September 28, 2023

If one is looking for organic and authentic cuisine, one may pass by at Ili-Likha Artists Village along Assumption Road and look for Café Cueva on the main level. The café, which offers quality food and drinks at affordable prices, is owned by the gorgeous Laydeh Alberto and Shagem Okubo.

“Our food is locally sourced, “ says Laydeh. “It’s a farm-to-table set up. We don’t use MSG (Mono-sodium glutamate), and we rely on the natural taste of the food. We invented everything from scratch and experimented with local ingredients. There are special offerings which are seasonal depending on the availabilty of the ingredients. We do our own butchering and smoking of the meat. We get out herbs and vegetables from Itogon backyard gardeners and our meat from Tuba (both in Benguet).”

The café is open from Monday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The café has chao fans for student meals and offer catering services for special occasions, weddings, intimate gatherings, occasions and workshops. One can get in touch with them at 0928-505-3778 or look for Laydeh Alberto on Facebook. Other yummy foods on the menu are buffalo chicken wings, tinapa chao fan, grilled pork, and prawn crackers.

The lady is actually a University of the Philippines Fine Arts graduate who did sculpture, fashion styling, and production design before she ventured into the culinary field. She is also a graduate of the Fashion Institute of the Philippines. She does wedding dresses and other special upcycling designs. Laydeh herself can pass for a model. Her grandfather Juan Alberto used to be the governor of Virac, Catanduanes.

How did she make Baguio her home? Laydeh  wanted to take up Marine Biology in UP Mindanao but was persuaded by her grandmother Yolanda, who took care of her,  to take up creative writing instead at UP Baguio. Her lola reasoned out that it was more practical since her lawyer  uncle Juan Alberto and wife Che were  in Baguio.

In 2014, she was invited together with other artists by National Artist Kidlat Tahimik when he was developing the artists village at Assumption Road. Kidlat’s advocacy and vision was to put up an artists village which promoted local goods and a habitat for artists, each exemplifying his or her own expertise.

Her Lakay Shagem, on the other hand, is a contractor. He is now helping Laydeh in Café Cueva and seems to be enjoying the new task. Though he misses traveling, he says, the work is much lighter and less stressful. “I get to be with my wife and kids now.” They have three kids, Pablo – 12 years old, Tiago – 4 years old and Juana Yolanda, named after Laydeh’s beloved lola – 2 years old. Shagem comes from Godio-Okubo clan from Asin and Itogon.  His mother Jeanira Godio is the sister of former Mayor Mario Godio of Itogon and  father Bernard is from Asin.

She is also a member of the Mighty Bhutens mosaic artists group and has done film production work all over the Cordilleras with other artists like Ferdie Balanag and Karlo Altamonte.

So, if one is raving for unique and local organic food and drinks, visit Café Cueva at the Ili-Likha Artists Village.