SURIGAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – A small group of relief work volunteers led by an Iligan City-based coffee shop owner has been brewing coffee for free for caffeine lovers in typhoon-ravaged Siargao Island since January 12.
Ryan Mueco and his group went to the island earlier in January to deliver relief goods, solar lights, and water filtration devices.
What they planned to be a side activity became the highlight of their voluntary community service, gifting islanders impacted by Typhoon Odette (Rai) with a small luxury amid the devastation.
Aside from artisan coffee, the group has also set up a charging station for mobile phones and other small gadgets across Payag Suites, just a few meters from the world-famous Cloud 9 area in Barangay Catangan, General Luna town.
On Thursday, January 20, alone the group served at least 150 cups of brewed coffee to people in the village that, until the Odette devastation, was a host to a string of coffee shops and tourism establishments.
“We learned a few coffee shops are opening back [in downtown General Luna], and so we moved here,” Mueco said.
His girlfriend Olli Sagarino and close friend Raven Benj Rodriguez have been Mueco’s helping hands in making coffee.
“It’s truly a luxury for people whose place was ruined. They can drop by, get some brewed coffee, and take a break from the day’s struggles,” Mueco told Rappler.
French resident Ambre Renaud said Mueco’s group served her “a great cup of coffee.”
“Nothing beats it,” said Renaud, adding that she knew that what she had was “made from the heart and passion.”
Niña Racho, a worker at Payag Suites, was thankful for the three cups of coffee she had and for being able to charge her mobile phone and other gadgets.
“I wish they will stay longer,” she said.
The group went to the island with a limited budget but decided to stay longer after friends sent them donations.
They said they would stay until their supplies last.
Mueco owns Gnar Co Cafe in Iligan City, which also makes an average of 150 cups of coffee a day. But there, it’s business; in Siargao, it’s purely for service to fellowmen.
Mueco is no stranger to Siargao – he lived in the town and worked as a barista cum chef in General Luna from 2015 to 2016.
He said he had planned to set up a branch of his coffee shop on Siargao until the typhoon crippled the island’s tourism sector. That plan took the backseat in December 2021.
Sagarino and Rodriguez said Mueco was in tears as soon as they set foot on the island on January 11.
“What he saw saddened him,” said Sagarino. “He has good memories of the island and has many friends here.”
The island, known as the Philippines’ surfing capital, had the most number of coffee shops in Caraga until December 2021, when Odette unleashed its fury and leveled the island. –Rappler.com