Episode 98: Spreading Christmas cheer with Blacksoup’s Suspended Noche Buena

15726353_10155004143187573_3853160072597708668_nI’ve been spending Christmas without immediate family around for a few years now. Most of the time, I spent it at work, after which I would buy a KFC meal and watch drama series at home. It’s quite lonely, but it was a good chance to have time for myself.

This year’s Christmas is different. Instead of celebrating it alone, I devoted my time for a worthwhile cause.

15741247_10155004146457573_7254132937462489720_nBlacksoup Café + Artspace started the Suspended Noche Buena project to provide food for the poor. The idea, which started in Europe, was for customers to buy meals for those who cannot afford it.

15747732_10155004141062573_6429558850952636599_nCustomers bought a suspended Noche Buena pack for P250 each. Each pack contained a serving of Spanish sardines with sundried tomatoes pasta, slices of ham and quezo de bola, Blacksoup’s deep fried pudding with caramel sauce, and a bottle of iced tea.

15672623_10155004139437573_6998660192975369947_nBlacksoup collected a total of 288 meals this year. Volunteers went around the streets and gave these away to street dwellers, beggars, and poor families.

15726384_10155004144332573_10487745477907442_nMy team – there were three of us, consisting of fellow volunteers Karl, Diane, and myself – ventured on Christmas Eve around Quezon Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, and the Ermita-Malate district in Manila to give away these Noche Buena meals.

Joining the Suspended Noche Buena project was quite an adventure, especially that children and adults (even the unsavory ones, admittedly) flocked to us to get food packs. More importantly, it was a reminder of the struggles that the poor endure this Christmas, much more throughout the year. We’re glad that the food packs we distributed found their way to those who truly need them.

15727067_10153995395945124_1450896553784458874_nWe’d like to thank Blacksoup Café + Artspace for giving us the opportunity to make others’ Christmas a little more cheerful. I for one look forward to helping out again someday.

The number of the poor and hungry is ever growing. May the ranks of those who can reach out to them increase as well.

 

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Episode 51: The Heartwarming Story of Suspended Coffee

Food is meant to be shared, so people say. Offering someone your food is known as a part of Filipino hospitality. It’s also a way of showing charity for the hungry, and an act of welcoming for those who aren’t.

It’s nice to share food and all, but have you thought of offering some to someone you don’t know? Somewhere, there’s a poor, hungry fellow who can’t have a bite or drink because he doesn’t have the means. Ever thought of buying food from a place you’re dining, and then having someone less fortunate partake of it?

The people of Naples, Italy were the first to work on that idea. We now call that “suspended coffee.

“Wikipedia defines suspended coffee (caffè sospeso in Italian) as “a cup of coffee paid for in advance as an anonymous act of charity.” It is said that in Naples, someone would order suspended coffee by paying for two coffees but consuming only one. When a poor person later on asks for a suspended coffee, the extra cup would be served to him.

The suspended coffee tradition died down a bit until around 2008, during the so-called Great Recession and the European debt crisis. It became a symbol of solidarity, kindness, and generosity, which is now being practiced around Europe and other countries.

The Philippines became one of the latest to practice the suspended coffee tradition. Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace, a restaurant in Quezon City co-owned by Bodjie Pascua (“Kuya Bodjie” from “Batibot”) started its version of suspended coffee on Easter Sunday (March 31).

Customers may order any food or drink as “suspended”, which the restaurant will keep as food stubs. These stubs are then given to beggars, the homeless, or anyone who is in need of something to eat or drink. Sometimes, Blacksoup staff would go around and distribute the “suspended” food items.

Blacksoup has become popular because of this initiative, though long before that, it has been one of the most frequented places in Metro Manila. Kuya Bodjie said Blacksoup started out as a film collective, but soon it became known for its film and book collections, poetry reading and art sessions, and their take on “Filipino and Asian fusion” cuisine.

A good meal at Blacksoup may start with appetizers, soups and salads, such as Hot Balut and the Crab & Mango Rolls. One cannot also miss their specialty pastas such as the Blacksoup Pasta (squid, fish egg, nori and Japanese mayo – my favorite), Aligue (crab fat with capers and basil) and You Won’t Be Single For Long (tomatoes and onions with vodka cream).

They also have special dishes for more discriminating (and extravagant) tastes, such as lamb inasal, marinated porkchop with herb salsa and rice, and baked salmon. (I haven’t tried them. Well, sorry for being poor.)

Blacksoup’s sandwiches are worth trying too, especially for those who want light but satisfying meals. The cheese pimiento and tofu burgers would be on the top of my list. What a tasty way to avoid meat (seriously)! To end the meal, one can avail of their selection of ice cream desserts, hot and cold teas, shakes, and even red wine or beer.

The restaurant serves special menus weekly, so there’s always something new to dine on. What I’ve tried so far (actually way back) were the mushroom and onion soup, the spicy barbecued shrimp with baby potatoes and the guyabano ice cream.

Like I mentioned, one can buy any item from Blacksoup’s menu, and have them classified as “suspended.” It doesn’t matter what you buy, be it a luxurious steak or a simple salad. What matters is you are able to transmit your good intentions and prayers for a well-nourished tummy to those who need them.

Blacksoup’s suspended coffee initiative is still ongoing, and it has reached out to dozens of needy people. It has also inspired hundreds of patrons to share their food – and by extension, their blessings – to others, not only by buying suspended items, but also to reach out to others on their own.

The suspended coffee movement is a definite example of the greatness of the human spirit. I say it is when a person opens his heart willingly to others, when he shows compassion and practices charity whole-heartedly, when a person shares a part of himself, then the world becomes a better place, one suspended cup after another.

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Blacksoup Cafe + Artspace
154 Maginhawa St., Sikatuna Village, QC
Tel. Nos. 435 2549 / 0915.3055480