Episode 20: Memories of Baguio (Part 4) – Cordilleran coffee, poetry fuel unleaded

I recently came across my old files in my laptop. One folder contained poems, random verses and paragraphs, and other forms of ranting that I wrote way back in college.

Two of the poems had words that were arranged to make the shape of coffee cups. One poem resulted in a perfect-looking cup, the other looked like a misshapen mug without a handle.

Admittedly I don’t remember when I wrote that mug poem, but I do know this was the same piece I read in that poetry reading event at Cafe By the Ruins.

My other poems were about the little things I experienced in Baguio, such as my first cigarette, hanging out in clubs, arcade games, even the more profound things that spice up poems like love, angst, confusion, and death.
I no longer write poetry (at least I’m no longer inspired to), but when I was living in Baguio, I wrote a lot. Come to think of it, writing was one of my pastimes in Baguio.
Much of my free time in college was spent hanging out in coffee shops, a pen on one hand and a steaming cup of coffee on the other. Baguio’s coffee shops proved to be the best venues to get one’s literary creative juices working, or should I say, wax poetic.

One of the coffee shops I frequent is Ionic Café, located above the Solibao Restaurant at Session Road. Ionic Cafe is a small, decent cafe, a good enough place to unwind. You can gaze at Session Road from where you’re sitting as you sip hot coffee or drink a beer in peace.
It gets better in the evening, when the place gets smoky and dimly lit, the music and the conversations become hushed… and the words and feelings start flowing.
Coffee shops like Ionic Cafe fuel my film noir fantasies: walking up the dimly lit stairs, sitting at a corner of the cafe with a lit cigarette as jazz music plays in the background, looking at the stars and the city lights from the window…
…Then gangsters enter the café and open fire, and you retaliate with pistols akimbo. And the doves, John Woo… Never forget the doves. Uh, wait…
Cafe San Luis was another place I patronized. I remember that the café (or all three branches of it – Bonifacio Street, Session Road, and Legarda Road) were very popular in the 1990s as one of the many hang-outs of artists, musicians, and coffee lovers.

Before I met my college friends, I would visit the Session Road branch and scribble a few lines while listening to music and sipping coffee or beer. When it moved to Legarda Road (the new place was quieter and even had a mini-library), I still made it a point to hang out there.

I also visited other coffee shops, though most of them are already closed. One such shop, located along Assumption Road, served brewed coffee and pastries, and played jazz and songs by Sting. Here my friends and I hang out and wax poetic about mundane stuff, literature, politics, fantasy, and the changing tides of life. It’s an internet café now.
There was another shop at the La Azotea Building that we always visit. We meet up there in the morning, hang out and have coffee until it’s time for school, and then come back in the afternoon. Sadly, it was closed down to give way to an internet café.

Then there was Luisa’s Café, another place I visit to have brewed coffee, a meal or two, and most of the time, a drink or more with the local journalists. Luisa’s Café is a favorite hang-out place of the Baguio media. But I think I’ll reserve my notes on this place for another article.

Coffee is an important product in the Cordillera Region. The region itself is a potential gold mine. Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifugao, Abra and Kalinga are known as the top producers of Arabica, Robusta, Excelsea, and even the expensive Kape Motit.

Baguio people definitely love their coffee. Every morning they would boil their Benguet Blend beans, pour the coffee into pots or dispensers, share or sell them to the public, and then gulp the liquid by the cupfuls. By now you should realize how cold Baguio’s temperature can get, especially at night, right?

The best way to enjoy coffee was to drink it black, though milk and sugar are welcome additions to the brew. Every meal goes well with coffee.

Drinking coffee is also a social activity. People find time to have coffee at any time of the day, and coffee shops are sometimes filled with patrons just hanging out to enjoy their warm drinks. People from all walks of life tend to meet and exchange ideas, thoughts, and information over coffee.

My love for writing grew up as I learned to appreciate Baguio’s coffee culture. The city’s atmosphere, along with the flavor and warmth of Cordillera’s coffee, nourishes my imagination, whether romantic, angst-ridden, or philosophical.

Baguio brings a refreshing, relaxing mood that invites the feeling of melancholy and nostalgia. It’s being so close to nature, the blue sky, the cool breeze and the trees and mountains that inspires the poet at heart.

(EDIT: Just a few months ago, I learned that Ionic Cafe has closed down, and its former area is now a dining area for Solibao Restaurant. Liters of tears fell that day.)


Coffee didn’t always involve poetry when I was in Baguio. After college, I spend my days reading news reports, writing my articles for the week, talking with people, or just relaxing after a long day at the provincial beat. All these I do with a cup of coffee ready at hand.

Yeah, after years of delving into poetry, I didn’t become a poet, but I became a reporter.


Up next… The gastronomic adventures of a cub reporter in Baguio.


Ionic Cafe

Session Road
Baguio City
Phone: (+6374) 4447480

One thought on “Episode 20: Memories of Baguio (Part 4) – Cordilleran coffee, poetry fuel unleaded

  1. Justine Lei Manuel October 29, 2016 / 3:40 pm

    Hi! It reopened in Baden Powell Hotel, although it is now in a smaller area with only 8 seating capacity 🙂


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