Photos by: Iste Sesante Leopoldo


LUWAG Native Seafood Grill, to put things in a perspective, is a young restaurant built around an old foundation in the food industry scene.

The Luwag Native Seafood Grill is located at the newly built Gaisano Mactan Island Mall 2 in Lapu-Lapu City.Opens daily from 10 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

The restaurant itself is collaboration and a marriage of ideas between Romel Pia and Leonhardt Cabahug, two business-minded people who both have experiences in business and the food industry.

The famous Sinuglaw
The famous Sinuglaw

The two pillars of Luwag Native Seafood Grill were introduced to each other by a common friend since Leonhardt is owning several business including a food supplement, while Romel worked as a food and beverage consultant in the past.

Butter and Garlic Shrimp
Butter and Garlic Shrimp

Romel, who learned his early cooking knowledge from his grandmother and mother back in their ancestral house in Basak, Pardo by taking care of the task assigned to him, worked in the food industry for almost 20 years starting at the lowest rung of the ladder by working as a service crew to several fast food chains and famous restaurant companies in Cebu.

BEHIND chef Romel Pia is his dynamic team (L-R) Joji Giltendez, Ariel Villarijo, Chef Alex Ulba and Juliet Jane Laparan

He did all of this while juggling his time between work and study as he was, at the time, taking up his eventual degree in Bachelor of Science in Commerce Major in Management.

It was through this vast culinary and food service experiences that Romel developed his passion for cooking.

 The delicious Palabok
The delicious Palabok

“Gamay pa ko, even back in my elementary days, sige nako og luto kay hilig man akong mama og akong lola ug luto. Mao to na ako maoy ila paluto-on sa uban’g sud-an like humba and pansit,” said Romel.

After finishing his college degree Romel was to work as a sales representative in the sales department.

But his love for cooking cannot be suppressed, paving the way for him to apply as a restaurant manager in one of the famous Chinese Dimsum restaurant chain in Cebu.

Cucumber Lime
Cucumber Lime
Chef Romel Pia and chef Alex Ulba
Chef Romel Pia and chef Alex Ulba. They have been working together for several years. Chef Pia saw the passion of Ulba in cooking different types of dishes and asked him to join him in putting up a restaurant. 

Here he worked for more than three years, becoming a part of the Chinese Dimsum restaurant chain’s growth.

After his stint with the Dimsum house, Romel also was able to work restaurants with Asian, American and native Filipino concepts and it was in this time that he became part of the management team and later on become a business development consultant in the restaurant industry of Cebu City.

Aside from this, Romel also became a professor in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship at the University of San Jose Recoletos’ College of Commerce.

Leonhardt Cabahug, on the other hand, is a successful businessman with various work experiences and is also a former varsity basketball player.

He is currently the top honcho of the VGood Malunggay Juice.

Through their passion and interest in the food industry Romel and Leonhardt decided to open a restaurant concept born out of their own creations in line with keeping up the tradition of being a true-blooded Cebuano, thus coming up with the name of the wonder wand out from our native dialect “LUWAG”, a wooden ladle made from a coconut shell commonly used in the province.

Chef Pia is a hands on owner, he usually prepares the food for the customers. A photo of him cooking the Tinono-ang Lambay.
Chef Pia is a hands on owner, he usually prepares the food for the customers. A photo of him cooking the Tinono-ang Lambay.

They opened up their first branch last June 28, 2015 at the Gaisano Island Mall in Mactan, Lapu-lapu City, Cebu with an area of 60 square meters that can accommodate 70 persons.


The new food haven also boasts of an al fresco area and offers a variety of Filipino food that highlights most of the Cebuano dishes such as the Linarang nga Isda, Utan Bisaya, a Cebuano style of cooking the Bisayan’g Manok or native chicken Tinola style and the tasty Baby Back Ribs with a twist.

The Baby Back Ribs is one of their best seller
The Baby Back Ribs is one of their best seller

Another one of its bestsellers is the Luwag Seafood Rice, a dish that can be considered a complete meal in itself.

The Seafood Rice

It also offers a variety of beverages for the health conscious guest like the Lemongrass Coolers made from fresh Tanglad (Lemongrass) and the Fresh Cucumber Lime drink that proved to be very refreshing.

Budbod Ala Mode

Another top-billing delicacy for Luwag is the unique Bod-bod Ala Mode, a desert made from the famous sticky rice topped with ice cream with sweetened banana on the side and sprinkled with lots of nuts that challenges your taste buds.

With this very rich background, the Luwag food haven assures its guests of a trip down memory lane where Cebuanos can reminisce the good old days especially with the native interior decorations like the Luwag-shaped lightings and artworks that oozes with a comfortable and happy dining experience.

“Luwag is a magical wand in disguise used by our moms to serve us good food. And suddenly this Luwag turned itself into a place to answer your cravings,” said Romel. (PRESS RELEASE)

Beginning her career as a Photojournalist at The Freeman Newspaper/Philippine Star from 2000 to 2007, she then served as an Accounts Manager from 2007 to 2008. Driven by a passion for sports, she transitioned to a Sportswriter role at CDN and expanded into news writing for Inquirer Visayas. From 2010 to 2015, she honed her skills as a Sportswriter at Sunstar Cebu, after which she took the initiative to launch her own

Iste Sesante Leopoldo

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