KSEM Kafe Along Taft Avenue is All for Malate’s Street Children

February 11, 2020

Manila is a city of disparities. Towering condominiums and spacious malls are a few meters away from the slums. The news reports on economic investments while majority of the population struggles with a lack of job opportunities and live in the city’s most difficult conditions. Walk around Malate at night and the bright neon lights, growing dinner crowd, and blaring party music lead to both the area’s best restaurants and bars with young women beckoning male passers-by inside. Step outside one of the fancier business hotels and a child will be standing around, asking for spare change or simply because he has nowhere else to go.

Ermita-Malate may have shed some of its past as the capital’s former red light district, yet prostitution and poverty continue to be part of these areas. Street children were the usual victims of exploitation and abuse in the area, which is why in 1988, Kanlungan sa Er-Ma Ministry Inc. sought to give these children another shot at life. Kanlungan stands for “refuge” in Filipino and the Er-Ma is short for Ermita and Malate.

Today, Kanlungan has six facilities, four residential centers, and two drop-in centers to help these children out. The Open Day Center or drop-in center gives the children basic health services, crisis intervention, food, non-formal education, protection, and home study programs. Their residential centers are two kinds: the Level 1 or Short-Term provides the newly admitted clients basic needs, shelter, and psycho-social intervention, while the Girls’ Home or Level 2 or Long-Term Girls’ Home and Group Home for Boys provide the children with formal education and skills training.


But Kanlungan doesn’t limit itself to educating street children from the city. Their care also extends to young boys who have been abandoned, neglected, or have gone through substance abuse. These young men stay in a two-hectare farm in General Aguinaldo, Cavite where they are trained with skills that hone them to become independent adults. The farm has over 2,000 coffee trees and the children are taught how to harvest the coffee and how to dry the beans before they are roasted. The coffee is roasted at Gourmet, a shop in Silang, Cavite.

These kids did not just dream of leading a new life on their own. Kanlungan’s Communications Officer, Eunice Dipasupil shares that these boys dreamt of having a coffee shop. “They told our Executive Director, Ms. Sol Balbero, whom they call Nanay Sol: ‘Sana may coffee shop din tayo.’ It was their dream to have a coffee shop so that the farm coffee could be used.”A group was told of the boys’ dream and they invested in KSEM Kafe, a tiny but cozy coffee shop along Taft Avenue corner Remedios Street. Eventually KSEM Kafe became a social entrepreneurship program that gave a training and employment ground for these boys. The boys are trained to be waiters and baristas so that they can earn money on their own and live independently.


Kanlungan’s Communcations Officer Eunice Dipasupil, KSEM Kafe’s Manager April Obanel, and the staff of KSEM Kafe

The staff have grown because of KSEM Kafe. Their manager April Obanel shared that one volunteer taught the staff how to bake, so the café transitioned from buying the menu items to baking and cooking their own creations. Some of the staff’s own creations include the Coffee Tiramisu, Mango Cheesecake, and Blueberry Cheesecake. The Coffee Tiramisu uses the café’s special blend of Arabica, barako, and robusta. Customers’ favorites are the fruit cheesecakes and we don’t blame them; I nearly licked the Mango Cheesecake off my plate.


Their menu also includes Banana Chocolate bread and Banana Pineapple muffin, coffee staples such as a frappucino and latte made with their special blend, and pasta dishes such as the Lasagna and Maing Pesto Pasta. The Lasagna was a personal favorite, with each layer not holding back on the cheese and ground meat. It had just enough of that Pinoy preference for sweetness, yet that savory taste one looks for in the meat. The Maing Pesto Pasta is an interesting take that cooked malunggay like laing; the pesto-like base clung well on the spaghetti noodles. All these desserts, pasta, and coffee dishes can be had at affordable rates under PHP 100. Given the extremely affordable price, KSEM Kafe is a great alternative for students and anyone who wants to enjoy good food at an affordable budget.


At the same time, the profit from the coffee shop goes back to the children who are taken care of by the Ministry. KSEM Kafe’s tagline is “coffee that educates,” as the proceeds go to helping the children at the residential centers with their studies. These children are supported from grade school, high school, and even up to college. Two of the Kafe’s staff did not just graduate high school, but where also sent to vocational school and a two-year course so that they could be fit employees for the Kafe. Today, they are both living independently thanks to the efforts of Kanlungan. The staff also hope to open another coffee shop branch in the future.


If you would like to help out Kanlungan sa Er-Ma Ministry, you can visit their website or contact Ms. Sol Balbero at 0927-850796 or (632) 522-4952. Or you could simply drop by the KSEM Kafe to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of cake or call them at (632) 708-3484.

Have you been to the KSEM Kafe? What do you think of their food and coffee? Let us know in the comments section below!


1906 Taft Ave., Malate, Manila (Taft Ave. cor Remedios St.)

Gela Velasco Gela Velasco

Gela is a young adult slowly settling into her late twenties. She likes to make a mess in the kitchen when no one’s looking, dance till dawn on long weekends, and dream about beef on lazy afternoons. On some days she learns how to write good in graduate school. Her life goals include sashaying somewhat like Beyonce and to write a cover story on Leonardo di Caprio.

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