Just as I am launching my three-day Bacólod On Low Budget series, I am also launching The Hacienda Correspondent. The Hacienda Correspondent is a feature series promoting the best of local products especially Negros-made. A “hacienda hat”, what I dubbed the native-made cowboy hat, will be the trademark of this endeavour. Fancy in a low budget is the hardest idea one could come up but in Bacólod City, this is where your affordability and high-end have their happy and blissful marriage. For Negrénse men, a cup of coffee in the morning is a must but being sociable people, coffee loving intelligentsia crowd in coffee shops to talk about the latest issues locally, nationally and internationally. If there is any place time-weathered men of wisdom go, it would be Kape Mabuhay in Libertad Public Market.
Kape Mabuhay is known to local coffee lovers for having a tasty and aromatic coffee blend. For a small coffee shop located in a side puesto of a local market, the place has its fancy treats too. One thing I observed about the coffee shop is the absence of pastries and local delicacies. People actually go there for the coffee while bringing with them plastics of warm pandesal bought from a nearby bakery. For those who want a protein mix with their breakfast, the crew of Kape Mabuhay will oblige to an order of fried eggs cooked in their small kitchen which is within sight of my table. With the backdrop of old men talking about who could be the next Mayor of Bacólod City, I ordered a cup of brewed coffee. Coffee drinkers have the option of having their coffee plain or blended with milk. There is nothing special, only that my cup of coffee that has a pleasant kind of bitterness as an aftertaste.
The immortal tagline of the coffee shop “kung wala Kape Mabuhay, wala bugnohanay” (closet translation: If there is no Kape Mabuhay, there are no conversations) holds true as a cup of coffee opens up a conversation. I was joined by three random but friendly knowledgeable old men who talked about issues from f-PGMA’s plea for treatment overseas to RamGen Revilla’s slay and Charice Pempengco’s Dad’s untimely demise. This is a far cry from the Metropolitan Manila coffee shop scene where people are by groups, minding their own business. Even with rise of international coffee brands like Starbucks and Gloria Jeans or with the looming shadow of local coffee shop titans, the streetside coffee scene seems unfazed still.
Didn’t I mention that Kape Mabuhay also sells ground coffee and whole beans? I asked the store owner about the price and he said that ground coffee only costs P40 for a quarter of a kilo so that means you can have your primera clase coffee beans at a relatively cheap price. Kape Mabuhay has a selection of three coffee bean types with the typical arabica and robusta to your famous liberica which is the same species of coffee as what is marketed as Kape Barako. Old coffee shops seem to be my fancy after all with fresh coffee beans readily available for a peek.
After finishing my cup of creamy coffee, it is my signal to pay my bill and for Mr. Hacienda Correspondent to reveal his identity. Do you know what my bill is? Just P12 for a medium-sized cup of fully brewed coffee which is a rare find. The shop owner accepted my calling card with an obvious sense of being puzzled. With a smile, I explained to him that I am a freelance writer with a passion for blogging about local products especially those from Negros. To assure him, I said I am doing this for free within my accord for people to be aware about special treasures tucked away in what seems to be an all too ordinary place. He gave me his blessing and I returned with wishful regards for his shop. Hopefully, that cup of coffee would power me up for more exciting features on Bacólod On Low Budget series by yours truly, The Hacienda Correspondent.