One of my favorite days from my trip home—was that really almost two months ago?—was our first Sunday lunch together as a family. Still exhausted from jet lag, my stomach was tied up in knots at the thought of heading into the city and being swallowed up by the pre-Christmas traffic jams, just to wander around yet another shiny mall packed with dazed holiday shoppers.
So we drove away from it all, further and deeper into the South: to San Pablo, Laguna, the hometown of my maternal grandmother, and to Patis Tito Garden Cafe.
Formerly Kusina Salud, Patis Tito Garden Cafe brings together the rustic charm of an old Filipino provincial home, the lush greenery of a tropical garden, and the homegrown flavors of slow-cooked Filipino cuisine. It is a combination that stirs the senses and feeds the soul, and feels both familiar and unusual at the same time.
The familiarity comes from a deeply rooted love for Filipino culture, and the uniqueness from a creative spirit with an unconventional point of view. Both are the trademarks of owner Patis Tesoro, the designer who is best known for revolutionizing traditional Filipiniana wear with her passion for bold colors, rich patterns and Filipino craftsmanship.
The style and personality that has made Patis a force in Filipino fashion for 30 years is what gives her Garden Cafe its particular flair.
It was a privilege and a pleasure to meet Patis herself that day. She’s an inspiring figure. “I was close to your age when I started with this place,” confided Patis, now in her sixties. Marlon and I—co-conspirators, partners, dreamers—looked at each other, wheels in our heads starting to turn. “It’s never too early to begin. Just don’t give up.”
I have a special place in my heart for old Filipino houses. It’s an affection I inherited from my mom. I didn’t always feel that way—I was a bratty kid who hated being dragged around to our relatives’ rickety old houses in the province—but now I see what my mom loved about them. Finally being able to share a passion of my mom’s made spending time with her here even more special.
Now let’s talk about the food. Mmm, the food.