And just like the golden days, a fresh batch of pugon-baked bread is pulled out of the oven of the 78-year-old bakery, ready to be served.
Kamuning Bakery Cafe was acquired and restored by realtor and writer, Wilson Lee Flores, who continued its legacy as the neighborhood bakery. And just like the golden days, a fresh batch of pugon-baked bread is pulled out of the oven of the 78-year-old bakery, ready to be served.
- Wilson is a real estate professional who loves art and history. Wilson believes that a nation’s history is not just only found in books or in museums, but also with the way people prepare and consume their food. This vision perhaps allowed him to see that the old-fashioned bakery formerly owned by Atty. Leticia Bonifacio Javier still has a future. In 2013, Wilson bought Kamuning Bakery Café and restored it to its former glory. Upon his taking over in the business, Kamuning Bakery Café impressively earned 2300 percent increase in sales during the first year of new management operation. Wilson also takes pride not just in successfully rehabilitating the bakery, but also in winning back former and welcoming new patrons. Through the years, the bakery's patrons included the late President Cory Aquino, Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, National Artists like Nick Joaquin and Levi Celerio, and celebrities like Susan Roces and the late Nida Blanca among others.
- For more than three generations, Kamuning Bakery Café still stands at the corner of Judge Jimenez Street and K-1st Street beside a huge Narra tree and across the street from the former Kamuning movie theater (now Our People of Grace School). Kamuning Bakery Café was named after Barangay Kamuning (originally Barrio Obrero). The area used to be planted with many flowering kamuning trees, while nearby Tomas Morato Avenue formerly Sampaloc Avenue (planted on both sides with sampaloc or tamarind trees).
- While Pugon-baking is now a forgotten art, Wilson has still managed to preserve the bakery’s ‘Pugon’ trademark, which refers to the use of wood-fired brick oven in baking. Currently, Kamuning Bakery Café is one of the few remaining authentic pugon bakeries in the country. Wilson is proud to say that besides being traditional pugon-baked, Kamuning Bakery Café products are also artisanal (baked by hand, labor-intensive and time-consuming), have no-preservatives and no-additives breads. Kamuning Bakery Café has two working pugon ovens, but only one baker remained from way back the old days, and so Wilson set about training young bakers to master the art of pugon baking.
Kamuning Bakery Café’s 78-year-old pugon and pugon-baked Pan de Suelo
- Wilson said that every visitor of Kamuning Bakery Café is advised to taste its bestseller – the pugon-baked Pan de Suelo. Suelo is a Spanish word that means floor. Wilson shared that before the Americans came, Filipino bakers used to bake their breads not on pans but on the floor of a wood-fire brick oven which gives the bread a crisp texture and a more flavorful taste. Another must-taste for first-time visitors is the Café’s Arabica coffee from Benguet brewed into latte or cappuccino using an imported Italian coffee maker machine.
- Amidst the current domination of imported bread, pastries, and café brands in Asia, Wilson keeps a personal advocacy to harness traditional practices in baking and promote local products for public to realize that these local brands are comparable and even better than foreign ones. In fact, Wilson is able to help small fishermen from Taal Lake through buying tawilis (freshwater sardines) used in the Café’s Tawilis pasta, as well as the farmers from Mt. Atok, Benguet where he’s sourcing out his coffee.
- The Pandesal Survey is Wilson’s brainchild. The Pandesal Survey is an order-based survey, which invites customers to purchase an order representing their opinion to an issue, or vote for a person. During the recent May 2016 National Election, Kamuning Bakery Cafe served burgers and sandwiches named after the candidates, and a dish ordered was a vote in the survey. To Wilson’s delight, Kamuning Bakery Café’s Pandesal Survey has indeed matched the results of the National Elections with Pan de Duterte (a spicy burger sandwich) winning the contest. Customers can order this sandwich with a twist anytime as the Pan de Duterte is now being served as part of Kamuning Bakery Café’s regular menu.
Kamuning Bakery Café’s Pan de Duterte
- Kamuning Bakery Café’s famous “Pandesal Forum” started in 2015, with Senator Grace Poe as the person behind the name and former Vice President Jejomar Binay as the first media forum speaker. Wilson said the Pandesal Forum is tertulia-inspired, an informal venue for media and intellectuals, government leaders, artists, and celebrities to discuss matters of public interest over pan de sal and a cup of coffee. Wilson also added that the forum not only aims to elevate public discourse on politics, current affairs, and pop culture, but is also non-partisan by nature – it aims to give equal opportunity for different voices to be heard.
- A bakery-café that sells experience and understands the needs of its customers – that is how Wilson wants Kamuning Bakery Café to be remembered. Wilson said that customers frequent Kamuning Bakery Cafe for many more reasons than just hunger and thirst: there is the escape from a stressful office/school, the chance to maintain or grow a relationship, a place to get away to do some reflective work, a chance to engage with familiar store staff at a particularly lonely time, or as a place to recollect childhood memories. Luckily for Kamuning Bakery Café, understanding the needs of returning and new customers has helped the business to continue innovating and provide better product offers.