Coming together at Commune
MANILA, Philippines - Rosario Juan loves her coffee.
Not just drinking it, she claims. “I really like the whole culture that comes with it.”
For Ros, a place for coffee is a place where people come together. For her, gatherings are special. In many ways, she has been a proponent of bringing people together, whether it be for a good cause, a collaboration or just for fun time together.
Opening her own coffee shop was not just fitting: it was inevitable.
Ros made a name for herself as one of the co-founders of #TweetUpManila, the group that spearheaded projects like Social Media Day and that collaborated on efforts such as #RescuefPH.
But living with virtual connections was not enough.
She shares, “We were always looking for a venue for us to hang out in, for us to have an event in."
Her TweetUp Manila team, in particular, had been half-joking about setting up headquarters “at around the same time I said ‘I want a coffee shop',” laughs Ros.
And so Commune, a cozy little café-bar in the middle of Salcedo Village, came about.
In a year’s time, a vision was put into action, supported by a serendipitous turn of events and a family of food entrepreneurs.
The Juan pedigree is present: many of the meals are from the menu of Sa Banana by Binalot (owned by Ros' brother Rommel), while Commune’s very popular apple pie is home-baked by sister Rowie.
Tita Chit Juan (whom Ros works for, too) is one of the ladies behind the EchoStore businesses, and an active proponent in the Philippine Coffee Board. Her influence permeates through Ros’ advocacies and preferences: coffee is all local, and Tita Chit is working on getting local craft beers in the menu.
Food comes from sustainable and/or organic sources, depending on the availability. “For the rice meals, we have red rice and brown rice. We’re trying to make our dishes from sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients. Our vegetables actually come from our farm. We use free-range chicken.”
Dad being a foreman (he even took charge of making some of Commune’s furniture) has a lot to do with the other Juan family business: making and supplying jeepney body parts.
Slow down, enjoy
Ros maintains that Commune is her baby. The vision, decor, menu and environment she’s cultivating are all under her mandate. As she describes the place to Rappler, it was beginning to sound like a place where “Friends” meets “Cheers.”
“It’s really a place where friends can hang out. When you come here, there’s someone you know,” she says. More and more people are having their meals and coffee together at Commune, where they are encouraged to slow down and enjoy.
Ros explains this is because the café element of Commune is designed to be one of the purveyors of “third wave cafés."
"It’s this movement that has grown in the US; it’s coming to Southeast Asia. First wave was (around after the war, with) canned coffee. Second wave consisted of the chains: Starbucks, Coffee Bean, Seattle’s Best, all that.
“Third wave is really just going back to boutique coffee shops that give particular attention to the kind of coffee served, beans used, the coffee's origins — even how it’s prepared. There’s more attention to coffee; you go to a coffee shop because you want to enjoy your coffee."
Balance comes in the form of modern comforts, beginning with fast Internet and the plan for more innovative payment systems.
“It gets overwhelming,” Ros says. “We all want faster Internet, faster gadgets and all that. Everyday, yes, you want that, but every so often you want to slow down. That’s why people go to places where they can just calm down.”
Commune’s operations are still on soft opening; the menu is on its way to being finalized and the hours are still being adjusted.
“Right now, our hours are 8am to 10pm, but we plan to extend it for the after-work drinking crowd.”
The coffee is currently espresso-based, with regulars ordering the cappuccino often. “We’re working on adding a slow bar, so we have hand-dripped coffee. We also have an aero press,” Ros says.
Cocktails allow her to bring out the fun side of running a food-and-drink establishment.
Commune’s Instagram account has been teasing followers with drink concoctions and experiments, like this:
After all the emphasis on good food, coffee and drinks, Ros goes back to gathering people and building community.
“My definition of community springs from the groups I’m involved in," she says. "Friends, people in the same industry, in the same groups. This has become a hangout.”
While neighborhood folks do come by for coffee or to grab takeout on the way home from work, Ros is happiest when people plan to meet at Commune and spend time there. She is, in fact, opening Commune to events, particularly in the evenings and weekends.
As of writing, Commune has hosted several pocket events, like the demo of the e-Leksyon 2013 app last summer, as well as little gatherings of the Google Business Group.
“I’m talking to some friends about starting a book club," says Ros.
There is a definition of Commune written on the wall: "to talk over, to discuss, to communicate effectively."
It also says: "a place where you have great coffee."
It seems, though, that the definition begs to evolve. We’re waiting to see how the redefinitions will take shape as Commune continues on its way. - Rappler.com
Commune is at Liberty Plaza, 102 H.V. Dela Costa Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City