The T-shirts helping the service crews of Manila’s best restaurants

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Manila Takeout is a design-led initiative that helps the staff of Filipino restaurants get by. Photo from MANILA TAKEOUT

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — The closure of restaurants such as Chocolate Kiss and People’s Palace during the pandemic have shown that even the most established institutions in Manila’s food circles are affected by COVID-19. Of course, the people who are immediately affected by the shuttering of these places are the service crews and staff.

Many people have personal connections to these beloved restaurants, having spent birthdays, anniversaries, dates, or just the simple ritual of eating a good meal. Central to the experience of food in these places are the service staff. And as a new recession sets in, there are fears that there are more businesses that will be affected severely. This is what Monica Magsanoc and Audrey Mooney had in mind when they started Manila Takeout, a design-led initiative that helps Filipino restaurants support their service staff while businesses aren’t back to normal yet.

“Over the years, we developed relationships with our default spots and their respective service teams,” says Magsanoc. “Audrey reached out to me in a panic when our favorite restaurants began to close down at the beginning of the pandemic. As an investment analyst, she was concerned as to how the staff and establishments would survive over the indefinite quarantine.”

Magsanoc, an art director based in New York, was inspired by the merch she bought to support the places she could no longer visit, such as Contrair’s T-shirt, R/GA’s Casa Magazine collaboration, ROAR’s Serving New York digital cookbook — a sampling of designs that have sprouted around the world to save many establishments from the effect of economic shutdowns. 

“We realized that heritage merchandise, while always a great fundraiser, would also be the perfect way to keep brands accessible to their patrons as they navigated new business models post-quarantine,” says Magsanoc.

From there, they started talking to designers they could tap and would donate their time and effort to the initiative.

The Yardstick shirt designed by Sean Bautista. Photo from MANILA TAKEOUT

The Made Nice shirt designed by Soleil Ignacio. Photo from MANILA TAKEOUT

The first batch of shirts paired four designers with four restaurants: Dan Matutina with Milky Way Café, Marla Darwin with El Chupacabra, Michelle Pasia with Wildflour, and Betsy Cola with El Union Coffee.

The second batch partnered Sean Bautista with Yardstick Coffee, Miguel Lugtu and Ian Anderson with Lagrima, Soleil Ignacio with Made Nice, and Artifact Studio with 12/10.

“For restaurants, we initially chose the ones that meant something to us — places you’d find us with our family and friends,” says Mooney. “Although, given the reception, we decided to diversify and onboard as many independent restaurants or neighborhood favorites that we possibly can. We want to be able to help these small-time restaurant owners and their staff, who we’ve seen successfully grow their brand through immense hard work through the years.”

As the artist is basically giving their work for free, the team avoided many revisions and drafts. It was also a matter of pairing the designers with the same visual style as the restaurant's. It was fortunate that some designers have already worked together with these restaurants in the past.

To make the merch more cop-worthy, each drop is a limited release, amassing sales for only two weeks. This means that there is equal focus on each collaboration and there is no competition between the restaurants. This also reduces waste in terms of production.

The first batch of shirts have sold for a total of ₱250,000 and this has helped their partner restaurants in small ways. “We’ve been very lucky to work with restaurateurs whose first priority is the well-being of their staff,” says Magsanoc. “Both the Takeout team and restaurant owners ensure that funds are distributed fairly among their service team. In another amazing effort, the entire El Chupacabra team came together and decided to pool their individual shares to cover colon cancer treatment for Wilson, one of their long-time bartenders. Takeout is a tiny initiative, but we’re glad and grateful for a platform that allows us to extend help in any way we can.”

The Lagrima shirt by Miguel Lugtu and Ian Anderson. Photo from MANILA TAKEOUT

The 12/10 shirt designed by Artifact Studio. Photo from MANILA TAKEOUT

The demand for the Takeout shirts is growing and it has shown how design plays an important role in helping out people during the pandemic. The team is looking to move towards a more sustainable business model as the initiative is only a few weeks old.

“We are playing around with a few ideas and are still discussing the dynamics, but definitely want to continue the concept of inter-industry collaboration,” says Mooney. “Design has really played a role in uplifting people’s spirits. We see how excited people are to order T-shirts that creatively represent their favorite restaurants and bars.”

Magsanoc adds, “The entire initiative is based on the idea of connecting communities across multiple disciplines, we hope to continue this ecosystem of collaboration and introduce new ways to bridge Philippine talent.”


Visit the Manila Takeout website here. They will announce their third batch of shirts on Sunday, August 16.