beauty of doing something out of love.
“I started baking when I was around 9 years old. I loved reading books and stumbled across untouched cookbooks that we had at home. Seeing the photos of food alongside the recipes made me wonder if I could create delicious-looking food too—but that was shot down because, the ingredients needed were “wala diri, wala didto”, since it was a Western-style cookbook. It was difficult to source imported ingredients back then, so I had to make do with what was available around me,” said Eya.
“That summer, my parents enrolled me in a summer baking and cooking program with some of my classmates. I could never forget it. It was probably the best time of my childhood. My love for food grew and it really inspired me to experiment in the kitchen. I’d buy ingredients using my allowance or ask my parents to buy them for me so I could bake on weekends or for special occasions.”
“Since then, I’ve always been experimenting with food. I usually start by thinking if I could incorporate a particular ingredient into something, or if I could find another way to enjoy an ingredient. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way I want it to, but it’s perfectly fine! I use that as a learning experience to do better the next time around.”
Coming up with Asukar, however, was not an easy road to take.
“I’m a writer by trade, but I’ve always wanted to have my own café or restaurant, yet I’ve been limited to making the best out of the four walls of our kitchen at home. Many people have been encouraging me to start small at least, and after seeing all these home-based food businesses thrive in the middle of a pandemic, I figured—why not?”
“More than anything though, what pushed me to start a business then was losing my job. I had been working at ABS-CBN Cebu up until recently, and was one of the thousands of retrenched workers after the company’s franchise bid was denied by Congress.”
When the opportunity came for her to start venturing into what she’s passionate about, Eya was there to hop on board and began forming an identity for her creations.
“When I was coming up with the concept, the naming process took me a while. I wanted the name to be something familiar…I wanted a word that encapsulates the products offered—something that had to do with sweets and sugar. After lots of thinking, I narrowed down my options to “asukal” and “asukar”, two variations that mean sugar, used interchangeably in Cebu,” explained Eya.
“Language is such a beautiful yet complicated thing—use either word and Cebuanos would understand what you meant to say. In the end, Asúkar won. It just rolls off the tongue,” she added.
And for Eya, making food is not just about the cooking and serving but it’s how one channels her energy and expresses them to the people he or she cared about.
“Maybe it’s just me, but I believe that if you’re not in a good mood when making food, you channel that negative energy into it, and it would make your food taste bad. And you don’t want that! It’d just be a waste of ingredients, time, and effort. Not to mention, that would just stress you out more,” she said.
“It’s been said and done before, but what inspires me to bake is knowing that what I create can make people happy. Food is a great way to bond with people as well, so it makes me happy when I have requests to make something that’s gifted to a loved one,” she added.
And here she shares valuable tips for those who want to pursue what they love to do.
“Take the plunge. It may be difficult to pursue what you love, or you may think that no one will support you, but you’d be surprised. There are people who see, and will see your potential.”
“It’s best to plan things ahead, but it’s okay to try things out and see where it goes, too. It’s okay to fail a couple of times or make mistakes. Just remember to be authentic and not to lose sight of the reason why you started in the first place. Everything else will follow.”