With the demise of Tya Berning, who was once synonymous to pili pastries, it is in Manay Nimfa’s tiny store along Bibincahan where you find a line of pili pastry aficionados hoping that by the time they get inside her store there will be some left. Her products are the same as any other pili confectioners’, although her conserva wrapped in malubago leaves is always a best seller. I love her molidos, which, unlike the pretenders from other provinces, is cooked with absolutely no extenders. I am outraged that molidos are often made with sweet potatoes or squash. In our province, it would be travesty. She also makes pili brittles, caramelized pili, buding, and other candy variants.
Doubtless, the taste of pili pastries wouldn’t be much different from the next. Manay Nimfa’s conserva would probably be just as velvety. But Manay Nimfa owns the patent to one ingredient that none of the other confectioners have.
She makes every customer feel special, bar none. I was talking to one of them who was bragging of her special friendship with Manay Nimfa. “She always gives me extra.” I didn’t have the heart to burst her bubble and say she does that to everyone. None of the pili confectioners has mastered the art of customer relations better than Manay Nimfa. She does it effortlessly, whether or not it is the first time she has met you. Most of these pili purveyors are friendly. But it’s a friendliness that lacks authenticity, an automatic reaction to a person who’s about to hand over a few hundreds in exchange for a bagful of products. The competition is tough, so persuasion is a necessary marketing strategy.
Manay Nimfa’s is simple. She gives a lot of freebies, to the annoyance of her relatives who frown when she’s overly generous. It isn’t even that she gives freebies – it’s how she gives them, making you feel you’re the only one she gives freebies to, when in fact she gives them to everyone – big buyer or small. It’s this personal touch that makes her endearing. Some of us take to other people quite effortlessly, developing relationships that are actually impersonal but feels personal to the other.
But unlike her other clients, my relationship with Manay Nimfa is an elevation higher, because I am also one of her pili kernel suppliers. I’m a newbie in this category, having been her supplier for a mere couple of years. We are not exclusive, as her requirements are tons more than I can supply. I like that she practices “kaliwaan” (paying immediately for services rendered or products delivered).
Manay Nimfa is also quite practical. She would not transfer to an outlet nearer the centro and is quite content with her small store on the far side of Bibincahan. I see the wisdom in it. For one, there’s plenty of parking space. Second, the rental is cheap (I don’t know if she already owns the piece of land her store and home stand on). And because their residence is attached to her pili outlet, the overhead is manageable.
This outlet is in fact already a concession to the demands of her growing clientele. She originally had a tiny stall in her house in Bacon, near the church.
She relates that one of her clients told her that her pili candies are superior but advised her to improve her packaging. Again, ever practical, she chose to remain simple. “If I improve the packaging of my pili, naturally I would have to increase prices. My customers would bear the brunt of this change. It isn’t that I don’t want to expand but I have too much on my plate right now, catering to the local market.”
I guess Manay Nimfa isn’t going anywhere.