Finding truth in third place

In college, I discovered the “third place” concept espoused by Starbucks. In a third world country such as ours, I don’t think that declaring this coffee shop as your third place would be socially accepted. To most, hanging out in an establishment that serves expensive coffee is sosyal, or pasosyal. There’s a difference, but both have not-so-nice connotations.

While opinions of others on personal choices should not be a reason not to do what you want, be it for your hangout or choice of drink, it’s undeniable that Filipinos still have that mentality of judging people based on their preferences. For me, if you can afford it and you spend your own hard-earned money, and if buying that makes you happy, you have no reason not to indulge yourself… once in a while.

I do not consider Starbucks as my third place, but maybe, just maybe, it all boils down to ambiance. The comfy chair, the warm lighting, the comforting smell of coffee. I have discovered it weeks ago, when the need for a charging station arose. Those things lure people in. Those things make them stay for hours and come back.

I am not too sure whether I was able to finish a paper in two hours because of ambiance. I am also lucky not to be surrounded by boisterous kids chatting loudly. From the three reasons I stated earlier, I think it’s really the warm lighting that made me concentrate.



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  • Tammy

    How Starbucks is seen in the Philippines and the US are vastly different. Here, Starbucks is just like your “coffee McDonald’s”. Not the best, but it’s what the common people most know about. In addition, the price of Starbucks is also different as compared to other coffee shops, while this is not the case in the Philippines. There are shops in the Philippines that offer locally grown brewed coffee at a price 1/3 of Starbucks. Starbucks in the Philippines is among the most expensive coffee shops. In the US, it is not. It’s the same as the coffee shop in our college Cafeteria and cheaper than the Chai latte I get at Panera.

    I can understand both sides. While what you said about being judgmental is true, we cannot deny that there are a lot of “social climbers” in the Philippines where they will rather spend their parents’ money for Starbucks just to look cool rather than directing it towards their basic necessities.

    But then, I don’t think this is a Starbucks syndrome. But basically with many coffee shops with name in the Philippines…even the locally grown…was it Figaro? I think it boils down to the mentality of many “middle and lower class”(income wise) Filipinos — to be associated to what is considered “elite”.

    Another difference I noticed. In the Philippines people tend to stay at Starbucks but here in the US, you don’t see people inside Starbucks, but you do see quite a lot drinking Starbucks in school. It’s kind of funny once you get to see the other side of the fence. What is considered posh in one side, it is “masa” in the other.

    • MM

      Thanks for your insight, Tamz. ;) Venti frap now costs around Php 180-200… no wonder I don’t buy coffee from Starbucks anymore (but then again, I am a milk tea addict, which explains the switch). This week, Starbucks Philippines has a half-price promo for all their beverages, but you can only avail the promo during off-peak hours.

      Yup, Figaro’s the local one.

      Yeah, I agree! Even celebs are seen carrying cups instead of hanging out inside the store.

      • Tammy

        I love milk teas but they’re not so many that sell in our area. Well, maybe because of the low Asian population and more on Mexican population.

        • MM

          How much are milk teas over there?

  • Miko

    After reading your blog post, I suddenly remember the conversation I had with one my work colleague earlier. We were in a mall when I noticed that there were two Starbucks branches and told him that Philippines is becoming a ‘Starbucks nation’. He laughed at my reaction and told me that Starbucks here in the Philippines is one of the ‘posh’ branches in the world. I agree with him since as you have mentioned, when it comes to ambiance and interior, they really do spend on it.

    Your post also brought me to memory lane. Starbucks became my third place when I started working back in 2010. I used to stay there while I check my students essay, prepare my lesson plans, and when I need a breather from work. I find their place (and my favorite branch in down south Alabang) comfortable and just chillax (as one student of mine told me). The only downside of it is when it becomes crowded with noisy kids, yuppies and barkadas that troop down the place and decided to bring the place down.

    The only thing I find it weird is why is that all of a sudden it became a ‘status-quo’, and it give way to judging people on how they prefer their coffee. I’m like c’mon, it’s just coffee for pete sake, why make it an issue?

    • MM

      Your comment reminds me of Trinoma—the have three branches of Starbucks. One near Landmark supermarket, one inside the mall and one situated at the deck. It’s crazy because all three branches are packed!

      I am guilty of being noisy in coffee shops (haha). Maybe that’s why I never thought of doing actual work in Starbucks until recently. XD

      Each individual has something they’re willing to splurge on, but I guess it’s an issue because a Venti can already feed a family for a day.

  • Tammy

    I agree with MM. It’s the price relative to the purchasing power of most Filipinos. That’s like half or a third of the “average” salary of Filipinos for a DAY. If you convert it to dollars, there is not much difference. Except that the price of a cup is half the minimum wage per HOUR.

    While there are genuinely the Starbucks people, meron din yung mga “nakikiStarbucks” kahit lahat ng necessities as sobrang tinipid na. I’ve seen this with SOME of my collegemates in the Philippines.

    BTW, do they have Chai latte at the Starbucks over there? Chai lattes seem to be becoming more common in coffee shops here. ..and it’s my favorite :D

    • MM

      Woah, may ganun pala? I mean, I’d rather skip the coffee than walk for miles dahil wala akong pamasahe. Hehe. Mag-3in1 na lang ako! :)

      I don’t think they have! CBTL has more tea options than Starbucks.

  • Red

    Hello! :) Chai tea latte is the first milk tea I’ve tried (apart from Thai Iced Tea), and yes, it’s offered in Starbucks Philippines. :) But they don’t have the Frappe version here. In the US, they do have it, right? I remember ordering it before. :)

    • MM

      Thanks for clarifying, Red! Is it good?

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