Merienda at “Habin” Kitchen Garden

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Editor’s note: Popo San Pascual is an artist first. He studied Fine Arts at the University of the Philippines and later received grants from Indonesia, Venice, Italy and New York. After years of studying, learning different cultures and exploring the world it became clear where his path would take him. He created his own zany and wonderful art. It’s been thirty years of living, breathing and creating art for Popo, but then his mother’s wish added an occupation out of his norm. Is he up for it?

Habin Kitchen Garden opened recently in the lush garden of rare blooming plants in the San Pascual compound in Tagaytay. The café’s interior is adorned with varied articles of artworks: pots of different sizes, abstract paintings on the wall, cupboard, sideboard and shelves covered with interesting knickknacks. The Turkish-style kitchen with a polycarbonate see-through roof lends an airy feel. Popo once saw this type of kitchen on a trip to Istanbul and wanted to build one like it.

The café has wall-to-wall oversized windows overlooking Popo’s immense exotic garden — a definite must see. It used to be only friends and their friends were able to enjoy Popo’s Paradise, but now with the opening of ‘Habin’, come one, come all. Take it all in: stroll through the garden, check out the colors of Popo’s world in his studio — think about buying an artwork, enjoy the merienda of Habin’s set menu.

By Ivy Castillo

Photos by Ramil Montero and Jac Vidgen

Growing up did you want to become an artist? 

It just flowed. After high school, I participated in an aptitude test at UP. I was accepted and from there I went on to study Fine Arts majoring in painting.

After College I received three grants: one in Indonesia where I lived in Bali for a time. I went on to Venice, Italy and participated in an art immersion program. I also did a program in New York. So, that’s what happened. It — the art — just coursed through my veins and flowed out of my fingers and onto the canvas.

How would describe your art? 

Contemporary. Like most artists, I developed my own style. But I’m still morphing at this point in my life.

What do you think is the future of art amidst the technological advances and differences of how people define art? 

Me, I just keep on painting. Whatever happens will happen.

What type of art do you prefer? Abstract

Where do you get the inspiration for your art? 

Mostly from nature — I’ve been painting for 30 years — the collection has increased since.

Why start a café? 

It’s really for my mom. Being in the catering business, she wanted to open a coffee shop here. She’s in her 80s and when she comes home to Tagaytay, she wants to keep busy. It’s really just for her. But that’s how it usually starts, doesn’t it? You do it for fun and hopefully later on it becomes profitable.

But you still prefer doing art? 

Of course, I’ve been painting for 30 years. The coffee shop is very new to me. Painting involves just me; my art. Running a coffee shop, I have to deal with customers and staff, you know, other considerations.

Where did you get the idea for your kitchen garden? 

When I went to Istanbul, I saw rooftops with “habins”, meaning kitchen gardens. They grow herbs and spices, and that is where they get their ingredients for cooking especially during the winter months.

So, all the plants in your kitchen are edible? 

No, they’re mostly ornamental. I have oregano and parsley now but will add more soon. I wanted to create the Istanbul look first.

What do you want your customers to experience? 

Calm atmosphere of the garden, lots of groovy things to see, meet people and maybe strike up a conversation with someone from a different culture. I want writers, artists and musicians to come and hang out here.

What do you feel when you see art? 

Depends. I go to museums to immerse myself, find solace and maybe be influenced by the art I see, most recently Istanbul. It is sometimes unavoidable that I compare my work when I see other artists’ work. Sometimes I get envious.

How would you like to be remembered as an artist? 

I’m still a bit young to be remembered, but I would think it would be the works I have done so far and others that are still waiting to be produced. I don’t know. I guess I don’t have to worry about my image in the future if I should die an idiot.

Do you have a dream project? Yes. Stations of the cross for a church.

What else do you want to accomplish? 

Go with the flow of life. I’m giving myself two years to establish this café then I’ll go back to painting. There is my garden that needs constant planting. I’ve been here for 20 years. But seriously, art is necessary. I accept orders.

What is your advice for aspiring artists? 

My advice is go and explore, go abroad; open your mind to different cultures and the arts. Don’t get stuck in one place. Don’t miss the chance to see what’s out there. Go to New York, Berlin, etc. Just go! And if you like what you’re doing, keep on doing.

Film by Owen Suerte