(Main photo credit: Macario Jr. Dela Cruz)
A Filipino bartender based in Saudi Arabia has been hailed as the grand winner of the Monin Cup, and will represent the Kingdom in the most revered international competition for bartenders worldwide.
Macario Jr. Dela Cruz, 29, expressed pride for winning the esteemed title, noting that a Filipino representing Saudi Arabia in the Monin Cup Global Competition is a big deal.
“I’m so proud and patuloy na itataas ang bandera ng mga Pilipino kahit pa sabihin nating Saudi Arabia ang i-re-represent ko, hindi mawawala ang katotohanan na Pilipino ako, at galing ng Pilipino ang ibabahagi ko,” he said.
Monin Cup, organized by French company Monin, is a competition that aims to provide bartenders an avenue to showcase their skills, demonstrating their competence and passion in this profession. This year, it is set to be held in France, to be joined by over 57 countries worldwide.
“Ang manalo sa isang competition kagaya ng Monin Cup ay isa sa pinapangarap ko. Paulit ulit kong sinusubukang tuparin, but unfortunately, I kept on failing,” he said.
Dela Cruz, said that prior to moving to the Kingdom, he first got inclined to this profession back when he was in Dubai—where he spent five years perfecting his bartending skills and joining (and losing) cocktail competitions.
“Hindi ko na mabilang kung ilang competitions na ang nasalihan ko, way back then naging biggest challenge po ito sa akin, hindi ako nag-stop mangarap,” he said.
He then moved to Saudi to further pursue this career, and achieve the dream of winning a bartending competition. He finally got the chance when he found out that the Kindgom will host Monin Cup 2019.
Dela Cruz said he was able to join the elimination round creating a drink inspired by his baby who passed away at 13 days old. He was then able to enter the preliminary round, and made his way to the semi-finals—wherein he got a chanc to compete with other skilled bartenders from other regions.
“Creating a new drink which I named mine “RED MARIA” na hango sa name ng baby ko na sumalangit na, it’s a combination of Raspberry, watermelon, almond and sparkling wine. Inalala ko ang mga ngiting naidulot nya sa akin bago pa siya mawala,” he said, adding that this sentimental drink resulted in him claiming the top spot.
He then finally clinched the title for his on-the-spot drink using ingredients that were given at the last minute—showing his immense prowess in cocktail making.
“For a moment, I felt it was a dream. With the round of applause around me, I realized it was a dream come true. It was a tensed journey, but a truly interesting experience as it helped me push the boundaries of my perceived abilities,” he said.
The bartender, who is now training for the Global Competition, said he dreams of opening his own bar in the Philippines as well as train aspiring bartenders back home.
“I want to nurture Filipinos who want to take bartending as a profession, to inspire them that nothing is impossible. I want to share how my struggles have turned into an incredible victory,” he said.