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Julita Urbina, a Woman of Great Culinary Influence

Julita Urbina, a Woman of Great Culinary Influence

What if I tell you that women can outstrip the things this world many thought they couldn’t? Well, if you are reading this and you are a woman, I tell you that yes, you can outmatch their verdicts and all their say-so, simply because you are that empowering and influential!

Over the centuries, names of different women have maxed the expectation of the public in different fields and focuses—be it business, culinary, entertainment, politics and such. Women are always slaying the show, folks. You know that Beyonce song? Who run the world? GIRLS!

Now, speaking of Influential Women, Mrs. Julita Urbina of Laguna Group has been an prominent force in the food industry of Cebu. She’s a Filipina adept in culinary process and management. She’s a formidable force in the culinary industry in Cebu with her prowess to bring eatery brands into high-standard class and for her advocacy to showcase Filipino cuisine to the world.

Laguna Group is a natural born Cebuano and serving varieties of cuisines. The brands Cafe Laguna, Ulli’s Street of Asia, Parilya, Lemon Grass, and U Kitchen integrate the success of Mrs. Urbina and the Laguna Group.

Have you ever questioned how did Laguna Group become the “lion” in the culinary industry in Cebu? I will give you a little chronicle of their journey.

According to the Laguna Group, in the year 1979 Café Laguna, the flagship restaurant of the Laguna Group, began as a 10-table carinderia called Mother’s Best in an apartment that Mrs. Urbina was renting. Mrs. Urbina patched their space, maximized the venue, and re-opened it as Café Laguna, serving delicious authentic Filipino dishes, which inspired the character of home-cooked meals in your mother’s kitchen.

A wife of a military physician from Laguna who was stationed in Camp Lapu-lapu in Cebu, Mrs. Urbina learned her culinary skills from her mother. Her DNA as a cook has been passed on from generations. Though she applied her culinary passion out of necessity initially, to support a growing family, her desire to start an air-conditioned restaurant business became the founding force of Cafe Laguna.

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Cafe Laguna became a success since its opening in 1991. Everyone went for a taste and they kept coming back for more. People loved their puto bumbong (steamed purple sticky rice), which many say was unlike any other. Many patrons also ordered for dinuguan at puto, fresh lumpia, pandan chicken and pancit palabok. 

After 3 years of good proceedings, Mrs. Urbina together with her husband opened Cafe Laguna  in Ayala Center Cebu as the first food-category locator. Since then, the success of this powerful and influential lady never stopped, it even outgrew the standards of what we so-called “pag babae, hanggang jan lang yan”.

Another branch was opened in 1999 but this time, it was called Laguna Garden Cafe. Mrs. Urbina and her family obtained a lease from Ayala Center Cebu to construct a 2-story building for the restaurant. The Laguna Garden Cafe, known for its Spanish-inspired facade and once considered a landmark in Ayala Center Cebu, has now merged into the Terraces of the expanded Cebu mall.

Mrs. Urbina has been dubbed as the “Kitchen Queen”. And even though she is a lady, many regarded her to have a Midas’ touch. This supposed recognition has made her a sought-after personality to be the guest of honor of business openings in Cebu.

The Cafe Laguna business expanded to different branches in Cebu, Dumaguete, Cagayan de Oro, Ilo-ilo and Davao City.

Mrs. Lita Urbina is currently the chairman of Laguna Group of Companies, a culinary family-owned corporation that operates the various branches of Cafe Laguna and Ulli’s. Restaurants such as Thai-Vietnamese-inspired Lemongrass and the Cebuano-themed restaurant Parilya are also part of LGC. Her offsprings have been supporting her since the opening of Cafe Laguna in Ayala Center Cebu and are now helping in the management of the restaurants.

Julita’s expertise in culinary brought her on the pedestal as she and her Laguna Group of Companies embark on another journey to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Cafe Laguna on September 28.  Her story has conveyed a worth of innovation to the younger generation and will continue to soar and tap lives and goals of aspiring entrepreneurs and chefs.


Written by Proudly Filipino

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