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MANILA – The Mid-Autumn Festival has become one of the most celebrated occasions in the Philippines, a moment for family reunions and relaxation.

For Elaine Chong, owner of a Chinese restaurant that sells moon cake all year round in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, the most important result is of this year’s festival, no matter how severe the coronavirus pandemic is, their moon cake business will thrive.

Sales of Chong’s Mooncake Shop, a time-honored brand founded in 1985 in the world’s oldest Chinatown, remains sunk and precariously unstable, with the once-long-waiting pattern of sales turned upside down by the pandemic.

Despite the sales challenge, Chong, in their 60s, over the years still strictly adhering to their standard for making moon cake and carefully selecting the ingredients to offer their customers the best quality.

“I treat every moon cake as if it was the last I bake in my life. The pandemic brings too much uncertainty into our lives. Making and selling mooncakes is my way of conveying a message to my customers: keep a fighting spirit. Mooncakes must go on, and so must our lives, ”said Chong.

For thousands of years, the Mid-Autumn Festival has been celebrated on the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, when the moon is full and bright. Often known as the Mooncake Festival and second only to the Chinese New Year, it falls on September 21 this year.

Chong said that one of the festival’s best-preserved customs is watching the full moon and making moon cake try, both with family and friends. Therefore, mooncakes gave Filipinos an opportunity to get a deeper insight into Chinese culture.

“What I always tell my customers is that the Chinese believe that the round shape of the moon and the moon cake embody reunion and harmony . So I suggest that they cut and divide the moon cake into different slices according to the number of their family members. They are all about love for families, longing for peace, harmony and a love for reunion, which are the keys to the Mid-Autumn Festival, “said Chong.

In addition, Chong’s Mooncake, the traditional pastry, is watching Retains its authentic taste for years, its unique twist in the Philippines and becomes a window of intercultural exchange.

Domingo Ernera, 55, a chef who has worked for Chong for more than 30 years, said their traditional fillings Include lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste, salted egg yolks, and five types of kernels.

One day, Ernera said he accidentally added pili nuts, a native product from Sorsogon City, southeast of Manila, often considered the hardest nut to crack of the world. It turned out to be a perfect blend of authentic and exotic flavors.

“More and more Filipinos are preferring a moon cake for afternoon tea because the sweetness of the moon cake neutralizes the bitterness of the coffee and it goes perfectly with the taste,” said Chong.