By Vina Medenilla
Demand for greenery during the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased as many Filipinos yearn for nature after being cooped up at home for so long.
Plants have been helping gardeners deal with the pandemic stress and fear. Plants are also a livelihood for others, allowing them to get through the tough times.
The surge in demand for ornamental plants also inspired a group of friends to highlight a popular plant in their cafe business called ‘Monstera Cafe.’
A business built on friendship
Monstera Cafe is owned by four friends that consist of two couples: Herbert Babia and Monica Romerosa, as well as spouses Christian and Cristina Giron.
Their plan to start a cafe business stemmed from a random group conversation way back in 2018.
Three years later, they consolidated their personal savings to build the cafe and pushed through with the garden-themed coffee shop by incorporating Monstera in their branding.
Monstera Cafe officially opened last September 28, 2021.
Combining profession and hobby to earn a living
Babia and Romerosa, 39 and 33 respectively, have been avid Monstera and Philodendron collectors since 2018. They are part of a wedding band called ‘Infinite Soul Acoustic’ which serenades cafe guests every Friday night.
Many of their events were canceled and postponed due to the pandemic, thus paying their monthly expenses and loans became difficult.
To deal with the stress that the crisis has brought about, the couple started investing in premium or rare to semi-rare plants like Mini Monstera (Rhaphidophora tetrasperma), Philodendron verrucosum, and Monstera Thai Constellation. They sell them to fellow wedding suppliers and friends.
The plants have helped them improve their mental health as well as their financial situation throughout the COVID-19 crisis.
Initially, the couple was only selling Philodendron and Monstera varieties on the internet. Later on, they also made them available in the garden cafe they built with their friends.
Since they are in the remote part of Silang, Cavite, many delivery riders had a hard time finding their place. To have smooth transactions, Romerosa marked the place “Monstera Café and Garden Center” in different mobile apps so it would be easier to locate.
“When we finally decided to officially start the café, we just continued to use the name and just omitted the words ‘Garden Center’ to make it more catchy,” said the owners.
Cafe filled with lush greenery
Monstera cafe is located in Purok 4, Malaking Tatiao Road, Silang, Cavite. It offers a relaxing ambiance with plenty of greenery that many plant lovers would probably want to visit.
The plants serve as the cafe’s main attraction, especially since many of their guests are plant enthusiasts, sellers, and distributors.
Their plant collections are arranged around the bar and dining area, while the rare varieties can be found in different corners of the cafe as well as in the parking lot. They also built a small greenhouse beside the cafe so they can sell propagated plants during operating hours.
The massive Monstera Deliciosa is one of the cafe’s main draws. They also have Monstera Adansonii, which came from a 20-year-old mother plant and is larger than the typical size.
They enjoy collecting Monstera varieties, particularly Monstera Deliciosa, Monstera Dubia (large form), Monstera Albo Borsigiana, Monstera Laniata, Monstera Adansonii, Monstera Blanchetii.
“Most of our plants are Philodendrons and Monstera varieties because they are easier to propagate and planting those plants directly in the soil makes them even bigger and more lush compared to our plants in pots.”
Inside the greenhouse, they also have some varieties of begonia, succulent, cactus, calathea, caladium, peperomia, anthurium, Pilea peperomioides, and Colocasia black magic.
“We also hoarded a lot of Philodendron verrucosum and Monstera Albo to sell a few of their nodes and set aside the other nodes for our personal collection,” the growers said.
Extra income during the pandemic
The prices of their Monstera and Philodendrons vary based on the size, quantity, and quality of their leaves, as well as their rarity.
The Monstera varieties are sold from P300 to P78,000.
Philodendron Florida Beauty is the most expensive plant they recently sold, costing between P78,000 to P150,000 in the market.
In a month, they sell around 15 to 20 rare plants and 20 to 25 common plants. Their regular customers and resellers are wedding suppliers and individuals from plant communities.
For the founders of the cafe, Monstera, or plants in general, are beyond just a brand because they provide them opportunities for growth, both as entrepreneurs and individuals.
Photos courtesy of Monstera Cafe
For more information, visit Monstera Cafe