MANILA, Philippines - A restaurant owner’s therapy for his bipolar disorder turns out to be a culinary adventure.
Devon Wong tells that story.
Jetro Rafael embraces his disorder.
It’s not just the artwork, eccentric furnishings or travel souvenirs throughout his home.
Jetro is clinically diagnosed as bipolar.
But it wasn’t always easy.
Jetro will tell you that the version of him you meet today was born of a series of accidental discoveries.
He believes he was born crazy, but wasn’t certain until he was clinically diagnosed.
JETRO RAFAEL, VAN GOGH IS BIPOLAR OWNER: I felt shame, lots of anger and resentment.
Jetro began researching alternative remedies for his condition.
Then he realized that he could cook.
JETRO RAFAEL: And so, I discovered all these different types of food that are known for their mood altering properties. And then I started designing my own diets, which I call ‘the Cuckoo diet.’
Friends encouraged Jetro to share his culinary talent, and Van Gogh is Bipolar was born.
Jetro runs the restaurant all on his own.
He greets, cooks, serves, and happily entertains all his guests with his many stories.
It may seem strange that guests are asked to follow a list of house rules when they arrive, but for Jetro, this is quite literally his home.
JETRO RAFAEL: This is my home, my sanctuary. And I always say, this is an accidental restaurant.
It’s not just the food or intimate hospitality that keeps his loyal customers returning.
His diners support his mission to raise mental health awareness in the Philippines.
This small scale operation has already received international notice but Jetro maintains it’s less about the food and more about the therapy.
JETRO RAFAEL: It’s healing me. So it’s my best way to share whatever gift and experience I’ve had in this place. Cooking is part of my psychotherapy.
Jetro expects to keep running and making more accidental discoveries that hopefully his guests will find delicious.
JETRO RAFAEL: I see my condition now as a gift, more than a doomed curse. It’s a gift. It just so happens that I’m different.
Devon Wong, Rappler, Quezon City.