San Narciso’s beaches in Zambales, with the most popular arguably being Crystal Beach, are well-known for waves perfect for surfing the pine-like agoho trees rising from volcanic ash-gray sand. (READ: The waves of Zambales)
San Narciso has more to offer, though. Just a tricycle ride away from San Narciso’s beaches and located in the town proper is a beautiful garden café decorated with paintings and calligraphy.
What makes the café extra special is that it employs people with special needs and disabilities, or differently abled people.
Some of the artwork in the café are also made by people with special needs and disabilities. Upon entering, you come across wooden chairs, sofas, and other seats surrounded by greenery, flowering shrubs, and colorful paintings of animals and usually bright objects, as well as inspiring quotes in calligraphy.
You are also greeted by welcoming smiles from the staff. Above are paper lanterns which look magical at night.
Julyan’s Coffee Spot was founded by Rachel Harrison, a local who returned to her hometown to build a home for her son with autism. In their home-turned-resort, her 26-year-old son Julyan channels his energy into surfing, farming, doing household chores, and painting.
Some of the artwork at Julyan’s Coffee Spot are painted by Julyan, some are painted by other people with special needs, while the rest are made by the café’s manager Jennyfer Uy, who also runs art workshops at the café, which is also an arts and skills center. She was the one who taught Julyan painting.
Uy says the employees with special needs and disabilities wear a pin that mentions their being differently-abled so customers know. She said that when trained well, people with special needs and disabilities can also work well and are very focused on their tasks.
Eighteen-year-old Ace Salvador, who was diagnosed with an learning disability and polio, for example, takes the initiative during his shift to sweep the floor and wipe the tables. He also helps in prepping the food and shopping in the market for ingredients.
Before working at Julyan’s Coffee Spot, Salvador was already helping his mother out in a resort where she works.
Thirty-four-year-old Christian Cunanan, who has a learning disability, is known for his friendly smile. He’s enthusiastic about his work as he uses his salary to help out in his family’s expenses. He always looks forward to bringing money home to his parents.
Salvador and Cunanan are just two of the employees with special needs and disabilities at Julyan’s Coffee Spot. Both study at an elementary school in the neighboring town of San Antonio and work at the café when they have no classes.
Uy says that they reached out to the Special Education departments of schools in San Narciso and neighboring towns to recruit employees and interns. Their efforts are well-received, and the students there learn new skills working at Julyan’s Coffee Spot. She teaches them to do barista work like mixing drinks, preparing food, among other skills. Some, after gaining experience, get employed in other places.
Seeing the employees at Julyan’s Coffee Spot learning and working happily give Uy a sense of fulfillment. She reveals that she has a young daughter who died early. Working at Julyan’s Coffee Spot and looking after its employees feels a bit like being a mother to her.
She also loves holding art workshops. Recently, both fully-abled students and students with special needs and disabilities from San Narciso and neighboring towns gathered for a painting session at the coffee shop. Some of the current coffee shop employees also joined in.
While what Harrison and Uy are doing with Julyan’s Coffee Spot may be considered special, the Philippines’ Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) (Republic Act 10524) requires government agencies to reserve 1% of jobs for PWDs. Private corporations with over 100 employees are encouraged to do the same.
The same law also requires equal employment opportunities for PWDs. It is Harrison’s hope that more companies and organizations employ more people with special needs and disabilities.
Should you visit Julyan’s Coffee Spot, enjoy the ambiance of art and plants and be patient with the differently abled employees. You may have to write your orders down, depending on the person attending to your table. Remember to watch out for the special pin!
Try the macopa shake (P95). Their milk teas (P85 up) and colorful frappes (P85 up) are good, too.
Other must-tries are the beef burger sliders (P180 up), the bacon burger (P199), and the gourmet tuyo pasta (P180), among others. The café also has rice meals with chicken, pork, or beef (P180 up).
The café also makes an environment-friendly effort – metal straws are available for drinks. – Rappler.com
Claire Madarang is a writer, researcher, and documenter whose work and wanderlust takes her to adventures like backpacking for 7 weeks and exploring remote islands and bustling cities alike. Follow her adventures, travel tips, and epiphanies on her blog Traveling Light and on her Instagram.