A lot of people have asked why I decided to call the cafe, “Commune.” The simple answer is because I wanted Commune to be a place where people would gather over delicious coffee. But it really is much more than that.
When I started imagining what my cafe would be some day, I knew it would be a place that championed #PhilippineCoffee because that’s what I was exposed to and it was an advocacy I embraced early on. That was what the cafe would do. But what the cafe would be is a place for people to come together: to gather, discuss, perform, speak, debate, create and ultimately, collaborate. I dreamt of communal tables where strangers would sit and and then serendipitously meet so that when they leave, they have ideas for projects together, shared advocacies, collaborative ideas.
I dreamt of having a space like Gertrude Stein’s Saturday salons or like the old European coffeehouses, where great minds would gather to have meaningful conversations and to give birth to revolutionary ideas.
I remember, on one of our last nights in Commune Salcedo, the place was packed…a bunch of friends came and so did a whole lot of regular guests. I got a kick out of introducing people to each other. And I stood by the coffee bar and smiled to myself because that moment, my vision was fulfilled.
When we moved to Poblacion, we were blessed with even more space. We could host more communities, workshops and events and it was more space to realize the dream. And it came naturally — being a safe space for the LGBT community, a safe space for mental health, a place where gender neutral bathrooms were perfectly normal and where some Sundays we had the Filipino Freethinkers debating about the most controversial topics while a religious community worshipped on other Sundays.
More than keeping everyone awake with amazing local coffee sourced from our farmer partners, Commune is a venue…a safe space for communities of people who know each other and communities of people who have yet to know each other.
I am writing this hours after an impromptu tweetup turned into a serendipitous meetup where a group of 10 people of different religions, backgrounds and varying political views, sat together as friends just learning about each other, our country and its people. Such a lively, eye-opening, mind-blowing discussion. Discussions such as these need a venue outside the internet, in real life, face-to-face. And I am glad Commune can be that place.