The passion of cooking delicious Asian cuisine runs in the family for Nelia Lee. Her fondness for cooking started at a young age, taking after her Cantonese father, who was himself an avid cook. After retiring from her previous employment, Nelia Lee decided to put up her own restaurant, Ah Fong Asian Cuisine, naming it after her father.

Starting with a humble restaurant downtown which operated for two years, Nelia took her business to the next level when she decided to open at SM City Cagayan de Oro in 2016. Ah Fong was gearing up to open in a new SM area within the mall when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, putting a halt to the plans. Like all food establishments, Ah Fong faced its share of challenges during the community quarantine. Nelia opted not to open the store for the safety of her employees, but thanks to SM’s rent assistance for three months, combined with a stringent set of precautions set by the mall administration, she was able to reopen in the mall, providing much-needed work for her employees. Ah Fong also needed to make changes to their operations in order to adapt to the new normal. “We wear face masks and face shields when serving food to our customers”, she shares. “We also sanitize our tables and chairs before and after opening the store”, she continued. “There are two things that will remain forever in Ah Fong: good food and best service. The important learning during this pandemic is that everyone should work hand in hand. Together, we can conquer. We will prevail. Alone, we fail”, she shared.



Despite not availing of a delivery service during the pandemic, careful adaptation and having a keen awareness to the needs of the customer allowed Ah Fong to survive and continue serving the excellent Asian cuisine that makes them so popular in Cagayan de Oro.