Leaving the ‘corner’ behind

Published July 4, 2020, 12:37 PM

by Angela Casco

Popular Antipolo food spot, a casualty of the pandemic, to close its doors 

As someone who has lived in Antipolo for 23 years, I, along with many friends from grade school and high school, have explored much of the city, including popular tourist-y destinations like Hinulugang Taktak, the Our Lady of Peace and Voyage, or the Pinto Art Museum. 

Whenever friends from Manila who want a quick retreat in the city ask me for must-try food spots, though, I always recommend Sulok Cafe.

Established in 2016, the cafe is located in one corner of a building just across the massive Ynares Center. Its small but cozy space is home to not just a variety of signature food options that locals and visitors have come to love, but also to a community built over friendship and conversations. Its owners, Millennial couple Rodrigo Escobar and Anne Riel Wong, have always made it their mission to provide a “sulok” or corner where visitors can relax and find an escape from their busy lives.

That sulok I and many others have become fond of, though, is about to close its doors permanently. The food spot has announced this on its official Facebook page. 

More than 4 years ago nagsimula ang kuwento. Sinimulan namin ang Sulok Cafe with barely enough money to actually open…

Sulok Café 发布于 2020年6月27日周六

Dito nagtatapos ang kuwento ng Sulok Cafe (Here’s where the story of Sulok Cafe ends),” the team writes, along with the official closing date, July 18. “Hindi ko na itatago (We will not keep it a secret), and we will own up to it. Sulok Cafe went bankrupt. The reason behind this, I think you already know.”

The Antipolo food spot, it turns out, is not “invincible” from the wrath of the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision, though difficult, has come down to a reality check.

“Can it be saved? I guess, but the real question is, ‘Can we afford it?'” the post adds. “To continue operations at a loss and hope that things will be better might do us more harm than good. We continued to persist even if it meant shelling out additional cash just to keep the business running. I guess this time around, we should know when to stop.”

The team describes losing the business that they have started after leaving their corporate jobs to be as painful as “losing a loved one.” Sulok Cafe, after all, has come a long way from its humble beginnings. 

“We started Sulok with barely enough money to open it, so much so that money ran out even before we finished construction. That’s why we had to stop at 70 percent and open immediately to start earning already,” the owners recall. “We remember when we opened, there were only nine glasses, 10 pairs of utensils, and about 10 plates. We had to wash them quickly as soon as the customers leave so we can use it to serve others. Some items in the kitchen, too, were either refurbished from junk or were borrowed from our parents as money ran out. Fun times, indeed.”

Despite losing Sulok from the effects of a long lockdown, the owners say they are not blaming anything or anyone. They are, as they say, “thankful for the opportunity.”

“When we started, we projected that we won’t last six months, but because of the support from all of you (customers), we lasted for four years,” the team says. “We are greatly touched. The regular customers and the fruitful conversations kept us going despite numerous financial setbacks through the months.”

Unfortunately, I could not be one of the regulars as my weekends have been occupied with additional work for the week or much-needed rest at home. The few times I’ve been to Sulok, however, have been tummy-filling and filled with friendly exchanges with Rodrigo, Anne, or both, mostly about my favorite, and apparently one of their bestsellers, malunggay pasta, which is a lot like pesto pasta, except it is malunggay and olive oil coating the warm al dente noodles. It’s as if they and everyone at Sulok have become part of the few times my Antipolo friends and I have met to catch up, rant, and encourage each other from the challenges of young adulthood.

“We consider lasting this long as a blessing and we are forever grateful to the lessons this business has taught us, and the friends we’ve met along the way,” the team says. “Some of you made memories in this place. Make some more. We love to see you again for one last time. Make the last few days count, kung gusto mo (if you like).”

As for me, I’ll make sure to visit and add an extra order of malunggay pasta and adobo flakes before parting with the sulok where many fond memories were made. 

 
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