Monday, August 01, 2011

Timeless Friendships at OId Cafe

Took this photo at the Old Manila Café in Dela Rosa – a small, humble coffee shop that I have long wanted to try out. It's a lovely, rustic hangout that feels almost like home (well, at least for someone like me who... misses what a home really feels like).

July 31 had been a long day. Helping out a friend with his engagement proposal was like a walk in the park – on a stormy day. Not that I'm complaining; I enjoyed the challenge of being the 'supporting cast' for the 'protagonist' as he becomes the hero of the day. And the success of the surprise within a surprise idea was worth all the effort (except for some gaffs on my part). And so with a sigh of relief, we left the party venue – and with a sigh of loneliness, I sadly smiled knowing that I'll be walking home again alone... to spend the rest of another weekend on the internet.

"Ron, sama ka sa amin!" I heard a voice call out to me. It was one of my church friends. The gang consisted of Benjamin, Iris, Archie, Faye, Ryan and Charlotte – all paired couples. They were inviting me to join them for coffee at McCafé.

Three couples and a single guy. Talk about being a third wheel.

Since the alternative was another afternoon waiting for some new 9gag post to laugh about, or watch another downloaded movie (which I still did afterwards, anyway), I promised to catch up with them after I drop off some stuff.

Being the only 'single' person in a group is awkward. Nonetheless, I enjoyed observing them (and being the apologetic customer for the ruckus that the three boys were making). Although the price was a bit... pricey, the comfortable atmosphere evoked by the tastefully-done interior design was enough to stir the sentimentality in me.

But what touched me the most was the sincere hospitality and amiability of the shopkeepers. Well, of course – we were customers. And sadly, we were the only ones on that afternoon. Stirring up a conversation with them, I found out that they only had two branches; they said the original shop located in Intramuros had already closed down. Behind their smiles, I could feel a hint of worry mixed with hopefulness; they both loved the shop as much as their own.

I recalled all those times I stayed at Starbucks, back when I was earning more. And in my mind, I counted the times I was annoyed by their uncaring staff (versus the times I had a crush on a female crew, or chanced up the much-coveted sofa sets). Why did I ever wanted to hangout at Starbucks, anyway?

I remember the small coffee shop that my friend Basil introduced to me earlier this year. It was located at the most unexpected (yet sentimental) spot in Naga City: inside the Basilica compound (a prominent Catholic cathedral). It was a quiet, hidden nook that served cheap but satisfying coffee. It was a perfect place for friends to get reacquainted, forget the time – or rewind some stories so we can catch up on each other.

Being the only single guy in the group of three couples, it felt very awkward. But it didn't matter. I knew I was with good friends, despite the fact that this was practically the second time I actually spent time with them. And in my heart, I wished it won't be the last.


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