Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Another Coffee Break
....or: Getting ahead of myself.

Written in: Greenbelt Mall, Makati City, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu
Previous Post: Meycauayan, Laguna, and Tagaytay!

Factoid: There is a Tagalog Idiom belittling change or small amounts of money.

"Wala yan! Pang KAPE lang yan!"

(Oh that's nothing! That's just Coffee break money!)


I am getting ahead of myself.

I should be narrating my (mis)adventures in the order that I experienced them, but this one just can't be helped.

In another post, I wondered out loud how come a particular coffee shop existed in the Philippines.

In that post I said these things:

"Philippine society, I would have thought, simply is not composed of enough coffee drinkers that I would expect can appreciate, let alone support, such a chain. I mean, how can Filipinos go from ignoring brewed coffee offered in doughnut shops and fastfood chains, to enjoying very EXPENSIVE gourmet coffee?"

I... uhm.... made a mistake. What mistake? The mistake of pigeon-holing a whole society, and nation for that matter, into one category. What category? The category of err.. incapable-of-appreciating-gourmet-coffee-probably category of people.

It's a mistake akin to saying: Canadians love Hockey.

...well , that's probably a bad example - Canadians DO love Hockey.

What I'm trying to say is that the Philippines is composed of 7,107 Islands, populated by about 85 Million people (as of this writing, year 2007), spread about in 16 different and distinct administrative and governmental regions, and speaking 170 languages. Source (other sources state 168)

Out of all those places and people, there are enough who could probably enjoy gourmet coffee, yes? You know, the young urban professional, the highly educated, urbane and sophisticated, well-moneyed types who can afford, and patronize, the offerings of Starbucks - often in the triple peso digits?

Well, turns out, there ARE.

*Pauses to take a sip of his Sumatra*

Right now, as I type this, I am staying with my Tito Dodo in Makati - the Philippines' Premier Business District. It has also been dubbed the "Wall Street" of Metro Manila. These labels alone should give a hint: This is perhaps the most cosmopolitan city in the Philippines. And no, I'm not talking about the amount of foreigners roaming the place - of which there are many. I'm talking about the flavour - the architecture, the restaurants bars and food establishments, the high rise condo housing, and finally, the business shops. It is, in this respect, so international in its outlook, its execution, and in its sophistication.

No mystery then that, in the Philippines, this place holds the most Starbucks' stores.

Also, in my defense there's the fact that prior to our migrating to Canada, I was a promdi.

Promdi is a somewhat derogatory term used to describe those people, from the provinces. It is a caricature of the unsophisticated, sometimes uneducated, oft times a simpleton, rural dweller. While we (as a family) were not like that at all, I was just fifteen when we moved. Mangmang pagdating sa pamumuhay sa Maynila (Uninformed regarding Manila's lifestyle.)

My mental archive isn't just ten years out of date, it is also a little narrow in scope. It is that of a 15 year old's. When we left, the fine details of Philippine Urban life was still unknown to me - I was not aware (or did not care... either/or) about how trendy, fast paced, and westernized Metro Manila truly was (and is)...

It was in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where I got "urbanized" and truly exposed to city living. And that's not saying much, because Alberta can be absolutely rednecky when you truly get to know it! Only now am I finding out that Manila is a mega city like any other - third world, first world, whatever. Megacities have everything and do everything big.

Virgin terrain in this Existential Trip.

Then there too is the tremendous disparity between the haves and have-nots in this country, and between the lifestyles in the provinces and that in Greater Manila Area.

I saved up for this trip by driving a dump truck, shoveling dirt, and digging holes during Alberta's Summer months. I kept the partying and gigs to a minimum - almost nonexistent in fact. I lived an austere few months just so I could save enough for tickets and pocket money. But even then, I could walk into a Starbucks - either in Canada or here in the Philippines - and not necessarily have to give up anything. I mean, I flinch at the cost because it's twice Tim Horton's or any fastfood coffee; but I CAN afford it easily with a construction Peon's wage.

Can someone here in the Philippines who shovels dirt, sticks plants to the ground, and drives around hauling cow shit in a dump truck walk without guilt into a Starbucks and drop three peso digits just for a Caffeine hit?

Truth is, Starbucks is a luxury that simply cannot be enjoyed by a vast majority of Filipinos - not even on a rare occasion.

That idiom might have to evolve.

"Wala yan! Pang KAPE lang yan! Pwera na lang kung mag i-istarbak ka!"

("That's nothing! That's just Coffee Break Money! Unless you want Starbucks' ".)

Related FlickR photos.

Next post: New Year's Eve to the New Year


Blogger karlodl said...

hey, thanks for linking me. I already changed my blogname to "The Sleepy Traveler" though.

Keep posting.

Karlo de Leon

8:29 PM  
Blogger StrayDog said...

Thanks as well.

9:12 PM  
Anonymous Ferdz said...

Hey thanks for the visit. I'm pure Pinoy though. That header image isn't me, got it from a stock photo. I'll replace it with a Philippine Flag :D hehe

11:04 AM  

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