Ranier. Bryan. Erwin. Rick. Mugs scribbled with names line shelves after shelves of an obscure coffee shop inside Iloilo’s La Paz Public Market. From mugs painted in plain whites to colorfully printed ones, each ceramic cup is personalized with names of patrons regularly hanging out at Iloilo City’s Madge Café.
Our group has just finished bowls of steaming batchoy at La Paz’s legendary Netong’s. Everyone’s full, but wanted to relax a bit more before heading back to Days Hotel, our lodging of choice for our stay in Iloilo City.
Let’s have coffee, someone suggested. And I immediately remembered a legit café tucked inside that same market.
Madge Café is an unpretentious local watering hole located right in the heart of Iloilo city. It is as old as it looks with its faded dye flooring and bygone era-style window barandillas. Passed from one generation to the next, this coffee house still serves the original coffee concoction it once did when it started in 1951.
The café is named after Magdalena dela Cruz, the wife of Madge’s brainchild. They mainly serve native Arabica coffee and beans harvested north of Iloilo. It sorta reminded of of Bacolod’s now-defunct La Corona Cafe.
You won’t find any frappucinos here though; their selections are limited to iced and hot versions of light, regular and strong coffee brew. A cup would set you back a measly Php25.00.
My friends ordered lights and regulars but I wanted to try their strong brew.
Since we’re no regulars, we were served in unmarked mugs. The culador-prepped coffee was really strong so I added a couple teaspoons of muscovado sugar. I’m no coffee expert; my palate usually satiated even with just the regular 3-in-1 packets sold in sari-sari stores, but I liked their coffee.
For take-outs, they use empty milk cans complete with serrated tops. A really interesting, and not to mention environmentally sound way, of bringing a cup of coffee along with you.
But the real draw of Madge Café is its friendly, relaxed and no-frills atmosphere. Even with its humble plastic furnishing, the café is a popular hang out for noted Iloilo personalities. The coffee shop even has a bulletin board full of photographs from the celebrities that has tasted their blends.
Madge Café also serves foodstuff that most carinderias carry; but since we went there for their coffee, we decided to bring in something more apt with our beverage, the Ube Brazo de Mercedes of the nearby La Paz Bakery. At Php27.00 per slice, I find it to be a bit expensive, but its ultra-soft texture and just-right sweetness won the hearts and tummies of my friends.
Personally, I didn’t like it that much though, being too soft and mushy for my taste.
What I did dig are the numerous putos and local delicacies being sold by manongs and manangs near Madge’s place. I specially enjoyed the mini-bibingka with my coffee, and it’s way cheaper too.
I’ve been to Iloilo numerous times but I’ve only experienced having coffee at Madge Café twice. Surely not enough to earn a place at the café’s mug shelves; but maybe if I visit it enough, I’ll have my own Lakad Pilipinas mug out there too.
But naaah, it’s actually enough for me to enjoy Madge Café’s old-school vibes while sipping their old-school brew and exchanging old-school stories with friends.