Chef Joey Macadangdang Awarded Promoting the Bayanihan Spirit

Chef Joey Macadangdang Awarded Promoting the Bayanihan Spirit

Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor

On the evening of August 8, 2023, Chef Virgilio “Joey” Macadangdang and his wife Juvs finally pulled into the darkened parking lot fronting their Joey’s Kitchen-Nāpili restaurant. Power had been out for most of the day and the evening brought the smells of the burn drifting to their location.

“Once we got to the Nāpili restaurant with my brother and my wife, there were a lot of people in the parking lot. And our employees were already waiting for us at the restaurant because they knew we were going to be there,” Macadangdang said. “So I told my brother, ‘fire it up.’ Without hesitation, I took my van and parked it facing the restaurant with the headlights on. That was the only lights we had plus one flashlight.”

Promoting the Bayanihan Spirit in our darkest time following the August 8 wildfires on Maui, Chef Joey Macadangdang steps up to the plate and meets the need of many displaced victims of the tragedy.
Photo: Kelsey Herold
Chef Joey Macadangdang is choked up while speaking.
Photo: Kelsey Herold

Macadangdang and his employees–many of whom would later find out they lost their homes—began to cook to feed the people who were gathered in the Nāpili Plaza parking lot. “We began cooking—me and my brother. We cooked everything we could and started inviting the people outside in the parking lot to eat,” said Macadangdang. “So everybody came to eat—people we didn’t know.”

With a wry grin, Macadangdang recalled, “Some tourists—they never ate fish head before—but they were hungry and they started digging in. That’s how we started.”

Over the next couple of hours and then over the following days, Macadangdang and his team would continue cooking and serving food to survivors who came by.

Three months later he would be on stage in Central Maui.

Chef Joey Macadangdang and his wife Juvs.
Photo Alfredo EvangelistaPhoto Alfredo Evangelista

“Thank you for this honor but I didn’t do it alone. I owe it to my employees and especially my wife—the love of my life—who is the driving force. Without her, this would not have happened,” said a choked-up Chef Joey Macadangdang moments after being awarded with the inaugural Promoting the Bayanihan Spirit Award.

The Binhi at Ani Board of Directors created the “Promoting the Bayanihan Spirit Award” to celebrate and recognize annually a Maui County resident who epitomizes Promoting the Bayanihan Spirit (community cooperation and unity), which is the motto of Binhi at Ani.

Binhi at Ani Past President Nora Cabanilla-Takushi shares her family’s challenges.
Photo: Kelsey Herold

“It was a really easy choice to honor Chef Joey Macadangdang,” Melen Agcolicol, Binhi at Ani President, observed. “Despite personally experiencing the tragedy and challenges from the fire that ravaged his hometown of Lahaina, including being unable to stay at his residence and living for a time at his Nāpili Plaza location and his van, suffering financially from the closure of his restaurants and concerned about the fire impacts on many of his employees, Chef Joey and his wife Juvs volunteered their Nāpili restaurant as a gathering place and hub.” Macadangdang’s family and employees served free meals to their fellow residents and tourists during the aftermath of the fire that isolated West Maui residents and cut-off power from most homes and businesses. He continued this service from August through the Thanksgiving holiday. “That is what the Bayanihan Spirit is all about and Binhi at Ani is proud to present Chef Joey with the inaugural award,” Agcolicol concluded.

Lahaina fire.
Photo courtesy Kai Pelayo

Newly appointed Central Maui State Senator Troy Hashimoto presented Chef Joey with a Certificate from the Legislature and noted, “This is a well-deserved recognition. You did so much. You stepped into action. You represent the Bayanihan spirit. People will have very big shoes to follow.”

Immediately prior to the presentation, Binhi at Ani past president Nora Cabanilla-Takushi—a Lahaina fire survivor—recounted her family’s own harrowing experience. Cabanilla-Takushi, who is neighbors with Macadangdang, highlighted the difficulty during that chaotic day and evening in keeping track of her family, driving to the beach, designated shelter locales, and later to Nāpili to find safety. Approximately forty Lahaina fire survivors attended A Bayanihan Christmas, many of whom were parishioners of Maria Lanakila Catholic Church which miraculously survived the fire.

Joey’s Kitchen employees assist.
Photo courtesy Joey’s Kitchen Nāpili

Cabanilla-Takushi detailed how Chef Joey took action. Taking the stage, Macadangdang was visibly emotional. Cabanilla-Takushi’s personal story reminded him of what he and his fellow Lahaina residents went through that night and the days afterwards—with fires surrounding them, homes damaged and destroyed, electricity and cell phone service unavailable for days.

Macadangdang, known for his humbleness and generosity, has had a remarkable climb up the culinary ladder. Born in the Province of Ilocos Norte, at thirteen years old, he and his family moved to Maui, where his father labored for Maui Land & Pineapple Co. Macadangdang began working as a newspaper boy and received his first break as a busboy/dishwasher at Eric’s Seafood Grotto. He became interested in cooking and by the time he was in his mid-twenties, Macadangdang had risen to Executive Chef of Blue Tropix Restaurant & Night Club in Lahaina.

Later, he became the Executive Chef at The Rusty Harpoon. In 1992, Macadangdang joined the Yamaguchi Group and earned the position of Corporate Executive Chef at Roy’s and opened Roy’s Kīhei in 2001. In 2005, Macadangdang joined Pineapple Grill and created the “Cuisine of the Pacific Ocean.” In 2006, he rejoined the Yamaguchi Group as Corporate Executive Chef of the Maui restaurants.

In March 2015, Macadangdang ventured on his own and opened Joey’s Kitchen in the Whaler’s Village, followed by Joey’s Kitchen – Nāpili in 2016, Macadangdang in 2021 and Balai Pata (his first Central Maui joint) in October 2023.

Cherry Respicio-Urias and husband Frank Urias help.
Photo courtesy Joey’s Kitchen Nāpili

The past few years have not been easy for those in the restaurant business. The pandemic forced Joey’s Kitchen in Whaler’s Village to temporarily close. The pandemic delayed the opening of the Macadangdang Restaurant at the Fairway Shops and the Lahaina fire eventually caused it to close permanently.

“With the August 8th fires, we had to pivot. Our business went from caring for diners to caring for our team and community. We are heartbroken that many of our team members were negatively impacted by this tragedy,” Macadangdang recently posted on social media. “We have reached a difficult decision. A decision that we did not see coming before the fires and the drastic downturn of the economy here in West Maui. It is with a heavy heart that we indefinitely need to close Macadangdang. The uncertainty of the future restaurant industry in West Maui has put us in a position we cannot sustain.”

Despite his own personal and business challenges, Macadangdang—without any remuneration—sacrificed for the good of the community. And his efforts did not go unnoticed in the national media, including the Washington Post which described how after a day of cooking for hundreds, Macadangdang would sleep in his van with the door open to allow for a breeze while his wife slept on a cot in the restaurant.

With many of their employees losing their homes, the Macadangdangs created GoFundMe accounts to assist their employees and the community responded not only financially but also by helping pass out food during Thanksgiving.

Lorie Walsh and her friends were on Maui and decided to help the Macadangdangs. Later, she posted her thoughts on Facebook: “First off, I have to say I may have never met more humble loving, caring, giving and selfless people and business owners in my entire life. It was a pleasure and an honor to work beside these people and to hear their amazing stories of what it was like the night of the Lahaina fires, the twenty-one days after and the continued days since. Joey and Juvie (Auntie) his wife have taken care of their employees, their families, their renters and their community. They are not rich but they have given everything they have and people know what amazing people they are, so they have donated food to the restaurant and Chef Joey has cooked it up and fed whoever has needed fed. When Feed America wanted to take over his kitchen, he said, ‘I will take care of my people. You can give me the food and I will cook it.’ They refused…. he cooked anyway. This is what we wanted to do, we wanted to help people who had no agenda other than to help their people. We helped pack and pass out meals out of their restaurant. Joey and their staff took over six hundred meals to displaced family camps in Maui. When I say Joey and Auntie are heroes in disguise and angels on earth, I truly mean it!”

Chef Joey in action.
Photo courtesy Joey’s Kitchen Nāpili

“‘Promote the Bayanihan Spirit’ is not a new thing for Binhi at Ani. It’s engrained in our logo,” explained Cabanilla-Takushi. “During the pandemic, Binhi at Ani—despite its own challenges—served the community. That is why Binhi at Ani created the Tulong for Lahaina® Fund.”

Cabanilla-Takushi reports that “As of the September 30 deadline, over seven hundred applications were received. To date, $126,000 in donations were received and 163 families have received $750 plus food boxes, hot food, toilet paper, water, gift cards from the Lions Club and quilts from The Maui Quilt Shop during two distributions (October 22 and December 3). The next distribution will be held in late January 2024. More donations are needed. And Binhi at Ani—and the people of Lahaina—are asking you to continue to Promote the Bayanihan Spirit—just like Chef Joey, his wife Juvs and the entire Joey’s Kitchen ‘ohana.”

During the Thanksgiving food distribution.
Photo courtesy Joey’s Kitchen Nāpili

Binhi at Ani recognized Macadangdang as part of the annual A Bayanihan Christmas event honoring the legacy of Agrifina Cabebe, (1928–2020) a remarkable trailblazer in Maui’s Filipino community. Cabebe, known as the “Mother of Filipino Folk Dance on Maui” and “The General,” served in many capacities, including the first Chairperson of the Barrio Fiesta in 1970, the first president of Binhi at Ani in 1985 and Chairperson of the Miss Maui Filipina Scholarship Pageant. To acknowledge her pioneering efforts in community building and preserving the Filipino culture on Maui, the Cabebe family and Binhi at Ani created the Agrifina Cabebe/Binhi at Ani Scholarship, funded by an annual dinner in her honor. The inaugural A Bayanihan Christmas gathering in 2022 raised enough funds to award three $2,000 scholarships and after the Lahaina fire, the Cabebe family and Binhi at Ani decided to allocate part of the funds raised during the 2023 dinner to Binhi at Ani’s Tulong for Lahaina® Fund.

Assistant Editor Alfredo G. Evangelista is a graduate of Maui High School (1976), the University of Southern California (1980), and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (1983). He is a sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, concentrating in estate planning, business consultation and nonprofit corporations. He has been practicing law for 40 years (since 1983) and returned home in 2010 to be with his family and to marry his high school sweetheart, the former Basilia Tumacder Idica.