war on drugs

How Silingan Coffee helps kin of EJK victims pay their bills, share their stories


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How Silingan Coffee helps kin of EJK victims pay their bills, share their stories
Workers of the Cubao-based coffee shop have something in common – they are all relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings

MANILA, Philippines – In 2021, Redemptorist Brother Jun Santiago set up a small coffee shop with the help of a group of artists and media practitioners to help give jobs to the families of victims of extrajudicial killings during the pandemic, and to provide them an avenue to share their stories as well.

Santiago established Silingan Coffee at the Cubao Expo with the help of Respond and Break the Silence Against the Killings (RESBAK), which provided the space for the cafe. RESBAK is an alliance of artists and media practitioners who banded together to oppose Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and other human rights abuses. 

The name of the coffee shop is the Bisaya term for “neighbor,” reflecting the theme of the establishment that has become popular among students and human rights advocates.

“We’re not just selling coffees, we are also telling stories,” Santiago told Rappler.

Since it was founded in 2021, the cafe has not only improved its services – it now has a mobile kitchen at the Redemptorist Church in Parañaque – some of its staff have also developed the courage to share their experiences as relatives of EJK victims to any customers who wished to hear their stories. 


Nanette Castillo, 54, has been working as a barista at the Silingan mobile kitchen. In 2017, her son, Aldrin, was shot dead by five unidentified gunmen just a short distance from their house. Authorities classified Aldrin’s case as death under investigation, similar to other incidents of shooting involving unidentified suspects. 

Sa Silingan, masaya kasi para kaming family. Kasi pare-pareho kami (mga staff) ng pinagdaanan, pare-pareho kaming biktima ng EJK. Pare-pareho kaming nawalan at karamihan talaga mga breadwinner yung nawala,” she added. 

(We are happy in Silingan because we are like one family. The staff have been through the same thing, we are all victims of EJK. All of us lost our loved ones and most of us are breadwinners.)

MOTHER.  Nanette Castillo carries a laminated picture of her son Aldrin everywhere. Photo by Alexandria Magno.

Ann, who lost her son and husband to the drug war, also works as a barista in Silingan. The 49-year-old managed to do this while juggling her studies and other part-time jobs. 

Through the support of the cafe, she was able to regain hope. She said she saw the cafe as a temporary escape from the horrors brought by Duterte’s war on drugs. 

Kapag nagdu-duty ako masaya, kasi maski papaano nakakasama ko ‘yung kapwa ko biktima. Eto ‘yung pagkakataon na makakamusta mo, makakasama mo, nakikita mo na okay rin sila – kasi doon rin kayo magbibigayan ng lakas,” Ann said. 

(When I’m on duty, I’m happy because I’m with my fellow victims. This is our chance to catch up, spend time with each other, and make sure they are alright as well – this is where you will draw strength from each other.)

FAMILY. Silingan Coffee staff pose for a . Photo by Alexandria Magno.

Families of drug war victims continue to face challenges in seeking justice for their loved ones. Through the platform that Silingan has given to them, Castillo hopes to correct the misconceptions against EJK victims. 

“’Yung Silingan Coffee shop, hindi lang ito para sa mga sinasabi nilang pamilya ng adik – ang Silingan Coffee shop ay para sa mga nagmamahal sa karapatang pantao, sa mga nagmamalasakit sa tao, ‘yung mahilig makipagkapwa tao,” Castillo said.

(Silingan Coffee Shop is not just for the so-called families of drug addicts – Silingan Coffee shop is for those who respect human rights, care about people, and enjoy helping people.)

Message to Marcos

As they wait for the investigation of their relatives’ deaths to prosper, the staff at Silingan called on President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to show true “unity” by resolving the cases. They were asked what message they wanted to give the President as his first anniversary in Malacañang drew near.

Castillo said: “Gusto ko magpaka-presidente ka…. Tulad ng sinasabi mo, para magkaroon ng unity ang bansa, ipakita mo na nasa tama ka –paimbestigahan mo itong mga gumawa ng mga pagpatay na ‘to.”

(I want you to act like a president… As you always say, in order to have unity in the country, show us that you are doing the right thing – have these people who committed these killings investigated.) 

Castillo added that if the Philippines does not need to rejoin the International Criminal Court, as Marcos had said, he should then pursue all cases of drug war deaths without exception.

Bigyan mo ng ngipin ang batas at patunayan mo sa amin na wala kang kinikilingan (Give teeth to the law and prove that you do not favor anyone),” Castillo said. 

Marcos had said that he would continue Duterte’s war on drugs but in a ”slightly” different manner, making prevention and rehabilitation as his main priorities instead of focusing on purely law enforcement. Just months after his inauguration in 2022, he also said he does not intend to let the Philippines rejoin the International Criminal Court.

Ann, for her part, said: “Yung panawagan ko sa bago nating pangulo, sana bigyang pansin ‘yung mga biktima. Alam naman natin ‘yung naging history ng Marcoses pero ‘eto ‘yung pamamaraan na maipakita niya na iba siya bilang isang Marcos, iba siya bilang bagong pangulo.”

(My appeal to the President is to pay attention to the victims. We all know the history of the Marcoses but this is a way for him to show that he is different.) – Rappler.com/ with reports from Alexandria Magno. 

Alexandria Magno is a Rappler Volunteer from the University of Santo Tomas.

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