Café Emilio promotes Filipino freedom through coffee

Finding a good hideaway spot in crowded Manila can feel like such a chore these days. Despite the abundance of cafés and restaurants, sometimes a bad location can turn you off. Nestled inside a dormitory in Makati City is Café Emilio, a Japanese-inspired café with a Filipino touch.

Owners and siblings Katrina and Raoul Cornelio, aged 24 and 26 respectively, opened the café with one thing in mind: to get to know their customers. Having studied in the States and lived in Japan, Katrina found an interest in third wave coffee shops. She has always wanted to open an art café that would help support local artists, but her dream changed when her stay in Japan introduced her to cafés that were more intimate and homey. “Coffee shops in Manila are not intimate and that’s what I feel like is missing. That’s what inspired me to do this,” she says.

Come to think of it, this intimacy is a rarity in Manila now. There are a lot of cafes, both commercial and artisanal, in almost every street in the busiest cities. Inside it you find people whose main relationship is with their gadget because they’re all too preoccupied with working. But Katrina and Raoul make it a point to make a connection with their customers. At one point during our visit, we were asked how we liked our coffee –– a question people rarely get asked when visiting a coffee shop who take their brew seriously. It was a nice gesture, and a definite conversation starter.

Young STAR sat down with Katrina Cornelio to learn more about the café’s very Filipino theme and the secret behind what makes a customer stay. That, and what makes their KKK coffee so scandalous (but in a good way).

Siblings Katrina and Raoul Cornelio started Café Emilio with the goal to get to know their customers.
Photos by Ina Jacobe

YOUNG STAR: We thought the café was about Emilio Aguinaldo.

No, it’s Emilio Jacinto. A lot of people say our logo looks like Jose Rizal (laughs). We wanted to place a KKK flag but I told my brother that it might be too controversial. It was just fate that the street we’re on was Emilio Jacinto.

The Café really has a hint of Japanese but with Filipino touches everywhere.

Yes, that’s really important for me because being away from the country so long makes you realize things. I love being in the States, I love being in Japan but there’s nowhere like home. The culture is so different. It’s sad that there are many Filipinos who don’t really support local. I know it’s starting to change because I’m also surrounded by people who support local products, and I really like that. We have to be proud of our culture. You study abroad, and then what? You stay abroad? No. You have to come back, and you have to give back. So, that’s one of the reasons why we have this café.

Nestled in a dormitory in Makati, Café Emilio is a Japanese-inspired café with a Filipino touch.

Let’s talk about your KKK coffee. What’s the reason behind the name? You mentioned it has caramel, chocolate, and you can even add espresso. But we couldn’t quite connect it to the name KKK.

Basically, KKK is like freedom. You want to be free in creating your own decisions, so we wanted our customers to try it with your own spin. I usually concoct mine with caramel; my brother does it with French vanilla, but the main point is basically chocolate.

You can create your own drink. You can add espresso or you can add all three elements. Mine would be caramel, French vanilla and chocolate; some of our customers they like a little less chocolate and more espresso –– so they do double shots and so on. It’s a very customizable drink. That’s the concept of that.

Café Emilio is located in the GF of My Town dorm at 1244 Jacinto St., Guadalupe Nuevo, Makati City. The café is open Mondays to Fridays from 12PM to 8PM and is closed on weekends and holidays. Follow them on Instagram (


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