Posts Tagged ‘cafe’


Some say the coffee isn’t the real deal especially if you’re a hard core coffee drinker. Others say it’s quite expensive for just a Frappuccino or hot latte. A handful find it a convenient spot for meeting up and there are those who find it a great place to work. Case in point is my gal-pal – we go way back in high school – Melie when we caught up with each other one weekend. She was working in Starbucks Greenbelt while waiting for me. Apparently, she learnt and revealed to me that one is more productive while working in a café. Working or meeting up with someone, hard core coffee drinker or not, Starbucks is my happy place.

Starbucks drinks_resized

a smile and a friendly note awaits you at Starbucks [Starbucks, Tomas Morato]

It all goes back to when I found myself living in a new country and walloped severely by homesickness, cultural isolation, and discrimination. It was my first time to be living apart from my family and the whole routine of being on my own was both exhilarating and unnerving, to say the least. On top of homesickness, I was culturally isolated – being a self-absorbed careerist wasn’t how I was raised to be. I didn’t believe in going up the ladder of success by stepping on others which put me greatly at odds with a whole lot of people. Then there’s my nationality that triggered my first experience of discrimination. The preconceived notion that Filipinos were only meant to be domestic helpers had preceded me unknowingly as well as all the stereotypes of being a woman that I thought had been deconstructed.

Starbucks, on hindsight, was the one place that I could piece back my fragmented self together quietly. Every single day was a battle against homesickness that left me weary and which was compounded by being treated as the peculiar one in the group to put it mildly. The Starbucks near my workplace then was a serendipitous find. There were no weird glances from the baristas to make you feel that you shouldn’t be in their country or any put-upon behaviour to take my order. It was just simple human decency: a simple warm greeting of “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” and what I would like to drink or eat that day. I didn’t have to constantly fear that someone was hatching a nefarious plan to make me the scape goat for their failure or put up with hypocrisy – you know when they smile at you and then stab you at the back minutes later. My visits to this Starbucks reached a point when I just showed up at the counter, exchanged pleasantries with the baristas which eventually became longer chit-chat that did wonders for my soul, and head to a table with my caramel macchiato. I didn’t need to say my name or my order anymore. A smile particularly one that goes beyond the lips and crinkles the eyes does have this energising effect on a person.

I’ve since relocated to another country where I’ve learnt to let my guard down and view humanity in a less jaded way. I still frequent Starbucks because it still remains my happy place; the baristas, store manager, and even the security guard still exude that affability which is more than welcomes. At Starbucks, I sew clumsily my tattered soul, chase away the negative thoughts gnawing on my thoughts, and glue back my shattered heart. It is also where I do most of my work, thinking of which stories to assign, new topics to write on, and new punishments for my students. Lastly, it is where I catch my breath after a tongue-on-the-floor workout with Pak Agus. I have a cup of no-sugar cappuccino or caramel macchiato with non-fat milk or soya when I remember to say it to the genial Starbucks barista.



Ensaymada with a twist

Ensaymada with a twist

My first choice was Red Velvet – it was simply calling out my name – but I wasn’t going to get a slice because it wasn’t part of the day’s available slices. This is where my grouse with Icings starts. That thought of a customer making do with the slices available to satisfy the sweet craving is terrible. Actually, it’s not just Icings that has made a practice of not cutting up their whole cakes. Red Ribbon, another local cake-pastry place, has made a practice of it, which is so annoying and frustrating.

That my penchant for cakes and pastries is strong is so obvious. They figure so much in my childhood that when I stumble upon a favourite after years of absence on the dining table, it’s such a joyful ride on memory lane. I met an old childhood delight one afternoon day out after Christmas with my parents. From North Park, a noodle place on Tomas Morato, we walked to the back of it to Icings Cakes, Bread & Café. More than a decade ago, Icings was prominently located along Tomas Morato, but it moved elsewhere until my family discovered it returned to Tomas Morato except now it’s on a road perpendicular to it. The old Icings I remember had a dim interior, a glowing cake display and teeming with holiday goodies. The “new” Icings is brighter because of its floor-to-ceiling windows and exuded a more café ambience, meaning it’s a place to chillax or catch up with an old friend over coffee and cake.

Take your pick of Icings whole cakes - regular and seasonal

Take your pick of Icings whole cakes – regular and seasonal

But I resolved to be a little more understanding and tolerant of an odd cake policy. Good vibes in place, Faye, cashier-server, good-naturedly offered alternatives to the unavailable Red Velvet. They included Guiltless Strawberry, Healthy Carrot Cake, Tiramisu, and Pistachio Paradise; the first three slices were our choices paired with hot Spanish Chocolate, Premium House Blend and Café Mocha.

My slice of Guiltless Strawberry, which is perfect with the strong and flavourful Café Mocha, was a pleasant revelation that made me forget about Red Velvet. The strawberry cream icing glided smoothly on my palate – it wasn’t cloying or heavy – and exploded in a nice fruity taste courtesy of the thin ribbons of strawberry icing. Adding to the flavourful rumble on the tongue were the ube bits (a.k.a. purple yam) interspersed into the rows of icing in the middle of the cake. As I took bite after bite of my Guiltless Strawberry and my mum and dad tucked into their Tiramisu and Healthy Carrot Cake slices respectively, I looked around to see the other goodies in the café. My gaze landed on an old childhood delight – Ube Ensaymada.

Guiltless Strawberry is a nice coup de grace to lunch

Guiltless Strawberry is a nice coup de grace to lunch

Strong and flavourful Cafe Mocha goes well with Guiltless Strawberry

Strong and flavourful Cafe Mocha goes well with Guiltless Strawberry

Ensaymada is a throwback to the time the Philippines was a territory of the then super-power, Spain, for more than 300 years. In the Philippines, the Spanish ensaimada evolved into bread looking like the French brioche. Made from flour, eggs and butter, the finished product is sprinkled generously with sugar and cheese. Icings version is pure delight; in place of grated cheese are swirls of ube giving it that distinct Icings look and taste. Every Christmas, we’d have ube ensaymada and gifted a dear aunt of ours with a box. We simply had to share the goodness of ube ensaymada during the festive season! For me, it was truly Christmas even before December 25 arrived. But then Icings moved shop and it was goodbye ube ensaymada until that afternoon.

Without hesitation I had several pieces packed to go and raring to go back for more.



101 Scout Lazcano Street, Quezon City, Philippines

Tel: +63 3720351