Carmelita Rejano-Reyes , owner of the famous Rejano’s Bakery of Sta Cruz, Marinduque is not only keeping her business alive, she is also keeping a family legacy and a town’s tradition alive.

Rejano’s Bakery legacy began more than 70 years ago when Carmelita’s parents Crisostomo and Belen Rejano inherited the bakery owned by Crisostomo’s adopted father Timoteo Castillo.

“It was my mother who introduced the arrowroot (uraro) cookies. In the beginning she only made them for friends and relatives as gifts for special occasions like birthdays and weddings,” Carmelita recalled.

But no one can keep a delectable treat a secret forever. Many started asking about the sweet treats and eventually Carmelita’s mother started selling them in their bakery.

“Balikbayans and local tourist started frequenting the bakery to buy the uraro cookies as pasalubong to love ones in Manila and overseas. From then on Rejano’s Uraro cookies has been the pride of our family and the whole of Marinduque,” she proudly claimed.

When Carmelita took the helm from her parents she set her heart and mind on keeping the family legacy alive no matter what.

“ I learned while doing. To be able to keep the business alive and growing I have to ensure that we have steady supply of raw materials and to do that we have to support our farmers,” she explained

Carmelita set out to find help for the farmers. She organized them into associations and lead them in search for technology and innovation that will help increase their harvests and their income.

“ I buy my raw materials directly from our local farmers so it is only right to support them. I reached out to local government units and to various government agencies to find help for them in terms of training and technology,” Carmelita shared.

Carmelita also kept looking for ways to improve her products and the way she managed her business. As a result she earned accolades for her product packaging and busines processes and was even awarded Outstanding SME by the DTI.

Before the pandemic, Rejano’s Bakery operates 16 hours a day and employs 17 regular workers.

“We thought we were standing on solid ground. Who would have thought that something like this will happen and change everything? The first month pa lang ng quarantine wala na kaming benta. Mahirap pero I have to let go 5 of my workers. The remaining workers were paid on a per week basis from savings” she recalled.

Although Rejano’s Bakery remained open during the lockdown, there was hardly any income coming in. Through the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Carmelita was introduced to Bayanihan CARES. The loan she got was used as additional working capital to sustain the bakery’s operation.

“ It was very hard to cope with the new realities especially for a business that is deeply rooted in tradition like ours. But it is very important on our part to comply with the protocols, so we have to adapt and explore the ins and outs of online selling,” Carmelita related.


Indeed, even time-tested family businesses like Rejano’s Bakery that prospered for seven decades by relying to its traditional ways, was compelled to step out of its comfort zone to be able to thrive in the new normal.

“ I cannot just give up. I have so much on the line. It’s not just about keeping my family’s legacy. It is also about helping our farmers and their families and more importantly it is about keeping Marinduque’s cultural tradition alive.”