ITALY - In 1999, Marvin Aguda saw a bleak future in the Philippines and went to Italy to search for a greener pasture.
Just like other overseas Filipino workers, he had to work different jobs, from being a cleaner, caregiver and waiter.
In 2002, he worked as a dishwasher for a restaurant. He would clean tables and toilets, throw the trash and wash piles of plates and glasses.
“Ako, nagsimula din ako sa pinakamababang posisyon dito sa Italya. Nagtrabaho din ako sa bahay, nagsimula ako dito na ako ang naghuhugas ng pinggan, ako ang naglilinis dito ng banyo, ng lahat,” said Aguda.
Aguda was very observant. He watched the chef prepare different types of pizza and learned the process from kneading the dough, slicing the ingredients to garnishing in layered preparation.
When one of the owners died, his female boss who was the only one left to manage the business, decided to sell the restaurant. But because she didn't want anybody to take over, she considered Aguda’s offer of buying the place through a bank loan.
“Kailangan lang talaga dream big, kailangan mataas ang iyong pangarap sa buhay hindi yung laging hanggang doon na lang, hindi ko kaya yan, hindi pwedeng ganoon,” Aguda said.
Aguda was able to pay off the loan after two years and fast forward to today, he is the chef and owner of the same pizzeria he once cleaned.
In Italy, pizza reigns supreme as a staple food aside from a plate of pasta, other regional dishes and street food. They say the best recipe for pizza is an Italian recipe and who else can better prepare a truly
Italian pizza but the natives themselves. But more than a decade ago, Aguda made history by becoming the only Filipino pizzaiolo or pizza chef in Milan.
“I was thinking that the Italian people are the best in the world in making pizza but after I tried Filipino-[made], I changed my mind,” said Giovani Teoli a regular customer of Il Postino.
Il Postino is a busy little restaurant in the non-tourist district of Milan and here, pizza is considered a convivial and social food. The place gets crowded as natives and even tourists enjoy their conversations with pizzas folded wallet-style and a glass of beer.
It takes 10-15 minutes for Aguda to prepare pizza. He starts the assembly on his marble counter and cooks everything in a brick oven. Customers have nothing but praises for the delicious pizza and fast service. Aguda, together with his brother, make over 200 pizzas everyday.
There are a lot of pizzerias in the neighborhood but for Alessandro Clauti, Il Postino is his go to place for a quick take-away pizza.
“They’re able to make traditional pizza easy but also very good, plain but tasty,” he said.
Italians and Filipinos patronize Aguda’s high, large and stuffed pizza from the Margheritas, Four Cheese, Pepperoni to his version of Sisig Lechon Pizza. If there’s Filipino-style spaghetti, then there’s also Filipino-style pizza. A fusion of crunchy pork lechon on a margherita pizza. It started as a treat for his regular Filipino customers every Saturday. Aguda thought of offering it to his Italian customers and it was a hit too.
Aguda’ perseverance and passion stand as proof that Filipinos grow wherever they’re planted. Though he sought for greener pasture, it didn’t come easy as he had to hurdle obstacles in a place far away from home.
According to Aguda, there is no overnight success but with his hard work and continuous effort in achieving his dreams despite difficulties and failure, he was able to transform his life.