If you think the world is puzzling, imagine what the world is like for me. I hear things more loudly. I see things more clearly. I smell things more strongly. I feel things you don't. I taste things differently. I have autism.
It tugs at my heart, reading those heartbreaking lines written on one of the café’s tables. It must be hard and challenging for families to have a member diagnosed with autism. Children with autism experience the world differently than other children. They may have a difficult time socializing with others or dealing with or making sense of the sights, sounds, smells and other sensations. According to the Autism Society of the Philippines, there are close to a million cases of autism in the country.
That is why it is admirable that Puzzle Gourmet Café, an autism friendly café and store, finally opened its door in November 2014, to spread awareness about this complex developmental disability.
The inspiration behind Puzzle is the young man named Jose Canoy. He was born with low functioning autism and is good at organizing things. The café was put up by his loving and supportive family for him as an outlet, to make his time worthwhile, further develop his social skills in dealing with diners, and help secure his future.
It was Jose who named the cafe after his favorite hobby – completing jigsaw puzzles. Autism is usually associated with puzzles as it reflects the mystery and complexity of the autism spectrum.
I love the vibrant and colorful interiors of the café, its mismatched furniture, and the tables beautifully written with inspiring quotes. They celebrate life, diversity and being special.
Puzzle serves comfort food, some with quirky names like Julius Caesar, Senator Cheese, Parokya ni Egg-gar, Joey de Lechon and Choco Martin.
Joey de Lechon
There is a grocery corner offering mostly imported gluten-free food, drinks, and sweets.
Interestingly, it also has a souvenir shop section showcasing the arts and crafts made by artists with autism. Most of these products came from their partner school Independent Living Learning Center, an institution which caters to the needs of children and young adults with developmental conditions.
What’s commendable with Puzzle is they provide employment opportunities to PWDs, as well as a safe haven for them so they could be mainstreamed into society. It is café with a heart, where people with different disabilities are appreciated and celebrated. I had fun interacting with the young lady server with autism, who was adept in taking orders and very courteous with diners.
Life is one big puzzle. I’m also still figuring it out, still finding the missing pieces. But what’s important is… it is okay to be different. It doesn’t make you less a person.
Puzzle Gourmet Store and Café
#1 Comets Loop, Blue Ridge B
Tel. No.: 0917-5019645, 0998-9722550