SIGN IN      

How a house party evolved into a Maginhawa café 

September 26, 2017

Digital Reporter

Cover art Samantha Gonzales

In their teens, best friends Louie Lao and Marge Soliman hung out like usual high schoolers: they had house parties with their barkada and kept themselves busy with boardgames (which Mr. Lao loved) and home-cooked meals (prepared by Ms. Soliman).

But unlike most people, the two, who are now 25‑ and 24‑years‑old, respectively, turned their high school into a business venture.

After Mr. Lao got into Ateneo de Manila’s BS Psychology course, and Ms. Soliman studied Culinary Arts at De La Salle University‑College of St. Benilde, they reunited in 2015 and turned an empty parking lot on Maginhawa Street into Snacks & Ladders, a stylish board game café accessible to college and high school students alike.

“Our target market is obviously students, families and barkadas,” Ms. Soliman, Snacks and Ladders’ executive chef, said. “We’re surrounded by schools so they’re our main target market. So they use that to their advantage.”

“Most of our menu are snacks, we also have sandwiches and rice bowls because Pinoys love rice,” she explained. Indeed, Snacks & Ladders’ menu is a delicious fusion of Filipino food with Japanese and American classics like their Crispy Pork Tokaidobo and Strawberry Banana Ice Scramble. “Another factor that we consider is current trends, and since we’re in the modern era we all expect are things to be delivered quickly. So our food items are all quick to prepare.”

As for games acquisition, she leaves that to Mr. Lao, who acts as general manager. “We started with the many games that Louie already has, and then he went to the United States to buy some more because it’s cheaper there. He also bought a lot of games from the clearance sale of an old game shop,” she shared. While the shop does not regularly purchase new games, it has a wish list drawn on a blackboard near the counter where gamers can request their favorite game. Snacks & Ladders does its best to deliver.

Snacks & Ladders also provides a venue for Filipino game makers to showcase their products. “Some local and indie board and card game creators have approached us, like Politrix and Crap against Filipinos,” said Ms. Soliman. “We also have a consignment deal with Funko Pop toys and sell some action figures.”

Board games is an expensive hobby, so the café also hires some student board gamers part‑time to earn some money doing something that they love. “They’re very passionate about games, but I reminded them that they should prioritize their schooling,” Ms. Soliman said. This process allows the café staff to concentrate on other tasks like cooking and running the register, but they’ve also learned to play games as they continue to work at Snacks & Ladders.

In the future, Ms. Soliman and Mr. Lao has no plans of expanding Snacks and Ladders. “He wants to finish his teaching load first,” Ms. Soliman said about Mr. Lao, whose day job is a college instructor. But as the gaming community continues to grow, and with the following they already have from the gamers of Diliman, Snacks & Ladders, although not yet planning to level up, certainly has a good game.