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Friday, November 26, 2010

Don't take it black...

I'm an average Joe Juan who likes to have his coffee quite regularly, I guess moreso because my family hails from Batangas, the land of the flavorful Barako.  I remember that even in my pre-school years, I would already consume moderate but regular amounts of brewed coffee for breakfast, with either my favorite pan de sal and butter, or fried rice and dried or smoked fish.  And mind you, I don't just drink the coffee.  The pan de sal gets dunked into it, or it's poured into the fried rice.  This has become a breakfast habit which I gladly and proudly carry to this day... all the way to Jollibee and McDonalds!

My affair with coffee beyond my morning meal really got kindled in college when I had to stay up till the wee hours of the morning to finish programming assignments or, as they were called then, machine problems.  This affair blossomed as I landed my first 8-5 job as a one-man EDP department - writing, testing and running Accounting & HR applications in a long, narrow and extremely cold corner room.  Easily, I consumed 4 to 6 16-oz. soup cups of coffee a day - and that's BLACK!  It didn't help that I became good friends with a coffee addict who drank even more coffee than myself! Years after, as my carreer brought me out more onto the field, spelled as: M-A-L-L-S, my long-time coffee affair got sealed with my frequent kisses with the double-tailed mermaid's cup.  She has been witness to countless meet-ups with friends and family, holiday get-togethers, business meetings, job interviews (from both the giving and receiving end) brain-storming sessions and, ahem ahem, dates of course.  Except for the occassional griping sessions with some friends about my their current significant other bosses or jobs, my trips to this coffee shop have almost always been pleasant. Though if Tats were alive, I'm pretty sure he'd object to the kind of money I've spent on Starbucks.

Fast forward, and forward, and forward some more. A couple of months ago, a second Starbucks Coffee shop in BF Homes, Pque opened on Aguirre St., right across the front parking lot of the PCJ Parish Church.  This is were I sing with the PCJ Grand Choir during the 6:30 pm Sunday mass and where we practice on most Saturday nights till quite late.  Of course we wouldn't pass up on being some of the first customers to try it out.  Besides, it was much nearer than the President's Ave. branch for our after-rehearsals kape-kapihan. 

And so we went one Saturday after practice, on its 2nd day I think.  Since the store was still on soft-opening mode, service wasn't as fast, and products weren't as good.  Nevertheless, we were having  fun because we were in the company of friends.  We also noticed that the seating was still awkward and a bit sparse both inside and ouside the shop.  I though maybe that's why there were a lot of customers milling outside. But I quickly realized I was wrong, they were streetchildren - parking boys, sampaguita girls and very young mendicants, some of whom are just toddlers.  My heart sank, that was the first time I've seen so many of these kids in this part of BF at this time, it was almost 12 midnight!

I knew that the people who run this coffee shop did not cause this endemic problem.  I also knew that they most likely can't offer a solution.  But I thought they'd probably wouldn't want to be contributory to this very serious problem.  I approached the shop manager (or rather the on-duty MT), introduced myself and brought up my observation.  I also gave a suggestion that maybe the store can do something to dissuade their customers from giving money to the kids, perhaps even a simple sign can help.   If nobody will  give them money, they will not stay out in the streets.  The MT said that she'll bring it up on their next mancom.  Since then, I've gone back to the store a number of times. The big bunch of kids are still there and their number seems to be growing.  I haven't seen any sign inside or outside the store.  I can understand, being an international franchise, Starbucks would have SOPs that would probably not allow special signages. The guard seems to be oblivious to the presence of the children and is focused on opening the door to welcome guests and on keeping the shop clean.  Perhaps, that's also part of their SOP and training. Honestly, I really can't tell if anything was done regarding the influx of streetchildren in the Starbucks area or if the matter even went past the conversation I had with the MT.  I surely hope it did. 

It is so sad to think that nowadays, some people can no longer tell between black and white.  Maybe, for the people in Starbucks Aguirre, employees and customers alike, it is easier to see that Black is Espresso or Americano, and White is Latté or Frap.   I hope that we will all recognize that with the problem of streetchildren, doing nothing is BLACK, and doing something is WHITE, no matter how little.

This time, please don't take it black.

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