'This is our Filipino pride:' Jollibee Calgary opens, drawing hundreds

Balloons, party music and massive lineups — all for the promise of fried chicken or a plate of spaghetti topped with sliced hot dogs.

This was the scene Friday before 7 a.m as Jollibee's second Alberta location opened in Calgary to an eager waiting crowd of hundreds.

The popular Filipino fast-food restaurant serves an assortment of fried chicken, pasta, burgers and some traditional Filipino dishes.

Jollibee's first Alberta location opened Aug. 13 In Edmonton, to an equally big response.

According to the restaurant's dedicated fans who waited in line, it's about so much more than tasty food.

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Marvellous Ocenar, who was sixth in line Friday morning, camped out for 20 hours, waiting for the moment he could pick up a bucket of chicken.

"It means a lot because this is our Filipino pride for chicken and burgers," said Ocenar.

Ocenar moved to Calgary in 2008 and says the only time he was able to enjoy Jollibee food was on trips home to the Philippines.

"I've been waiting 11 years for this … now I don't need to go home to eat Jollibee," he said.

Ocenar managed to skip work by promising his co-workers he would bring them a bucket of ChickenJoy.

Tiphanie Roquette/CBC

A large tent was set up in the Pacific Place Mall parking lot for those waiting for the grand opening.

Gina Ramos and her mother tag-teamed the wait in line. First her mom lined up, then Ramos took over the spot with her children.

"We actually grew up eating Jollibee back in the Philippines, back home," said Ramos.

It hasn't been too long since the family has eaten at Jollibee, however. They made the trip up to Edmonton last week just to eat at that Jollibee location.

"It means a lot. My kids, they love Jollibee, too, even though they were born here. They tried it and they liked it, especially the chicken," she said.

Ramos's insider tip for anyone trying Jollibee for the first time is to dip the ChickenJoy in the Filipino signature gravy with rice.

"It's even better," she said.

Tiphanie Roquette/CBC

A spokesperson for Jollibee at the event said the goal is to open 100 locations in Canada by 2023.

"We're all about people rediscovering the joy of eating, getting families and friends together over a meal," said another spokesperson for the chain.

The first Jollibee in Canada opened three years ago in Winnipeg.

There are now six locations in Canada.