Tucked in the bustling street of Maginhawa in Diliman, Quezon City is a quaint and humble a restaurant called Van Gogh Is Bipolar. Stepping into this haven is quite a marvel, with interiors filled with seemingly antique pieces and keepsakes from the owner's travels. But beyond its kitschy charm, Van Gogh Is Bipolar is a safe space for people dealing with anything that ranges from a stressful day at work to a troubling mental health condition.
Van Gogh Is Bipolar is obviously a homage to well-known painter Vincent Van Gogh who has suffered from various mental illnesses in his lifetime, one of which is Bipolar Disorder—which owner and artist Jetro Vin Rafael shares as well.
Curious yet? Here are five things you need to know about this unconventional resto before you pay a visit.
1. It was meant to be a personal safe space.
After being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, Jetro rented the place with the sole purpose of isolating himself from the outside world. There in his safe space, he made art and started researching on food that can help him with his condition which later on became the restaurant's menu. When he decided to turn his home into a restaurant, Jetro made his personal space a safe haven for everyone who is need of one.
2. The staff members are called "life servers."
What makes this restaurant a real "safe space" is the fact that the members of the staff also have existing mental health issues and are suicide survivors themselves. They call themselves "life servers" because they don't simply serve food; they offer life itself by helping others like them. There are several times when people would go into the restaurant just to cry and spill everything they've been holding inside, and the staff would be there to help them through.
3. You can be as "crazy" as you can get here—no judgement.
As Jetro puts it, "Call me crazy, but I'll make my life crazy in the most beautiful way possible." The artist in him promotes baring your truest self which is evident as soon as you step into his place. From entering the restaurant barefoot and donning headpieces as soon as you sit on your table, to expressing yourself and releasing any frustrations you have in life, Van Gogh Is Bipolar and its staff members are the non-judging club you need in your life.
4. Food is scared and has its healing benefits.
Sticking to the restaurant's core value, they teach their guests that the food they consume is vital to their mental health. This is why every ingredient that they use is carefully researched and made sure that is beneficial to a person's well-being. Yes, they serve greens and healthy meat. But you'll also get a shot of herb liquor for your appetizer and absinthe-infused dessert! This proves that their menu is worth every cent because it's truly a whole experience in itself that you won't find anywhere else!
5. They give back.
The restaurant's very own The Love Project involves psycho-social sessions with volunteers who help people care for their mental health. They also have The Kind Wardrobe where you can bring in your pre-loved items like books, clothes, shoes, and anything that can be of use to the less fortunate. Furthermore, guests are allowed to bring street children to the restaurant, and the staff will feed them for free.
If you want to experience something that feels like a hug to your whole being Van Gogh Is Bipolar is a must-visit! You'll definitely be surprised with what food and the comforts of being with people who understand you can bring to your mental healing.
Van Gogh Is Bipolar is located at 154 Maginhawa St., Diliman Quezon City
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Photos by Shaira Luna and Oko Francisco