Hindy Weber Tantoco and Melanie Go are owners of Holy Carabao.
Hindy: I moved to the countryside in 2007. I wanted to grow food for our kids in our backyard. The yield became so plentiful, we started giving them away to friends, and to family, and eventually it became a business. It did not start from a business plan; it just started with the intention of bringing better food home.
This food business? I really think it’s a calling. Maybe a vocation. It’s more of the universe saying, “You have no choice, girl. You just have to do it.”
I knew going into food was a calling because there was no dilemma whatsoever.
Melanie on her partnership with Hindy: When Hindy started Holy Carabao some eight years ago, she planted some vegetables for her family and it eventually became too much for them, so she started to share it to the community in school, which I was a part of.
With Holy Carabao, our partnership started because we’re from the same community. The owner of the (Makati) building was also managing a market, which he gave up on, so Hindy stepped in to take on the responsibility. No one else was going to supply and take over the store, and she asked us, “Why don’t we just do it together?”
We’re a good fit—everything is quite fluid between us. We have a “what’s yours is mine” system. There are no complications and we don’t take anything personally. We just do what we can with the time we have.
Melanie: My husband’s family had a farm, and it was frustrating for him to see that in it, so many resources were going to waste through conventional farming. He tried hydroponics and was very successful in doing that—to the point that he needed my help to dispose all the vegetables. I told him, “There’s no way I can sell the produce because I don’t believe in hydroponics because it’s growing plants on just water and fiber.” I believe that good food should come from the soil. I wanted to do it the right way, through biodynamic farming.
As a kid, fashion design was already something I felt I could do. I totally messed up my mom’s stuff. I would cut up a collar, change the buttons on a shirt or the stitching, cut a skirt, and then I’d put it back in her closet, hoping she wouldn’t notice. I would even do it to Barbie dolls—cut their hair spiky, put on makeup. It was part of me.
I really love good design. Fashion, architecture, industrial design, everything from a bridge to a plate. I made a connection to design through fashion, in how I can help women use clothing in a way that could really enhance their lives, their beauty, and their self-esteem.
I hated the idea of off-the-rack, ready-to-wear, fast-fashion business. I wanted to create things that were beyond trends.
My work in fashion was a 24-hour job. In 2010, I left retail, took a sabbatical and decided that I would do custom fashion instead. I wanted my own time. I wanted things to slow down. The retail industry has you always working six months ahead. You’re never really living in the moment. It’s funny though, now, I’m back to retail again except with food.
I really like beautifying things, tweaking things. When I look at something, I always think, “How could that be better?”
I used to work with the family business for 15 years and that experience was really quite stressful. Right now, I’m doing what I want to do—it’s still work, but it comes with personal satisfaction.I’m studying Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems online at Tufts University. It’s helped a lot in the business. I am also a Building Biologist.
I really feel like I’m being led in this path to do something; not just for my self, but for my friends.
I go out of my way to learn. It’s not about having to prove myself to people, but knowing that I have a responsibility to live up to. I don’t let the noise around me bother or affect me. I do things with confidence and I trust.
I wake up really early, no matter what time I sleep. Lately, I’ve been out of the house before 6 AM. Before then, I take time to think about what I’m going to do for the rest of the day. That’s something I do before going to bed too. I want to make sure I accomplish a lot.
Even though sometimes, I can’t see the big picture, I know that I’m headed towards some “thing” that I will accomplish, I will do, and I will succeed. I follow. I go with the flow.
Mel: One thing I wish was part of daily life—exercise. I have to take this programming out of my system—that working out is a waste of time. It’s really a conscious effort for me to reverse that kind of thinking. Once a week, I do capoeira, and when the kids are playing outside, I go jump on the trampoline too.
Hindy: The one thing I wish was part of my daily life—exercise! Yoga, Zumba or trail running. There should be a national mandate. From 7AM to 9AM, the whole country should just be exercising. No meetings allowed.
Unlike a celebrity or model, my body isn’t my product. Working out is part of my “work.” My work is the kids, the house, Holy Carabao, and all these other things. that sort of take precedence over health and wellness. (laughs) But then every time you exercise, you just feel so good! And then the rest of the day just seems like it falls into place. Then you realize, “Oh gosh, I wish all days were like this.”
On Their Mantras
Hindy: I don’t like getting stuck on any one thing, any one mantra, any one ideology because life is literally growth and change. I have a constant appreciation for life but also a responsibility to continue learning.
I don’t think there would be any true sense of individuality without any true sense of integrity. And to have that, it’s really imperative to connect to not just who you think you are, or who you’re told to be, but really to all the possibilities of who you could become.
As I raise our children, I know things are not finite. I’m always thinking about what their individual possibilities are. It also translates to everything I do, from Holy Carabao, to fashion, to the home.
I try to live by looking at the whole picture all the time. As in Holy Carabao—my personal philosophy is really just living life holistically, whatever that means to you.
Freedom is really the ultimate goal of a human being. It’s part of the evolutionary process. Where there used to be clans and tribes, now, there’s a selfie culture, and major gender variations. That’s the ultimate example of individuality; it’s not even anymore about the body you were born with or the gender you think you were born into. It’s really how humans are evolving.
On Their RFs
Hindy: Feel Real, black and white. “They’re super comfy, easy to put on, and they stay on. I’ve had them for six months. I took them with me on our last long trip to New York, Portland, and Northern California. They survived me wearing them all day, walking all around New York. No BS—they’re really super comfy.”
Mel: I own more than 10 pairs! I’ve had them since they came out. Linda leopard are my favorites. When people see me wear them, they’re surprised to know they’re locally made. I’ve taken them everywhere—Bali, Sri Lanka.
I just make sure not to wear my RFs when I know they’re going to get wet. Sometimes, I walk barefoot just so I’m sure the shoes don’t get wet! I’m used to it at the farm!
*Holy Carabao is now at SS&R, Rustan’s Marketplace and at 6241 Palma corner Mañalac Streets, Poblacion, Makati.