The Shop With No Keeper – The Honesty Coffee Shop
The photo up there was taken inside the Honesty Coffee Shop, a one of a kind store located in Ivana, Batanes. What makes this Ivatan store interesting? No one looks after the merchandise so each customer is pretty much free to move inside the store. Everyone is expected to be honest, the store owners trust the people enough to allow them to list the products they bought along with its corresponding price and then leave the payment in a drop box. You can find an interesting sign on the wall that says “This store is too small for dishonest people.”
Founded by Elena Gabilo, it is living proof of the honesty of the Ivatans. She opened the store in 1995 after her retirement. When the port of Radiwan closed and operations were transferred to San Vicente port, the store sales went down. Since then, she decided to concentrate on farming and helping her husband with their cane vinegar production. She opted to continue the sari-sari store operation but because her presence was needed on the farm she left the store unattended.
What’s in store for us inside the Honesty Coffee Shop?
It looks like a typical Filipino sari-sari store that sells coffee, candies, biscuits and all sorts of snacks – only nobody is around except for customers. Visitors are free to roam around and take whatever they want. Each item has a corresponding price tag and honesty dictates that you pay the store what you owe – by listing the item in a log book and putting your money in a drop box.
There you go, only in Batanes. It was a very libertating experience for me actually. Some people drop their payment, others don’t. But it’s all okay with Aling Elena; her ultimate profit is the chance to awaken her customers’ consciousness to honesty and responsibility and to teach them to live these lessons in the other areas of their lives. A nice tourism pitch actually. If the government put up more stores like this, then the Philippines would be known as Asia’s ‘most honest’ place.