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  • BERNARD JAMES REMOLLINO

Centering Radical Love, Community Care, and Joy Through Kwentuhans at Masaya Kapé


Owner Abby Principe at Masaya Kapé's first official pop-up on May 20, 2023, in Vallejo, CA. Photo: Hannah Arado

Abby Principe is brewing more than just coffee at Masaya Kapé. Principe envisioned the Pinay-owned kapihan (coffee house) in 2022 as a space for uplifting community voices and struggles. She was born and raised in Vallejo, CA, where family gatherings and late-night kwentuhans (talk-stories) over coffee deeply influenced her perspectives on history, service, and Filipino American culture.


“Kwentuhans were a way for me to get to know my family history. Growing up, family parties would start to wind down until someone would start making coffee and the party would liven up with kwento. Through these stories, I learned about the raw immigrant experience. The ugliness – the arguments, the struggles – spliced with jokes and chismis (gossip). All of that would come out with coffee,” Principe said. “It was the most organic way to listen to my ancestors and connect with my relatives. That’s what I attribute coffee to in my family: the storytelling.”


It was during these kapé kwentuhans that Principe learned how her grandmother, Ofelia Magallanes, lost family during the Spanish-American War, survived imprisonment by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, made coffee by boiling avocado leaves, and how her sister attended to Filipino seniors’ healthcare needs when she first arrived in Alameda, CA. Her grandmother’s unyielding spirit, care for her community, and commitment to embracing happiness through suffering inspired Principe.

Ofelia Magallanes, affectionately called 'Ate,' helped raise Abby Principe and inspired the creation of Masaya Kapé. Photo Courtesy: Abby Principe

“I asked my 93-year-old lola what her secret was to long life. She said, ‘I’m always happy.’ It’s finding joy and being joyful. That’s what inspired me to pursue Masaya,” Principe said. Rather than conforming to toxic positivity, Principe believes that joy is an act of resistance, in the way that her family has been able to actively seek joy in even the most challenging situations.

Masaya Kapé, Tagalog for “Joyful Coffee,” is grounded in an alternative praxis of entrepreneurship that prioritizes love and activism over professional clout and profit.


Principe’s mindful authenticity is evident in how she shares Masaya Kapé with her patrons at various Bay Area pop-ups. From February through June, Principe hosted free community coffee tastings of her experimental menu of pandan cold brews and chais, turon lattes, and pour overs of kapeng barako.


“This is a business that prioritizes people over profit,” Principe said. “The intention is to really serve the people not only with drinks but also with our platform.”


True to this intention, Principe organized a tasting fundraiser in April to support Nicanor Arriola and Julienne Ochengco, who were attacked outside the California State Capitol on February 1. Masaya Kapé’s solidarity with the Justice for the Arriola-Ochengco campaign reflects Principe’s education at the Bulosan Center for Filipino Studies at the University of California, Davis. Under the guidance of Dr. Robyn Magalit Rodriguez, Principe honed a sensibility toward empathetic organizing rooted in her historical understanding of the Filipinx American farmworker movement, which informs her intentional approach to product sourcing.


(Left to right) Joel Calixto, Nelle Garcia, Abby Principe, Catherine DeGuzman, Migo Tandez, Angela Alejandro, Liberty Santos, Nikki Live Basas, and Chloe Azurin at Masaya Kapé's first tasting on February 25, 2023. Photo Courtesy: Masaya Kapé

“The coffee industry in the Philippines is one of the most exploited in the agricultural industry,” Principe said. “One piece that I’m wrestling with right now is how I can ethically source Filipino coffee because I share that same vision of wanting to give back to the Philippines and helping out farmworkers.”


Principe sought advice from Ronald Dizon of Teofilo Coffee Company in Los Alamitos, received ardent encouragement from other BIPOC women entrepreneurs and her Bulosan Center chosen family, and found inspiration from Hood Famous Bakeshop in Seattle and Moschetti Artisan Coffee Roaster in Vallejo. These relationships emboldened Principe to actualize her vision of representing childhood flavors through her coffee.


“I felt like there were flavors, such as pandan and turon, from my childhood that I wasn’t really seeing represented. Before some white café owner starts taking the flavor and capitalizing it, let me try doing it,” Principe said. “A lot of what I’ve been doing is just me being creative and taking risks and having fun.”


Masaya Kapé embodies Principe’s conviction of moving through the world as a scholar-entrepreneur-activist using coffee to lovingly share the complexities of her Filipinx American identity with her community.


“Love is at the center of my intention,” Principe said. “Masaya Kapé was this venture that I started completely blind with no previous experience with coffee, but just doing it purely out of love and intention for people and the desire to know their story.”



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