MANILA – There are restaurants that are focused on filling your stomach and experimenting with trends.
And there are those that go beyond serving excellent food, making sure that they make a social impact as well.
Half Saints, a restaurant located across the ABS-CBN main office in Quezon City, belongs to the latter. Co-owner Christine Roque and her four-woman team (Trina Roque, Tricia Roque, Tanya Mesina, and Joanna Arciaga) combined their passion for food and advocacy to start “a restaurant with a purpose.”
“It sounds a little cliché, but it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do,” said Roque, a former journalist and founder of the petition platform Change.org Philippines.
“It’s been quite a journey, from being a journalist to pushing for social change with Change.org, and then here. It’s called Half Saints because we wanted to establish something that will make an impact.”
Half Saints has a small but well thought out menu, with each dish telling a story and supporting local farmers, even if it means the owners have to pay a premium. For instance, they source coffee from Atok in Benguet, chicharon from Camiling, Tarlac, and chocolate from Davao.
“The ‘purpose’ part is supporting indigenous peoples… We’re very meticulous with our suppliers in terms of traceability and sustainability. We want to give back,” Roque explained.
She continued: “While we were conceptualizing this, we know that we wanted to be unique and we wanted something new to offer, so it became more of an internal process of asking who we are and not just focusing kung ano ‘yung masarap… We realized that going back to our roots is the way for us to establish this and be more genuine to our market, to our customers.”
The items on the menu are Roque’s recreations of memorable dishes during her travels, most of them prepared by people who have touched her life while doing advocacy work and during her stint as a reporter.
An example of this is the Gallo Pinto x RBM (P495), her take on her go-to breakfast dish in Costa Rica. The roasted bone marrow as well as the beef cooked in pares broth add richness to the dish, which consists mainly of dirty rice, beans, and egg.
“The Gallo Pinto is a Costa Rican breakfast, so it’s something that I eat almost every day in Costa Rica because it’s the cheapest. If we have tapsilog, they have Gallo Pinto. It’s dirty rice and beans with avocado, sour cream, and scrambled egg. That’s their typical breakfast,” Roque said.
“Pares is reminiscent of my reporter days. Papasok ka ng 4 a.m. at tapos ka nang gumawa ng storya ng 6 or 7 a.m., tapos kakain na kayo, ang bukas lang mga paresan,” she recalled.
Another crowd favorite at Half Saints is the Arroz con Pollo (P395), which she learned from a senior journalist from Puerto Rico. Roque did not feel the need to tweak her friend’s potluck recipe, only serving it in a cast iron skillet to keep the chicken and rice fresh and hot.
Roque’s no-frills philosophy is also evident in their desserts, particularly the 64% Dark Chocolate Tart (P220). A simple almond crust is topped with Davao chocolate then garnished with cream and Himalayan salt, letting the high-quality ingredients shine.
“It’s really just chocolate,” Roque said. “Just 64% dark chocolate. We want our customers to appreciate and respect the food, the ingredient itself, and the people who made it.”
Design-wise, Half Saints took inspiration from Japanese minimalism, as seen in the restaurant’s clean layout and tables made from repurposed wood.
Its centerpiece is an art installation featuring delicate lines which, Roque said, represents the female owners.
“We wanted something to evoke femininity… This has very delicate lines, very intricate, like a personality of a woman,” she said.
“It looks a little stiff but if you look at some angles, there are curves that look like mountain ranges, which symbolize our journey to becoming entrepreneurs, of setting this up,” she ended.
The Ignacia Place
62 Sgt. Esguerra Avenue corner Mother Ignacia Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City