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Artsy dining in CDO

Yes, we’ve heard about the so-called “milktea panic” that emerged after at least two people (one was a customer, and the other the owner of the shop where the milktea was bought after he also tried the milktea that the customer said tasted weird) who consumed milktea concoctions died only a few minutes after they consumed the ubiquitous drink.

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With the bad press milktea got (Heck, even local government units made the rounds and had milktea shops closed!), it almost seemed like it was on the way out.

Alas, the drink’s here to stay – arguably best exemplified by milktea’s continuing appeal in so many places, e.g. in Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao, where one brand continues to make a mark because of the milktea offerings, largely abetted by a blast-from-the-past, hippy, and even artsy-fartsy appeal of the brand’s branches.

And so welcome to Chingkeetea.

WHAT’S THERE

First – and definitely worth highlighting – Chingkeetea’s major, major appeal is the vibe of its venues. Here, you see everything from the olden times – e.g. ditched desks from public schools, repurposed into retro seats; mismatched furniture pieces that, weirdly, work together; empty bottles of softdrinks and wines serving as decorative pieces; et cetera. The only “new” pieces there are these artworks/drawings atop tables or clipped a la sinampay/laundry, so that they, too, become decorative pieces.

There are some variations – e.g. the branch closer to Xavier University, for instance, is way bigger than the other one located a few blocks away (though on the same street). But the “feel” of the place remains the same, what with all these knickknacks scattered around to give Chingkeetea this “lola’s homey place” appeal.

Of course, it helps that the food isn’t bad (even if it isn’t world-shattering), and – to top that – they’re cheap. Korean ramen, for instance, only sells for P75 a bowl.

The drinks aren’t bad either. No, don’t expect kapeng barako, but with the coffees (Java Chip, Butterworth, Mocha, Cappuccino) selling from P70, they suffice. Particularly considering that with Starbucks and CBTL charging double that, this place’s offerings aren’t too bad at all.

And then of course we have the milktea drinks (e.g. wintermelon, strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, taro, honeydew, Oreo, and vanilla), selling from P60. Not as sugary as, say, Zagu; but not watery either. They more than suffice…

WHY GO THERE

It can’t be stated enough – if you want that artsy feel, come over. Here, there’s this sense of being laid back, as if everything isn’t rushed. Great, therefore, if you’re out to catch up with friends on lazy afternoons/dusk…

Not surprisingly, largely because the venues aren’t too far from the city’s biggest university, the crowd tends to be young (and yeah, the owner – nicknamed Chingkee – is still in her 20s) . And they vary, too – from the katkat (literally, “climb”, though locally used to refer to social climbers), to the yuppies, to the government employees, to the comparatively better-off students, and to the LGBT crowd (though most of them cisgender). So if you wanna be with the relatively younger crowd, check this out.

For catching up without having to kick your pockets hard (check the prices mentioned above), this is worth considering, too.

WHY AVOID

This is not to say this place is perfect – no, sir/ma’am, it’s far from that. In fact, there are things that, well, get to me.

For one, many of the offerings aren’t always available – I, personally, had to change orders thrice on the first visit, twice on the second visit, and thrice again on the third visit because the ingredients of what I wanted to have weren’t available. A ruder customer would say: “Magsara na lang kayo (Just close shop, will you)!”; but let’s not…

The venues can get full – good for business, but bad for customers (particularly those arriving in groups). It doesn’t help, too, that the branch closest to Xavier University has a non-airconditioned space; meaning, you put up with the humidity or raindrops (depending on the season) when there…

There’s no Internet connection, too. The selling point of the place – as this drawing states – is for people not to get lost virtually when they’re in Chingkeetea, and instead start talking with each other. For a telecommuter like me, the word that comes to mind is “bullcrap”.

And then there are the… religious writings on the walls, showcasing the owner’s religious beliefs, which may not necessarily be shared by everyone visiting the place. If you don’t want other people’s beliefs shoved down your throat, you can choose to ignore; or just don’t visit at all.

IN THE END…

If you like the feeling you get when you’re in a Papemelroti branch, then you’d definitely like Chingkeetea. It’s rustic; it’s artsy; it’s hip; it’s… cool.

But if your idea of hanging out isn’t to sit on chairs whose owners may have long died, then this isn’t the place for you – go somewhere, instead, that’s more generic, like Starbucks or McCafé or CBTL or something.

Chingkeetea branches are located along Pabayo/Corrales (near Xavier University).

CHINGKEETEA BRANCH NEAR XAVIER UNIVERSITY
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CHINGKEETEA BRANCH AT GRAND CENTRAL
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The Mindanao group of islands in southern Philippines has long been called as the country's "Promised Land" - albeit this is often said as a yet-fulfilled potential, instead of highlighting what the place now has to offer. We don't only believe it's wrong; we also strongly believe time to correct this and highlight everything about this place that is, indeed, a land full of promise. So here's... Mindanaw Magazine!

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