Café by the Ruins to find a new home

In Photo: Baguio City artists, longtime friends and owners of Cafe by the Ruins Laida Lim and Benedicto Cabrera attend the closing of the coffee shop on July 20. The coffee shop served as one of the top gastronomic destinations in Baguio through out its 29 years of existence.

BAGUIO CITY—Cafe by the Ruins, a popular café featuring signature dishes with touches of indigenous ingredients and a place to show off the artwork of local artists, is now looking for a new home, 29 years after it set up a restaurant amid the ruins of war across the Baguio City Hall.

Known as “The Café” among its owners and friends, a group of like-minded friends who wanted to support the art and culture scene of the city got together to build a lean-to kind of structure made of bamboos and a cogon-grass roof, prodding founding member Adelaida Lim to offer her delectable dishes served in countless get-togethers where the idea of The Café was hatched.

To the surprise of its original owners—Laida Lim, national artist Benedicto Cabrera, Louie and Sue Llamado, Boy Yuchengco and those who have passed away—The Café became successful, continuing even after some founding members passed away: Christine Arvisu, on whose family compound stood The Café; the late anthropologist Dave Baradas; iconic artist Robert Villanueva; and journalist and painter Baboo Mondonedo.

In fact, from the profits of The Café, the group set up Café Dua on Upper Session Road, managed by their children. It keeps the tradition of getting its ingredients and food needs daily from the market and cooking it like the old way of slow cooking for which The Café was well known for.

“In the beginning, we just wanted to provide a venue where the arts can thrive,” Lim said.  “We wanted to create a space where artists can be comfortable.” Art festivals, international and local, were planned out at the café, that placed Baguio on the map of art scenes.

Regular art exhibits were held at the café and artists would often come together and beat percussion instruments by a bonfire at the dap-ay (a circular,  stone-paved structure) built by Villanueva where they shared their ideas and passion.

The Café also had its social responsibility that served soup during the aftermath of the 1990 earthquake and devastating Typhoon Pepeng in 2010.

The original owners have since passed their shares to their kids, who will soon manage the new café to be put up.

Fifi Perez, daughter of Laida, said the new café, while aiming to maintain a rustic touch, will be more modern. Much will depend on the character of property they acquire, but one requirement will be that it must have a garden, as the dap-ay will be transferred there.

The new-generation owners intend to keep the creative ambience alive by running the new café also as an art gallery. The spirit of community service will also be carried on.

In April  The  Café was gutted down by a fire. But, this time around, there will be no rising from the ashes and the ruins. The Café held a ritual canao (festivity) on July 20 as a grateful closure and to invoke blessings for a new beginning.

The young ones say 29 years is a long time. They say it’s time to move forward, and they are buzzing with exciting new ideas on creating a new version of old sentiments for the arts and community involvement, perked up by millennial energies and technology.



Image credits: Marilou Guieb

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