Fil-Am-owned small businesses showcase their products at Project Barkada Market Market

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It’s the season of summer street markets in New York City has several in every borough. There’s the established Smorgasburg chain, Queens International Night Market,  Hester Street Fair, Bronx Night Market, and Grand Bazaar NYC, among others.

Then there’s the Greenpoint Terminal Market in Brooklyn, which was home to about 30 home-based Fil-Am-owned small businesses on Saturday, Aug, 7.

It was the Project Barkada Market Market popup, a result of the persistence of the group to showcase their vendors’ products, ranging from Filipino inspired donuts, cookies, rum, cakes and burgers to clothes, bags, masks and accessories using Filipino fabric to sisig seasoning and a host of eco-friendly, sustainable homemade body scrubs and lotions.

Joey Natale Hortillas Golja found the market three years ago and thought to himself that he’d love to host something there someday. He just didn’t know what it was that time.

Project Barkada counts Golja as one of its three co-founders, along with former NYC City Council candidate Deirdre Levy and Lugao Kasberg. He works full-time as an event coordinator for MTV; Levy is a teacher and Kasberg is a videographer.

The founders of Project Barkada: Lugao Kasberg, Deirdre Levy and Joey Natale Hortillas Golja at a previous Market Market event. Photo courtesy of Joey Natale Hortillas Golja

The Story Behind

Project Barkada started just as a group of friends who wanted to help their friends when COVID-19 happened last year.

“Since March of last year, we donated over 100,000 meals between New York and the Philippines,” Golja told the Asian Journal.

The Market Market project came about when the three of them, along with Augelyn Francisco of Kabisera and the So Sarap NYC group collaborated.

It quickly evolved into a gathering of a small group of vendors, most of whom are actually some of their longtime friends or friends of friends that all happened to just be doing something with food.

“They either run their own business or are chefs or run restaurants, so we would raise money and buy food from local business to help sustain them during the pandemic, then donate the food to the frontliners,” he explained.

Last summer, they decided to celebrate everyone who helped them during the height of the pandemic so they decided to throw a collective popup with everyone who contributed.

That collective popup brought in the demand, both from consumers who are looking for new products to try and from vendors, some of whom were affected by the pandemic as well, and were looking at opportunities to start somewhere.

And that’s what makes it feel good.

“Sometimes people just need to build the confidence to continue doing what they dream of. Whether they are small startups or have been in business for a long time the Market Market is always going to be a loving space and we are all here to help each other grow, help each other succeed and show people that we can work together,” Golja said.

Everyone is welcome and Golja says it doesn’t matter if vendors sell the same things like ube cakes, leche flan, and the plethora of Filipino dishes that the chefs and restaurants have to offer.

“No matter what we will always look stronger together and it’s all love,” he added. “And I understand what it’s like to do something but feel like no one gives you a chance. That’s why I love this outlet being able to give people chances can change them and who they are for the better.”

Back in the Philippines, they have formed teams there to help them organize food drives using the funds they have raised. They work with local businesses back home to provide the food to give for free to the people in the area who need it.

Among the vendors at the Project Barkada Market Market in Brooklyn last weekend were Chef Jappy Afzelius of Tsismis NYC. AJPress photos by Momar G. Visaya

Their most recent food drop was in Pasig City.

“Barkada Market Market is unique because it all happened naturally as if this is what we’re supposed to be doing right now, and also showing the world who we are, who Filipinos are and share our food and culture,” Golja explained.

The group is looking forward to holding more popups across the city and beyond, including a roadshow in Chicago this year.

Golja shared that the group behind Salamat Cookies (based in the area and have been doing popups in Chicago) reached out when they saw what they were doing here in New York.

“The dream is to keep inspiring and hopefully people will continue what we are doing, which is helping each other in the community, working together and positively representing the culture,” Golja said.

For now, the group is waiting for their 501(c)3 paperwork and when that happens, Golja said he wants Project Barkada to keep growing and expanding, leaving an impact in communities in different cities.

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at momar.visaya@asianjournalinc.com.

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