I left the temple before dinner. Dada even asked me if I could stay longer, but I politely declined. I said I needed to do something for my master’s class the following day.
The queue of people at the Lopez transport terminal outside BF Homes was long. It would surely take quite a bit of time standing there, waiting for the next ride to arrive. SoI decided to just walk to BF subdivision.
It was getting dark. This time of the day, for me, is always ideal for walking. Besides saving myself the fare, the cooler temperature helps motivate me to engage in this bit of exercise.
El Grande in BF Homes was my way in. I pass by this area every Saturday and stop by the house of a friend. We constantly talk about anything under, and beyond, the sun. He is one of the few people I know who can converse with me about philosophy and literature over glasses of Juan Lakad (Johnny Walker) without losing his train of thought.
A car sped past me, with the driver leaning on his horn. I still don’t know why some people do that. The driver might have an emergency, I thought, or be late for a meeting. As I moved along the sidewalk,I noticed an establishment just beside a spa I’d go to now and then: TRY VEGAN.
Curious, I checked the place out. There were a table and two chairs outside it, and it appeared to be a café or restaurant.
I used to go to share food with vegans like me every Tuesday night. Everyone would bring vegan food made from recipes that originally used meat, where the cooks substituted the meat ingredients with plant-based ones. There were seven of us, or so, in this group. I just brought fruits, because I am too lazy to cook.
Before entering TRY VEGAN, I looked at the person at the counter. He looked familiar. His bald head and eyeglasses were surely things I’d seen before. When I entered and got a better look, I was certain that man was Alvin, one of the people who attended our weekly food-sharing socials. His wife, Lakapati, cooks really well. They even have a range of products under the label The Real Happy Cow.
There was one time that I asked them about their food products’ brand name. They said The Real Happy Cow was intended to show people that there are products that would make a cow really happy. How? Well, whenever pictures in restaurants or fast food chains include pictures of smiling animals smiling, that’s a big irony.
Meat eaters eat animals—and no animal would be happy to die just so someone can eat it, really. Also, the milk we get from cows is milk we take away from their calves. Imagine that your mother’s milk had been taken away from you and served to someone else, who would be happy about that, right?
Not a single animal is harmed in the production of The Real Happy Cow products, because animal products, Including dairy, are never used in the business of Alvin and Lakapati.
I did get the point of their explanations, as in the totality of them all. But, at the end of the day, I believe that being vegan is an exercise of man’s free will.
I saw Lakapati inside, at one of the tables. She was busy writing, perhaps, or computing something, because the calculator app of her phone was on. I said hi. She seemed surprised to see me there, and it had been a while since we last met. Alvin came over and we started talking. He said that his wife was busy, so he chatted with me instead.
I asked Alvin about this place. He said it just opened few months ago, and the sales were going well. He added that this was always their advocacy, since being vegan was difficult in the south, especially since there were no stores selling vegan products. They have decided to put up this business to fill that need. I told him I remembered them talking about this plan during one food-sharing session.
Their staff gave me a menu. The names of the food items were creative and my mind started to work as I imagined the taste of each item. Because I am a dessert person, I chose my all-time favorite, Delicielo Forbidden Black Rice Ice Cream. This one is a product by another member of Alvin’s team, Cielo Castro-Magisa. She makes ice cream out of almost any edible fruit, but without milk or dairy product.
While waiting for my order, I walked around the store. There were more products than I could have imagined. I was amazed by the creativity and passion of these people. The walls bore with motivational quotes, artwork depicting persons, animals, and things related to the vegan lifestyle. There were even books on the shelves, from the personal collection of Dan Angeles. Lakapati warned me that the books would appear heavy because of their topics, but she said those tomes would be helpful to transitioning vegans. That said, I was reminded of my conversation with Rosario about my lifestyle and the food I eat.
Rosario and I were in the province last week, and we spent the weekend at home. She was surprised that I don’t eat meat or any other animal products. I told her that it is not simply a diet, but a choice. I added that she might be interested in trying it out, adding that I’d tell her more about my lifestyle choice soon. I also clarified that I wasn’t trying to persuade her to turn vegan. I just wanted to share the story of my lifestyle choice with her.
The ice cream arrived. It was mouthwatering: It was sitting atop a brownie and drizzled with chocolate syrup. I picked up my fork and savored my dessert. While eating, I continued looking around the interior of the café.
To my left side were soaps, toothpaste, and other personal hygiene products by Zero Basic. These, if I remember right, are products by Janna from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I also learned that Janna had resigned from her job and decided to go into her business full-time, like Ryan and Perch, the couple who make Jack’s Produce Vegan Spanish Sardines.
I checked my phone, logging in with my fingerprint. The SMS app was still open, the message from Rosario still visible. I was uncertain of what to say to her, and I really felt I needed to reply to her text. That question Hamlet posited: “To be or not to be?” Yeah, that one.
“Yes, I’ll come home. But, you might also be interested in meeting up with me here in Manila, so that we can visit the art museum in Antipolo. I know for a fact that you haven’t been there, and most artists would love to visit that place.” G