YAKA: How a temporary restaurant turned into Bukidnon’s busy, beloved art hub

John Sitchon
YAKA: How a temporary restaurant turned into Bukidnon’s busy, beloved art hub
In Bisaya, yaka means 'to sit on the ground' or 'squat,' which is what many of YAKA’s patrons do

CEBU, Philippines – For the past few years, Bukidnon’s musicians and creatives have gathered to celebrate art and passion in local restaurant YAKA.

While the restaurant’s name may sound odd, it’s actually a quip on the kind of accommodations customers will find upon arriving. In Bisaya, yaka means “to sit on the ground” or “squat,” which is what many of YAKA’s patrons do.

YAKA was established during the month-long Kaamulan Festival in 2017, according to founder Wally Allegado, the male vocalist and guitarist of indie folk-rock band Shades of Native

YAKA. YAKA Founders Wally Allegado (right) and wife Elena (left) in their cozy business establishment. Photo courtesy of Wally Alegado.

“Me and my wife (Elena) decided to stay for the Kaamulan Festival last 2017, after our wedding here in Bukidnon, before going back to Cebu where we were currently based at the time. Then I decided to not just celebrate the said festival, but to also take part as one of the merchants/businesses for it, and was lucky to secure the last slot,” said Allegado in an exclusive interview with Rappler.

The Kaamulan Festival is a cultural festival held annually in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon from the second half of February to March 10. Normally, art exhibits and musical gatherings are part of the festivities.

Later on, Allegado would invite his business partners, couple Saturn Karnani and Jade Silabay-Karnani, to join in on developing YAKA, which at the time was just an open-air hut resto.

“We opened late and we ran out of chairs to rent, which prompted me to just ditch the chairs and let people sit on the floor while leaving their footwear outside. [That’s when] YAKA came to life,” he said.

Allegado and his fellow musicians in Bukidnon then ran multiple acoustic nights and open mics to entertain customers. These events soon attracted musicians from all around the Philippines.

“A few prominent artists who’ve jammed and performed in YAKA are Paolo and Miguel of Ben&Ben, Jireh Lim, Jim Cubel, Bea Lorenzo, Missing Filemon, Powerspoonz, Kadangyan, Kaduma ni Karol, Pintig, Waway Saway and the Talaandig Republic, and Shades Of Native. We also hosted the 6th Mindanao Music camp,” said Allegado.

MUSIC. Wally (left) shares a laugh with fellow Shades of Native band members. Photo courtesy of Wally Alegado.

Due to the overwhelming number of guests in 2017, Allegado and the Karnanis decided to make what was supposed to be a temporary, “festival season-only” resto into a full-blown business. 

“YAKA has stood at the forefront of musical innovation in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, inspiring artists to collaborate and make original music…[and] encouraging young artists to write songs during our YAKA singer-songwriters night, and showcasing local talents,” said Allegado.

While music is the central element of YAKA, their food is nothing to sneeze at, either. They serve specialty burgers, beer, and only recently, specialty coffee.

Their YAKA cheeseburger is P110. They also have buffalo wings for P145, and lechon kawali for P244. Their best seller is the YAKA Bud Burger, which you can get for P170.

YAKA. The resto’s cozy interior. Photo courtesy of Wally Alegado.

The restaurant is open from 11 am to 9:30 pm daily, and can be found near the Capitol Grounds in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

You can call them at (088) 314 1153, or reach them through their Facebook page– Rappler.com

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