Coffee has become a huge part in the lives of many, especially of Filipinos. For instance, they can’t start their mornings without drinking this beverage. Students always have coffee as their study buddy which makes them more focused and invigorated. But more than the satisfaction that it gives us, coffee has helped some of us reach their dreams and even helped many of us make a living, just like these baristas featured in the June 12 episode of Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan.
One of them is 20-year old Carl Johannes Gamboa who owns “PadyaKape,” a makeshift mobile coffee bar which became popular on social media. Netizens applauded him for his creativity and resourcefulness, coupled with his love for coffee. Carl grew up with and was raised by his Nanay Aida, the cousin of his grandmother. And he considers her as both his mother and father. In fact, his love for coffee started when Nanay Aida introduced him to it. And drinking coffee would always be their bonding time. And Carl noticed that he becomes extra active in school when he drinks coffee.
But coffee has also taken a huge part not only in his student life but also in his love life. In fact, Carl and his girlfriend Hanna Febrer who’s the co-owner of PadyaKape would usually have their dates in coffee shops. Hanna actually gave Carl brewing equipment because of his enthusiasm when it comes to coffee. Carl eventually became even more interested in brewing different kinds of coffee. He would watch online videos about it and would even join forums.
But one painful event would change Carl’s life forever. It was when his Nanay Aida passed away two years ago. It was so heartbreaking for Carl because he lost someone he grew up with, someone who became his family. But he promised that he would finish his studies for her. However, Carl was challenged to fulfill his promise because of financial problems especially when the pandemic started. But it was still his love for coffee that helped him provide for himself so that he could continue his studies. At first, his girlfriend suggested to sell the coffee that he brews. They first started selling it in front of their house, however, they weren’t able to have enough sales.
One day, his girlfriend showed him a video of John Rey Plaza, also a barista and owner of Kapeweñoz Specialty Coffee. In the video, John Rey was serving coffee to joggers at the park using his brewing equipment and his motorcycle, and that’s where he got the idea of selling coffee on wheels using their bicycle which they customized. They started their “coffee on wheels” business at Quirino Grandstand and on their first day, they already had many customers and later on, PadyaKape went viral on social media. And this became the reason why Carl was able to finish his studies and fulfill his promise to his Nanay Aida. Carl owes a lot to John Rey who gave him and his girlfriend the idea and inspiration to start a “coffee on wheels” business. Carl gave John Rey a boat miniature which symbolizes sailing and how John Rey brings with his journey our coffee farmers who produce local beans.
John Rey hails from Davao and he comes from a very simple family. When he was still young, they had financial struggles as his parents did not have regular jobs. John Rey had to exert his own efforts so he could continue his studies. Back then, he would sell cigarettes and would collect garbage from his school. And he used the money that he earned from it for his expenses in school including his tuition fee.
He had various jobs which helped him provide for his family but being a barista was the craft that he loved the most. At 21, he applied at several known coffee shops in Davao, hoping that he would land a job as a barista, and he successfully did. He learned very well the art of brewing coffee because he wanted to have his own coffee shop someday with his brother. However, John Rey would stop working as a barista for six months because of the unexpected incident that happened to his brother. One time, while working at a coffee shop, his brother suddenly arrived drunk. John Rey asked him to remain outside of the establishment, unaware that his brother was in danger. A group of men attacked his brother and stabbed him. John Rey blamed himself for what happened because he thought that if he just let his brother stay inside the coffee shop, it couldn’t have happened.
After six months, John Rey was able to overcome his trauma from that very painful event and he regained his motivation to get back to work. He even became more successful in the craft as he became a professional barista and coffee roaster. It was in 2018 when John Ray became interested in joining competitions for latte art making. Just a year after that, he became the champion in one of the national competitions. However when the pandemic started, the coffee shop that he was working for was forced to close. John Rey thought of trying out other means of providing for his family. And that’s when Kapeweñoz Specialty Coffee started. After just a short period of time, people loved it and it became very successful. And John Rey gives huge thanks and appreciation to his mentor and former co-worker Wilson John Benolirao who experienced working as a roaster in Qatar and also went to Ethiopia where coffee originated. Wilson willingly shared his knowledge about the craft to John Rey which then inspired him to pursue his goals of having his own coffee business.
Wilson is currently working as operations manager and head roaster in Abu Dhabi, UAE. His late father used to work as a seaman while his mother worked in an office. Wilson always dreamt of having his own family sharing the same tight bond he always had with his parents and siblings. However, one of the most challenging times that his family experienced was when his father became bedridden for two years. Everyone in the family took care of his father who did not survive his illness and eventually passed away. It greatly affected the whole family, especially their relationship with each other. The bond was not as close as it was before and they experienced depression as they couldn’t accept what happened to his father.
Wilson chose to leave his family temporarily that time because of the depression he was experiencing. In order to survive, he sought a job and was forced to stop school and decided to work. He landed a job at a coffee shop and he started to work as a waiter. But eventually, he became interested in how the baristas do their work. His passion for coffee art was born and he decided to pursue that as his career. Later on, Wilson was able to work as the head barista.
And his passion for making coffee also led the way for him to meet the love of his life and to build his family. It was in a regional competition where he met his now wife. Their personalities clicked and he was amazed because she’s also a barista. Eventually they got married and had a daughter. However, life would test him again when their daughter was diagnosed with meningitis and eventually passed away. Wilson and his wife held on to each other during those trying times. They then decided to work abroad and that’s when they were able to start to raise a family anew, having another daughter, and Wilson was able to work as the head barista. And he owes a lot to his former employer in Davao, Mark Seng, one of the owners of Kangaroo Coffee company where Wilson got his first lessons in coffee making. Apart from being Wilson’s boss, he was also present to give advice to Wilson whenever he would have problems. Wilson said that if it weren’t for Mark, he wouldn’t be where he is now. He gave his former boss coffee beans which symbolize all the encouragement that Mark was able to give him.
Kangaroo Coffee became a really popular coffee shop in Davao especially in 2009. It was visited by many students and professionals. Mark didn’t originally like drinking coffee but when he was able to try freshly brewed coffee, he realized that he actually liked it. Mark comes from a Chinese family and his parents had high expectations from him as they wanted him to continue their family business which is SKS Interiors, Inc. where they sell construction materials. Before, Mark would just accept his fate of taking over their family business because he wasn't able to explore yet his interests during that time. When he was in college, the first course that he took was Political Science because his family also saw the potential in him to become a lawyer in the future. He became independent and was able to explore more things he could do aside from their family business. And he spent most of his time thinking about his life direction in the coffee shop. But Mark still tried to understand his parents, that's why he shifted from Political Science to Marketing Management.
After two years, he flew to London to continue college. Little did Mark know that that would be the time when he would finally come to realize what he really wants to pursue for his career path. While studying, he decided to find work and he landed a job at Soho in London which is also called the red light district. But aside from that, Mark noticed that it was also a place for artists. And that served as an eye-opening experience for Mark. That’s where he learned about the operations in a coffee shop and the standards of service required as a barista.
When he came back to the Philippines, Mark thought about setting up his own coffee shop business. At first, he wasn’t supported by his parents because they thought that it wasn’t going to succeed. But Mark was persistent and worked hard to make it work. Eventually, his parents believed in him and supported him. Mark wanted to be highly involved in every aspect that’s why he made the operations manual, and the design as well of the coffee shop. He was also the one teaching the baristas, making recipes and new drinks.
Since he also had a background in events, he used Kangaroo Coffee Shop as a platform for product launches and special events like mini concerts. However in 2017, they noticed that the profit was going down because of new competitors. That’s why he decided to close it. But Mark did not see it as a failure, but rather as a learning experience. Kangaroo Coffee Company did not only bless him but all his employees who were given a stable source of income because of their work at the coffee shop. And above all, the coffee shop impacted the lives of the people who supported it.
Mark’s success due to hard work and persistence inspired Wilson to reach and achieve his dreams for a passion John Rey learned to take on and embrace as well, making him think of ingenious ways to also pursue it. And this same ingenuity helped a struggling Carl to recover from his woes and succeed.
A chain of kindness and inspiration we feature each week on Paano Kita Mapasasalamatan, hosted by Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo, Saturdays at 7pm on the Kapamilya Channel, Kapamilya Online Live, and A2Z Channel 11.