By Marie Francia
The calming melody of a ukulele and the refreshing buzz of a creamy coffee can easily transport anyone to his or her darling island without having to actually go there. That’s how I felt when I first stepped into the tropical paradise that is Uke Box Caffé in Manhattan Parkview, Cubao.
With the café’s cozy interior and its impressive display of ukuleles, I was undoubtedly smitten like a love at first sight kind of thing. As we entered, I heard soft ukulele tunes playing in the background. Later on, I discovered that it was one of the owners of the place, Apple Alegro, who was singing. We were welcomed into the café and were led to a spot with cushions and pillows on the floor reminiscent of a beach house porch. I checked the menu—a fusion of comfort food and unusual flavors—for something to snack on. Sure, they have the staple snacks that one would look for like Bolognese, Chicken Penne, and sandwiches, but what really caught my attention were the unique items on the list, like Hawaiian Bulalo, Aloha Chops, and Pineapple Hen all served with pineapple rice.
It was 2015 when Apple along with her husband Timothy Alegro and friends Carla and Dodie Dematera and Michelle See dreamed up the entire concept of a ukulele café. Just in their late 20s, they decided to put up a shop far different from what was already available in the market at that time hence, the birth of the first-ever ukulele café in the country. Their first branch was in Eastwood but it was in 2017 when the team decided to transfer from Libis to its current location in Cubao. The store opened its doors again last January of this year to welcome old timers and newcomers alike who seek a creative space that they can enjoy with friends and family.
At first glance, the café looks like it came straight out of the lush islands of Hawaii but I was surprised to learn that all the primary products are proudly Pinoy-made. While I was enjoying a cup of their famous Peppermint Orange Mocha blended drink (made from locally-sourced coffee beans from Sagada), Carla shared, with a tinge of pride in her voice, that their ukuleles are crafted by a native guitar-maker in Pampanga, Makulay Ukuleles, the café’s exclusive supplier of ukes. The owners personally wanted their four-stringed instruments to be bright and colorful to complement the vibe of the whole café. These special ukes are also for sale and can be personalized.
The café holds workshops for kids and adults every Sunday with resident instructors, Teacher Try and Teacher RJ. They also open their makeshift stage for an open mic every Saturday for experienced and aspiring ukulele players and singers. The café can also be used as a space for events and parties.
Uke Box Caffe is located at Manhattan Parkview, General Malvar Avenue, Cubao, Quezon City.
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