Gaia Café is no ordinary cafe─not because of its location, appearance, and the menu, but for the advocacy that it lives by.
Gaia Café opened in December 2012 by Gawani Domogo-Gaongen, a Community Development graduate raised in Bontoc. Since childhood, Gaongen and her siblings were trained to have zero waste at home by their parents. They carried this trait until adulthood and continue to practice and pass this philosophy on to the next generation. After studying in the metro, her love for the local community brought her back to Sagada to establish her own cafe. Because of her strong environmental advocacies, she named her cafe Gaia Café. The name Gaia is based from Greek mythology meaning earth.
Gaia Café practices zero waste philosophy through segregation and usage of recyclables. For them, “if its just money, you will never see the end of it.” The cafe wants to make an impression to its clients on the importance of Mother Nature since ‘she is where all our resources come from.’ The cafe’s staff always consider this principle in everything they do.
Aside from being a zero waste advocate, Gaia Café also supports grassroots activities and products. Inside their store, you’ll find garments and homemade items produced by indigents and even organic vegetables. Gaia Café partners with local traders and businessmen as suppliers for raw ingredients for their dishes and beverages to lessen carbon footprint and to support local produce.
To lessen carbon footprint in the creation of the cafe’s structure, the materials used in the construction of the café are made up of scrap lumber and recycled materials. “It should be the expression of human creativity,” says Gaongen with conviction. She adds that they designed their cafe creatively to be different from those in town. “We want to keep it small and intimate,” she said. Their focus lies in creating a great customer experience.
The food served at Gaia Café is made of organic produce. One of their best sellers is Gaia Barbeque. It is made of veggie meat with homemade tomato paste paired with unpolished red rice. Every bite is bursting with flavor, you wouldn’t think you’re eating veggies. This dish is a perfect first meal for those averse to eating vegetables and ultimately help them appreciate it.
Even their pasta is served in a healthy and organic way. The pasta itself is al dente topped with slow cooked homemade fresh tomato sauce.
Their hot chocolate drink is so rich in cocoa. They use a homemade cocoa called tablea. Tablea is not a product of Sagada. They partner with a supplier of tablea to be able to serve it in the café.
“Having business is perfectly fine. Let’s admit it, we really need businesses for our survival, but sometimes we do it irresponsibly. Business is for our survival but nature is for our living,” Gaongen said.*** -Erin Reyes & Louella Pader