I love to eat. I really do, I even dream of food, or the meal I’m going to have the next day. I have been known to plan my day around a menu and the most ironic aspect of my gastronomy-skewed lifestyle is that I can’t cook to save my life. Tried it, and nearly burned down a house. Twice. Trying out new restaurants is an adventure I look forward to and new concept restaurants are always interesting. I take in everything, from the ambiance, the service and of course, the food. While most establishments focus on fancy lighting schemes, eclectic decoration or a “star” branded chef, Gratitude Café which opened its doors last June takes the eating experience to a whole new level. How so? Its proprietors, Analei Atienza and Kahlil Bagatsing, decided to create an environment that aims to feed the body, the mind and the spirit. First off, everything on the menu is an affirmation, so instead of saying “I’d like the grilled shrimps” you say “I am worth it” or, instead of “The pan-seared chicken in a light cream sauce” you simply look your server in the eye (takes a little getting used to) and say, “I am marvelous!” Hey, I’m a firm believer in affirmations, and there is no judgment here so go ahead, order away, and have fun doing it. If, after a long workday (or just a long day), you wish to unwind, then order a glass of wine — the only alcohol served on the premises — and say (with aplomb) “I am deserving!”
Atienza, who runs The Singapore School in Manila, and Bagatsing, who is a life coach and teacher, take the concept of eating and growing in gratitude by holding free workshops on the second floor of their café so those who are interested to get to know their inner angel, learn about meditation or just want to amp up their inner health are more than welcome to sign up. The partners also apply scientist and author Masauro Emoto’s philosophy when it comes to serving their food and beverages. Emoto’s breakthrough book The Hidden Messages in Water explains how placing positive words on containers of water actually transforms its energy, and he documents this by photographs of frozen water crystals — the more positive the word, the more beautiful formation of the crystal, the most beautiful of which belonged to the one that had the words “gratitude” and “love” attached to it. Each and every plate and glass has those words, not to mention the attitude of gratitude etched in.
Dining is a full-on interactive experience, so feel free to write on the “gratitude” wall all the things you are grateful for. “Why Gratitude?” explains Bagatsing. “Because we want to remind people that there is so much to be grateful for and there is always something to be grateful for; those who lead a life of gratitude live happier lives.” As you order, you are also asked to choose a rolled up paper from a big glass bowl, sort of like a reverse fortune cookie, which instead of telling the future actually brings you back to the present with an affirmation. Mine that day read “I attract only loving and uplifting people into my life.” Suffice to say it resonated so perfectly with what I was being challenged with that day that my spirits were instantly lifted and I have kept that piece of paper in my wallet ever since.
“It’s interesting to watch people as they enter and how they react to their affirmation for the day,” chuckles Bagatsing. “Some enter with somber or serious expressions and then they read their affirmation and their faces and energy just change. I’ve even heard some laugh out loud.” Probably because what they read was exactly what they needed for a little jolt of joy.