Open the Light: 676 Candle Co. Is A Local Treasure

“I was working as a flight attendant, and I made tiny candle that was just long enough for a layover in Philadelphia. I was in the room, and I had a knock on my door. It was the manager, and she was like, ‘We’ve been getting reports of a scent coming from your room. You cannot burn a candle on hotel property. It’s a fire hazard.’ So I close the door, and maybe 10 seconds later, she knocks again and says ‘I’m sorry, what was that candle that you were burning? It smells really good.’ And when I told her that it was one that I had made, she ordered a candle from me on the spot. That was my first sale!”

Tennessee Viduya owns and operates 676 Candle Co., a project borne out of her high school home ec classes in the Philippines – where she first learned to make her own scented candles. It’s a skill she’s cultivated since her teenage years, and carried with her throughout the different stages of her life.

“The candle-making process immediately lured me in. And it stayed with me. When I first got the the US from the Philippines, I had just graduated high school, so making candles was still fresh in my mind. I can remember going to eBay to buy materials. But I was only making them for personal use. I wasn’t really thinking of doing a business back then,” she says.

Today, with a business that includes corporate accounts, Tennessee’s teenage love affair with candlemaking has clearly blossomed into something much more substantial. Still, she’s adamant that her priority with 676 remains with the dedicated following that she has built around genuine personal relationships.

“I have worked with [UNDSCVRD Retail Curator] Jenn Lui since day one. I always see the same people picking up their candles at Undiscovered, and it’s always like, ‘Oh my god, what’s up, how are the babies?’ It’s not just like ‘Yeah, I need to go there to make money and sell candles.’ It’s more like, ‘Yeah, I need to see my friends!’”

In the same breath, Tennessee also points out that the journey from Philadelphia layover to sustainable small business isn’t all roses. And she acknowledges the thorny moments as opportunities to refine her approach, her product, and her mindset.

“It was my first year, and I was trying to get my candles into Whole Foods. And I got rejected. I was heartbroken. I was crying. I was like, ‘My candles are good!’ There will always be events where they will be like: ‘Yeah, I don’t think your product is a good fit for what we’re looking for.’ Rejections are vital, you have to have rejection in order to move forward. Otherwise you are gonna get stuck.”

By maintaining momentum and constantly pursuing growth, 676 Candle Co. has become a true local favorite, with constantly evolving product lines – which now include diffuser oils and room sprays – alongside a successful subscription service that Tennessee has operated since day one.

“That business license cost me $300! I had no choice but to move forward. You just take that first step, and then you’re on your second, and then you’re onto your third. Sometimes, it still gets to a point where it’s like ‘This is too much work!’ But then it will come to me: ‘Ah! $300 is a lot of money to waste!’”

There’s no doubt that Tennessee, despite her success, keeps it close – there’s even a line of candles named after the flight attendant colleagues who were early investors and volunteers with 676 Candle Co. It’s a strategy that’s continued to create abundance, not just for Tennessee but for the community she calls home.

“Filipinos work hard. We are hustlers. Back in the Philippines, my mom would bake cookies and sell them out of our garage. Filipinos, if they are passionate about something, they’re not gonna stop, and they’re gonna keep growing. So that is how I see the community. Undiscovered is now, like, a staple. It is one of the foundations for where we are right now as a people. It has helped me grow as a person, and a businesswoman – a Filipina businesswoman. I was just making candles for myself, and now I’m here – and even my husband is going to be vending at his own Undiscovered SF booth in Septemeber.”

Written by Paul Barrera.

RetailCat Jimenezretail
Straight Up: A Bar of Brothers

The standard experience of a bar at a catered event is, you know, all black outfit, oxblood vest, very formal. The bartenders and almost robotic, and the menu is boring. Rum and coke, that’s it; no flavor, no character. So we decided to develop event-specific cocktails depending on the event, and the people we were working with – not just because it was good business, but because that’s really what we wanted to do. Create good drinks, develop our talent, be challenged,” Paolo says.

Paolo Dayao, his partner and best-friend since Kindergarten Joseph Alcasabas, and little brother and chef Vince Dayao are the minds and muscle behind pop-up bar Straight Up. Put onto the bar hustle by Joseph’s cousin Randolph Cabrera, the pair are the creators of the hit Milo-Coco mocktail – which drew thirsty patrons of all ages and backgrounds at the July debut of Undiscovered SF’s 2019 season. Today, the Straight Up team’s concept focuses on complete Filipino flavor experiences that pair mixed drinks (masterminded by Joseph and Paolo) with Vince’s evolving approach to Filipino food.

Straigt Up Bar and Bites at Undiscovered SF Night Market 2019

“While we were exploring the world of trying to open a bar, Paolo’s youngest brother, Vince, started to grow in the kitchen; plus, I feel like growing up Filipino develops a special relationship with food – your passion and your love through food. That led to a collaboration with Vince we called Silog Mondays, where we paired Filipino inspired cocktails with his food. It was really popular, and that was where we realized, ‘Hey, we got something going,’” Joseph says.

Riding a three-year journey – from a creative catering-bar project into a fully-fledged, Filipino-focused bar and food program – what’s most refreshing about Straight Up is how they point their roots as key motivators for their hustle, and understand their business as a way to express gratitude for the chance to increase Filipino representation.

“I spent a part of my childhood in the Philippines, I have really vivid memories of sitting in Manila traffic, and kids my age knocking on our car window asking for change. It made me sad to know that those were the cards they’d been dealt – and being on the other side of the glass, I knew it meant I had to make the most out of my cards. Some people just don't get the chance to do what they love or what they want. So we're blessed enough to have this opportunity, and we have to pursue it because we could have easily been dealt a different hand,” Joseph says.

In turn, Straight Up also embraces the value of growing in the SOMA Pilipinas community alongside the rest of Bay Area Filipino culinary scene – carefully noting the uniquely productive and creative possibilities of working closely with people you trust deeply.

“I feel like the Filipino food industry is very tight knit. Like, everyone kind of knows each other; everyone kind of recognizes each other’s work. Like, at Undiscovered in July, we were setting up our tent and I was like ‘Damn, that guy over there is hustling! Am I doing enough right here?’ So, I feel like that motivation, in and of itself has created more challenges for me, Joseph, and Vince to kind of push harder, you know? To make better drinks, and really do a compete experience with food and drink,” Paolo says.

“The great thing about growing in SOMA Pilipinas is when people who you just met give you that feeling, like they’re looking out for you, for sure. You know? Even though they don’t even know you, they’re here to help you, wanting to build that relationships which is really ... they’re building more than relationships, you know?” Joseph says.

Armed with such a mature and evolved perspective on their work, Straight Up’s excitement about their craft and product pushes boundaries, asking patrons to engage with different perspectives on Filipino culture and truly consider what it is that makes a meal, or a drink, a special experience.

“For us to carry on the Filipino tradition, I feel like would be through the food because that’s all we cooked and ate growing up. And, you know, just seeing how it brought everyone together all the parties and the focus on family, and togetherness. You learn that at such a young age, it just becomes a part of you, you know? It was cool to me! And still is. So we definitely want to push like that aspect of like, family, community, and getting people together, and feeling good,” Paolo says.

Written by Paul Barrera.

FoodCat Jimenezfood
What is Original Pilipino Music / OPM?

This weekend, Undiscovered SF pops-up at Sunday Streets for a 12-block street jam in the heart of SOMA Pilipinas Cultural Heritage District and we’re bringing the heat with island style band Native Elements and OPM legends, Dakila. But what exactly is “OPM”?

Original Pilipino Music, now more commonly known as Original Pinoy Music, Original Philippine Music or OPM for short, originally referred to Philippine pop songs, particularly ballads, that were popular in the Philippines during the late 70s to the present. OPM artists such as Rico Puno Jr., Ryan Cayabyab, and Celeste Legaspi in the 70’s, and Regine Velasquez, Sharon Cuneta, Martin Nievera, Pops Fernandes, among many others led the way in the 80’s and 90s.

Today, OPM is experiencing a bit of a resurgence, with new Pilipino underground artists like Jess Connelly, BP Velazquez, CRWN, Lustbass (from Manila Rising event last year curated by Mark Herlihy) and more creating a new OPM sound. Oakland party crew ASTIG OPM has a monthly night dedicated to the past, present, and future of OPM music. Record collectors are even digging for Pilipino rare grooves on vinyl.

Here’s a few of our favorite OPM rare grooves:

VST & Company is one of the most influential Filipino disco groups, and is considered to be one of the pioneers of what is known as the Manila Sound, the precursor to OPM. Peep this epic video of the band rockin’ out in Manila during the 70’s.

Sharon Cuneta is one of the most popular OPM artists to come out of the 80’s. Today, she’s an actress, talk show host, commercial ad endorser, and a reality show judge. Listen to this beautiful modern soul track off Sharon’s “Sixteen” album.

Dakila, which means ‘great’ and ‘noble’, is one of the first Filipino American bands to be signed by a major record label in 1972. Known for their Filipino Latin Rock sound, they toured with Malo and Buddy Miles and opened for Cal Tjader, Jose Feliciano and Cheech and Chong among others.

Eva Eugenio was another popular singer from the late 1970s and early 1980s. She is most famous for the hit song Tukso, but Ang Tangi Kong Pag-Ibig was the banger off the same album.

To get you ready for Undiscovered SF x Sunday Streets, listen to ASTIG: A TRIBUTE TO OPM mix by Proof.

Written by Marky Enriquez

marky enriquez
Mirage Medicinal’s Vision for Community Enrichment

“Lawyers, politicians, they function off statistics. In order to get laws passed, we need numbers. You never lose sight of the fact that those numbers represent people's ruined lives. And we have the numbers that show black and brown folks are anywhere between two and 10 times more likely than white people to get really harmful things done to them by the law, just for possessing or selling cannabis.”

Malcom Mirage Medicinal

Malcolm Weitz speaks quickly and decisively, the way kids from the City do. Reflecting on his path to owning and operating Mirage Medicinal – the new cannabis dispensary set to open on Folsom and 6th Streets – Malcolm recognizes that his experience doesn’t mirror that of most American kids, Filipino or otherwise. It’s a story that starts with childhood education around cannabis as a therapeutic solution, and ends with him at City Hall, directly negotiating the terms of San Francisco’s Cannabis Equity Program, signed into law in 2016.

“I grew up in The Mission, always getting dropped off at my Lola’s house. I remember how everyone came there to eat. My uncles would be there, and I would see them smoking with their friends, who looked really sick. I was just a kid so I didn't know that they had AIDS; they just looked very sick to me. And they would tell me, ‘Hey, what we’re smoking is medicine for my friend.’ So even before getting into the contemporary culture, and street culture, that was how I first came to understand weed: as a medicine.”

Not surprisingly, Malcolm proudly points out that Mirage Medicinal strives to center the curative and restorative benefits of the plant, even as the recreational market explodes. It’s a major opportunity for growth and economic development that Malcolm looks to steer toward his community through the Mirage project.

“The equity program in San Francisco is specifically designed to rebalance the scales against the harm that has been inflicted upon communities of color via the war on drugs, specifically cannabis arrests. It identifies and designates equity program applicants to either gain employment in the cannabis industry, or to receive priority for licenses to open up businesses of their own — and that those businesses will receive community benefits, to give them a First Mover's advantage.”

Currently, municipalities can issue a limited number of licenses for cannabis retail, cultivation, and delivery. San Francisco’s equity program works to mitigate inevitable speculation from outside of San Francisco — people who simply want to show up in the City and build a cannabis business. By prioritizing individuals who were harmed by anti-cannabis laws for job placement and business licenses – and linking those entrepreneurs with investors — the people whose lives were pushed off-track by outmoded laws can be made whole again, as they become the central beneficiaries of the industry and marketplace they in fact built. In this way, Malcolm sees the possibility for major socioeconomic strides that elevate communities of color into higher realms of entrepreneurship, ownership, and independence.

“The cannabis industry is really kind of a Tech Explosion type of thing — it’s going to change the world. The world is exploding in terms of the directions this can go in. There is the medicinal direction, there is recreational — it’s going to be a wave of prosperity for people who want to gravitate towards this early on. So people have to start letting go of the stigma; that's the only way this is going to help the entrepreneurs in communities like ours, communities of color, is if the leaders in those communities can facilitate the letting go of the biases around cannabis -- so they can embrace it early and get on top of the wave. Because we already know who's getting on top of this wave, right? Corporations! And the reality is that it’s the communities that could benefit the most who could end up getting left behind the most – all because they carry the same traumas around the very thing that not only could help heal them, but could also help bring economic prosperity to the hood.”

Again, for Malcolm and Mirage, these goals emerge from a genuine place of concern for family and community well-being – itself built on his personal history and experience with how industrialized medicine can complicate existing health issues, rather than solve them.

“You see it so many times in our community. Our people, our elders, continuously have diabetes, arthritis, high blood. But just as often, their treatment plans end up making them more sick! Like my Lola -- her heart medication gave her diabetes. All these Western medications are giving us other health problems, you know what I'm saying? So helping to educate people on the therapeutic and homeopathic aspects of cannabis, especially CBD, is going to be one of the big pieces to Mirage Medicinal  — starting with the elders, because that's really whose lives therapeutic cannabis can help optimize the most.”

Being a source of information and healing for a community means taking on additional responsibilities as a business. That’s something Malcolm says he welcomes at Mirage, because he carries a healthy understanding of his work within a much larger cultural context.

“I was persona non grata in my family – I didn't graduate high school, and I was always doing off-kilter shit to make money, and one of those things was being big in the marijuana business. And it was like, I was a bad example to my nieces and nephews, and it was very painful for me to be in this business when it comes to my family. I was very much on the outside for a long time. But it's good, because now it's being more accepted and, at the end of the day, it's going to help them. There's no ‘I told you so.’ God put this plant here; I didn't put this here. I didn't invent this! I am just a messenger.”

Written by Paul Barrera.

Cat Jimenez