Agile Coffee Drinker? You made that up.

Coffee mug on a small table on top of toilet paper in washroom

Maybe, but it feels accurate. It's my mindset as I start my day. The ritual of trying to improve myself today from yesterday by starting with a good cup of coffee. Small changes, consistency, and a specific ending in mind.

I have yet to work on an Agile team, and when I started in the coffee industry, I didn't know what Agile was. In late 2011, all I understood was that every interaction with every person I met was an opportunity to learn about peace.

My first project with Coffee for Peace was the first time I was sober for at least 8 hours in over 16 months.

I had been on a binger since I left the Philippines and landed in Vancouver in mid-2010. At the time, I thought I had made the biggest mistake of my life and that I'd never see Mandy, my wife today, again. I couldn't figure out my feelings, so I let the snow cool my heart, allowed drinks to wash my sorrow, and my best friend supplied me a bag full of mandys to regulate my "well-being." I had planned to make it as a Commercial Photographer in Vancouver- but that ended when two oxy-fueled teenagers kicked open my door. I watched four years of grinding for that gear flash before my eyes as they bagged each of my lenses, stole my camera, and took my laptop.

Feeling defeated in Vancouver, I got my hands on a key and turned that into an opportunity to fly back East. There, I'd help my cousin with his production company. Back then, I would crack my first bottle of Tsingtao at 6 AM and start getting shit done. I could be done an entire 12-pack and prep for a meeting by lunch. Then pitch an idea with a bit of slur in the afternoon and still bag our team another contract worth 10K USD. And this type of behavior didn't stand out. I was an ordinary functioning alcoholic ex-pat in a city catered to us. I was winning and I hated it. Because I knew I was destructive, and the more money I had access to, the closer I got to completely destroying myself. Luckily, I somehow lost all my Canadian identification at the soft opening of the Kerry Hotel in Pudong. Which forced me to come to the Philippines when my Visa expired.

I had been sending money back to my parents, investing in Coffee for Peace, so going there while I sorted out my papers made sense. I could photograph them in the field and volunteer at the coffee shop. But they had one condition, "no getting drunk."

The first project I photographed was in Bukidnon, which lasted a week. PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee For Peace were conducting Peace and Reconciliation training seminars in parallel to coffee processing training and workshops for a Group of Companies and their foundations. After suffering a week of sobriety, our hosts offered me a private reserve they had charcoaled filtered(?) in a casket for 12+ years- the husband stopped counting after 12.

The three of us drank an entire bottle or two from the casket. We vibed that night as three vulnerable human beings sharing our experiences with one another. To this day, I haven't been that transparent about what I was going through with anyone. And there weren't any magic words of wisdom that he or his wife imparted to me- we just all listened and spoke with genuine empathy. Their stories and experiences helped me fast forward. They concluded and affirmed specific feelings I had about life and things I valued but lacked the life experience to fully realize. By putting myself in the stories they shared, I gained insight that has helped guide some of my daily decisions.

And I'm deeply thankful for that. (Thank you.)

I have been trying to get a hold of Mandy since I landed in the South East. So after Bukidnon, I caught up with her. And it was a cold and awkward meeting. So close, yet so far.

Devastated, I concluded that I had no idea what I was doing with my life, and I was ready to throw in the towel- again. But my first attempt resulted in a broken rope and a sore tailbone. My second attempt was even more depressing. I stood, arms stretched behind me as my hands clung onto a 15-story apartment building balcony railing. I hung there for more than 15 minutes, suspended above the cars and people going about their business below me. No one was coming to save me. No one cared. In the end, we are always in control.

So I thought about it. I never let go of that railing. Instead, I drank. If I didn't die today, tomorrow, or sometime soon, I'd probably live to regret all the time I wasted drinking my life away.

I concluded my parents knew what they were doing, and we're helping others live better lives through Coffee for Peace and PeaceBuilders Community.

And that "People who don't know what the fuck they are doing shouldn't stand in the way of people who do."

And then decided I had one of two choices to make:

  1. Climb onto another balcony and get the fuck out of the way.
  2. Or Get Involved By Being Helpful.

"It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything" - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

My life was forfeited. So I chose to get involved. If I could help one other person in the most minor ways, I could die in peace.

Every day became an opportunity for me to make better espresso.

Every day was an opportunity to make a customer smile.

Every day was a God damn struggle. But coffee kept me moving.

Every day I chose to learn.

Every day I tried to share.

Every day I learned to listen. Every day I worked on healing. Every day I looked to help. Every day I found a reason to live.

Every cup is better than my last, every day better than my yesterday. Even on days that it's not true. Every day I try again.

I look for "Peace in every cup!"