To so many people, The Chocolate Kiss Café is more than just a restaurant. It was a home away from home, a favorite barkada spot, an essential part of their university experience, a place for celebration, a witness to romance, a delicious secret shared across generations. And so when the café announced that it would be closing its 23-year-old restaurant at the second floor of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman’s Ang Bahay ng Alumni, hearts were broken.
In a post called “Goodbye Kiss,” Chocolate Kiss Café owner Ina Flores-Pahati, daughter of Maline Flores, who founded the restaurant, wrote, “We didn’t know our lives would be changed when my family opened Chocolate Kiss Café… We are deeply grateful for all the customers who have shown their support for Chocolate Kiss Café for many years… You brought our dining room to life. What a blessing indeed to be warmly embraced by the UP community.
“The Café has always relied on high volume in sustaining its operations,” Pahati said. “The losses already incurred since the start of ECQ (enhanced community quarantine), and the prospect of not being able to operate at full capacity for an indeterminable period, has led to this difficult decision.”
While its Fairview commissary will continue to serve customers’ favorite dishes until Aug. 23, and then its popular cakes and pastries after that, the restaurant that’s beloved by so many is saying goodbye.
We asked people to share their favorite Chocolate Kiss memories. There are so many of them who wanted to pay tribute to the café, that we’re releasing this story in two parts.
Ben Bulac Case officer, Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Chocolate Kiss will always be home to me. The numerous birthdays, reunions and other occasions I spent in that place are memories I will forever treasure. I remember going there as a young boy. Upon entering, the first thing that would greet you was the warm aroma of coffee and other delicious smells that would instantly get you hungry. The ambiance was stylish and inviting. The sound of jazz wafting from the speakers or someone playing the piano always managed to rise above the constant chatter. Their staff was always friendly and if you were a regular, the staff would know what you would order. I remember going on dates and even getting the occasional rejection in this place, but somehow their sans rival or devil’s food cake, coupled with bottomless iced tea, always soothed the heartache. It truly saddens me to hear that they’re closing. I would like to thank Tita Terry and the other people who kept this place magical.
Klara Iskra Añonuevo Writer/editor
When I was in college, dining at Chocolate Kiss Café was a luxury. I don’t remember visiting it often then (maybe just thrice or four times a semester), but I remember feeling super ‘shala’ whenever I had lunch or dinner there, haha! But since I am only ‘pretend-sosyal,’ I always had to have the bottomless iced tea, not only because it was the cheapest item on the menu (if I recall correctly) but also because it gave me an excuse to stay longer at the café.
After graduation, Chocolate Kiss would often be the venue for reunions with classmates and friends from UP and was even the location for a despedida lunch for a friend who moved to Cebu. Having my own salary allowed me to go beyond the iced tea, and I would either go for the Salisbury steak, the hickory smoked spareribs, or the mushroom aglio llio for my entree, but I always had to have a slice of the devil’s food cake for dessert. The first office I worked at was near the Roces branch, and I remember ordering a whole cake every year for my birthday—and usually, I didn’t share it! I’ve actually lost track of how many times I’ve said or written ‘Devil’s Food Cake for a devil like me!’
Jaycee Pagdanganan Training manager
I can’t even remember the first time I went to Chocolate Kiss, but I’m sure I saved a part of my allowance for it. When I got in to UP as a freshie, my well-off friends told me how good the cakes were, especially the devil’s food cake. As a chicken lover, I also became a fan of chix in a basket. The tenders back then were bigger, juicier. Man, it was the early 2000s… I’ve probably eaten there with every circle of friends I made in UP: PMS, blockmates, Circulo Hispanico, classmates. At times, we would hang out at the first floor to have coffee and smoke, then transfer to the second floor for dinner. Yes, there were two Chockisses. Even when I dropped out of school, I would visit just to have a bite of devil’s food cake or my favorite, dayap chiffon. Years later, I went there to celebrate reentering UP, a feat I didn’t think was possible.
I will miss the food. I will miss the memories. I will miss the music. I will miss the smile in every bite. I will miss the joy of watching people: on dates, with family, with study buddies, or those alone like me, who found a good spot in a small legendary restaurant, eating dayap cake in solitary bliss.
From first date to proposal
Michael Shaun Ritualo MD, military orthopedic surgeon
What I love most about Chocolate Kiss aside from their food is the ambiance and the very accommodating staff, specially Ma’am Terry. My most memorable experience there was when I proposed to my wife Excelle Grace Canonizado-Ritualo, MD, on May 28, 2017. I chose this place because this was where we had our first date. It was a surprise proposal because she thought it was just their regular family after-Mass activity. With the help of my family, friends and the Chocolate Kiss staff, I was able to make her say ‘yes.’
Chico Barretto Video producer
As a kid who grew up in the warm embrace of UP Diliman, here are some of the many things I’ll miss about Chocolate Kiss: the cold air-con’s breeze as a refuge from the hot afternoon sun, a cold glass of unli iced tea with honey, and who can forget that fudgy devil’s food cake and crispy chix in a basket with a tangy BBQ dip?
This photo is my favorite memory of Chocolate Kiss. This was my daughter’s reaction upon seeing their dessert! I will miss having a go-to place in the UP Campus to reminisce about how we only used to go there on very special occasions because it was out of our budget range when we were in college! Aside from the cookie a la mode, I love the kalbi chim.
Poppert Bernadas Singer, actor
Chocolate Kiss was part of my college and graduate school life in UP Diliman. I remember, during my first year in college, I could never afford a meal in this famous resto, so I saved up in order to try its pasta, brewed iced tea with honey and my favorite dayap chiffon cake and devil’s food cake.
When I became one of the members of the Ryan Cayabyab Singers in 2007, Mr. C always treated us to lunch or dinner in Chockiss. Ang daming magagandang alaala ang nabuo dito, ’yung tipong halos ginagawa naming library ang Chockiss ng mga classmates ko. After our badminton training or Dulaang UP shows, diretso na agad kami sa Chockiss. At ngayon, wala na ang paborito naming tambayan. Goodbye Kiss to you Chockiss! Salamat sa magagandang alaala.
Where I take special people
Carlo Vives IT project coordinator
Chocolate Kiss has always made me feel very warm inside. This is where I usually take special people in my life so I can share the warmth of the place and the food delights it offers. Since 1999, I have been visiting the place and spent many good times just being there with friends and family. With its departure, Bahay ng Alumni will never be the same for me. Goodbye, creamy carbonara…
Karl Molina Talent and leadership development manager
Chocolate Kiss for me was an aspiration. I never ate there when I was in UP for the simple reason that I couldn’t afford it. So when I started working, I told myself that finally, I can eat there. One random visit to the campus in 2011, I found myself ordering everything I wanted. They were all delicious. How sad to know that another institution is closing. Today was a reminder that food is always personal.
Katrina Kay Bulaong-Abella Senior export manager for Fisherfarms
Chocolate Kiss Café is family to me! I know the owners, the waiters, the staff, music performers and even got to know other regulars as well. I was invited by Ina Flores and her family to sing for them during their seventh and 10th anniversaries, and it has been an honor each time to perform with artists who also call CK their home away from home.
When we got married in 2015, my husband and I made sure we had a cake buffet from CK. Nonnegotiable! We love their cakes!
I will miss the warm welcome I would get from Ate Terry each time I would visit, and how they would know what my husband Scott and I would order. It’s my birthday in a few days and I will miss celebrating dinner with them sa Bahay ng Alumni.
Annelle Tayao-Juego Business features writer, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Like a real kiss, Chocolate Kiss Café brings up nothing but memories of love for me.
The love of family because years ago, the café opened a second branch that was walking distance from our home in Scout Chuatoco, Quezon City—and it became an extension of our dining room, our go-to resto whenever my parents and siblings and I craved for devil’s food cake, salpicao, or the signature iced tea.
The love of friends, my org mates whom I consider family, too, as they have become part of my postcollege life.
And the love of my life, my husband—when he and I first started dating, the UP branch was one of our favorite haunts during breaks in between classes, or afternoon merienda before he would take me home.
We were looking forward to taking our three kids there, because they would have gone crazy over the devil’s food cake, but sadly, this pandemic has taken away that opportunity.
I still hold out hope that you will reopen your doors again, Chockiss. In the meantime, I send you all my love, from a distance.
Christine de Vera Pianist and ethnomusicologist
Walking into Chocolate Kiss felt like a red carpet moment for me each time. It was default tambayan when I was working in Katipunan and doing graduate studies at UP. I am sure I was not the only regular customer getting preferential treatment, but somehow they made me feel that I was the only VIP in the room whenever I visited, which at some point was like three to four times a week, and twice on some days.
More than the food, I will miss how the place bore witness to so many milestones and rites of passage. Birthdays, graduations, promotions, losing jobs, losing friends, deaths…Lively, animated conversations with friends as well as solitary moments when I could be alone with my thoughts despite the loud chatter of the dinner and lunchtime crowd. The staff was respectful of my space regardless of what state I was in, but their faces were never lost in the crowd. I knew that when our gazes met, they shared my joys and grief.
Pam Valderrama Consultant and stay-at-home mom
I’ve been going to Chockiss since college to hang out, meet with blind dates (lol) and eventually dates with my daughter.
They’ve had the same waitstaff since college, which is testament to how management treats their employees. Love their devil’s food cake and kalbi chim. Will miss this UPD institution. Glad that they can still accept cake orders. Hope you return to us soon! INQThe Chocolate Kiss Café’s Fairview commissary, which remains open, is at Block 1, Lot 13, Republic Ave., Doña Petrona Subdivision, Quezon City, near Robinson’s Townsville, Regalado Ave. For orders, visit www.thechocolatekiss.com.