Sunday, August 11, 2002


Ever since former president Ramos allowed the franchising of foreign labels, the Philippines has seen numerous businesses popping up. One of the most prolific is Starbucks, the coffee shop which caters to the elite. It's so damn successful that even if the branches are all lined up in one neat line, it would still be filled with people.

My first experience of Starbucks coffee was nine years ago. My parents and I were vacationing in San Francisco. Foreign franchises weren't allowed in the Philippines at that time. If you wanted to taste Starbucks, you had to go abroad. I didn't know what Starbucks was back then. As far as I'm concerned, it was just another coffee shop. My godmother was driving us to Starbucks that afternoon, the last stop before we headed to their house. They ordered coffee and so did I. I never drank coffee before and that day was the first opportunity I got to do so. I was always fascinated with cappuccino. It had an alluring ring to it, a kind of seduction that was similar to chocolate. Of course what it tasted like, I never knew. Guess what I ordered?

Suffice to say, I realized that day that I didn't like coffee. I had tasted mom's Nescafe coffee back at home and I didn't like it. I thought Starbucks would be different. It does taste better than Nescafe but not enough for me to start liking coffee. It was bitter that no matter how much sugar I put in, I could still taste it. Worse, when we were finally in the car, I was dizzy and groggy. I wanted to sleep but couldn't because of the caffeine. I felt sick for the rest of the day.

Years later, I'd see Starbucks a few streets away from our house. It's only then that I realized how pricey their drinks are. There's no way I'd pay P100 for something that you can sip in a matter of minutes. Heck, with P100, that would pay my lunch bill for the entire week (yes, I eat that little for lunch). Not that I'm totally against Starbucks. The ambience is good and I can already smell the coffee when I enter the place. While coffee is something they're known for, people also come there for their frapucinnos, drinks filled with what's usually chocolate and whipped cream. Dozens of people would line up just to get a taste of their fraps, whether it's chocolate, mocha, or whatever else they think of (I once drank a raspberry frapucinno). Unfortunately, it's quite expensive (P95~P115), and I never caught on to it mainly because I'm allergic to chocolate (yes, I know I'm deprived).

It was so popular that my classmates would walk all the way from school to the nearest branch of Starbucks. It was a fifteen-minute walk and some would just take a jeep, if not their cars. When they got there, they'd order their coffee, wait for it, drink it to the last drop, and head back to school. Walking thirty minutes worth of distance just for a drink you'd finish in five minutes just shows you how remarkable Filipinos can be.

A few years later, more branches would pop out. In the Greenhills area alone, there are four branches, each less than a kilometer away. I mean outside my former school, there's a new Starbucks branch set up. One jeep ride away is the next Starbucks branch, which is beside a gas station and behind the bus stop. Across the bus stop is the Greenhills Shopping Center with a Starbucks branch in its new Theater Mall. One street away from the place is another Starbucks branch which is beside Chili's.

Another example would be the case of Makati. In 6750, the parking lot sandwiched between a hotel and the Glorietta mall, there's a Starbucks outlet in its ground floor. Inside Glorietta, there's a Starbucks branch in one of its movie theaters. Across Glorietta is the recently established Greenbelt 2 mall, which has its own Starbucks as well. If I wanted to pass through all these Starbucks branches, it would take me less than ten minutes.

This phenomenon reminds me of the Zagu fad that struck the Philippines. Zagu is a drink that contains blended juices and some sago in it. It was popular that around every corner, there's a branch selling the stuff. Of course unlike Starbucks, it wasn't as expensive (P35 for a drink) but you'd be amazed at how long people would line up just for a taste of the drink. Also unlike Starbucks, Zagu has stopped being a fad and now, it's amazing if you can still manage to find an outlet as most of the branches I know have closed down.

Whenever I'm at school, in the malls, or at the streets. I see plastic cups of Starbucks scattered all over. Gone are the days when you bought coffee at Mister Donut. I rarely even see any people nowadays at Mister Donut, sipping their coffee at the wee hours of the morning.

I'd choose fruit juice over Starbucks any day. I don't need caffeine to keep me awake and I'm already hyper as it is. Besides, think of all the money I'm saving by not purchasing drinks at Starbucks.

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