This Cafe in the Philippines Relies on the Honor System for Payment

Jun 16, 2018

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Can you be trusted to pay for your morning coffee when no one is watching? Put your morals to the test at Honesty Cafe, located in the Philippines.

Honesty Cafe is like most other coffee shops, except for one pretty significant difference: there’s no staff.

The cafe’s owners — husband and wife Jose and Elena Gabilo — stop in regularly to restock drinks, snacks and other merchandise, but are not there to do any other transactions. And you won’t find a barista or cashier, either. Instead, customers are simply trusted to pay for their purchases.

(Photo courtesy of the Honesty Coffee Shop)
(Photo courtesy of the Honesty Coffee Shop)

To experience Honesty Cafe, simply drop in at your leisure and select your preferred drinks, snacks and souvenirs. Then, record your purchases in a ledger and leave the right amount of money in a drop box. If you don’t have exact change, well. too bad. Go find some, or be prepared to leave more, rather than less. Visitors can also leave a note for the owners in a guestbook (a thank you, for example, for being so trusting).

Honesty Cafe’s owners clearly have a lot of faith in the moral compasses of their customers, and hopefully those who put in a little extra make up for those who may leave without paying.

After all, the small, thatched-roof cafe and shop is covered with positive signage, such as “this store is too small for dishonest people,” and “get what you need, pay for what you need.”

While the concept is compelling, and the cafe has become something of a tourist attraction, it was born simply out of necessity. Jose and Elena have a farm to tend, and couldn’t be in two places at once.

Although this probably goes without saying, the store doesn’t accept credit cards. So just this once, you’ll have to forgo those points and miles to enjoy a cup of Honesty Cafe coffee.

Getting There

Your trip to Honesty Cafe begins with a flight to Manila (MNL), which you can easily book with points and miles. You could fly on Philippine Airlines (which, unfortunately, is not a member of any of the three major airline alliances) from New York (JFK) with a stop in Vancouver (YVR) using 37,000 Mabuhay Miles in economy or 67,000 in business for a one-way ticket. One-way flights from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) are slightly more affordable, costing 32,000 miles for economy and 58,000 miles in business.

Travelers can also fly to Hong Kong (HKG) with Cathay Pacific. The airline, which has a far fancier business class than Philippine Airlines, flies between Hong Kong (HKG)and Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), San Francisco (SFO), Toronto (YYZ) and Vancouver (YVR). Cathay Pacific will begin regular flights from Washington Dulles (IAD) in September 2018.

Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, so you can earn points with a card such as The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. You can also transfer points from Citi ThankYou Rewards with a card like the  Citi Premier® Card, or Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) with the normal 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

According to the current Asia Miles award chart, Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) flights start at 70,000 miles one-way (or 120,000 round-trip) in business class. Economy flights start at 40,000 miles one-way (60,000 round-trip) making round-trip fares a much better deal. Travelers should note, however, that Asia Miles is changing its chart on June 22, which will increase the cost of a business class round-trip flight from Los Angeles to 140,000 miles (one-way remains the same) and decrease the cost of one-way economy to 30,000 miles (round-trip remains the same).

Cathay flights can also be booked with the airline’s Oneworld partners, such as American. If you have AAdvantage miles, you can spend 70,000 miles each way between North America and Hong Kong in business — or 37,500 in economy. Cathay is also partners with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, and you’ll only need 30,000 Mileage Plan miles each way in economy and 50,000 in business.

The older, though still opulent Singapore Airlines A380 First Class suites.
The older, though still opulent, Singapore Airlines A380 First Class suites.

It may be difficult to find low-level award space, but flying Singapore Airlines from New York (JFK) to Singapore (SIN) via Frankfurt (FRA) is another option for travelers interested in flying to Asia to experience Honesty Cafe. Using KrisFlyer miles, you’ll need 40,000 in economy, 92,000 in business or 120,000 to fly in the opulent Singapore Suites one way (keep in mind this route still has the older suites). Starting on October 11, 2018, you can also opt to take the world’s longest flight on Singapore Airlines from Newark (EWR) to Singapore (SIN). You can also book a first-class seat on a Boeing 777-300 from Los Angeles (LAX) or San Francisco (SFO) for 38,000 KrisFlyer miles in economy, 88,000 in business class and 118,00 in first.

It’s fairly easy to get KrisFlyer miles because the airline partners with American Express Membership RewardsChase Ultimate RewardsCiti ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so you have plenty of options when you need to transfer points to your KrisFlyer account. Each of these programs transfer points to Singapore Airlines at a 1:1 ratio, and again, transfers of 20,000 Starpoints will also earn you a 5,000-mile bonus.

Once in either Singapore or Hong Kong, you can hop over to Manila on a quick, short-haul flight operated by either a low-cost regional carrier or one of the aforementioned airlines. From Manila, fly to the Basco Airport (BSO) on the island of Batanes — nonstop flights are operated by Cebgo, Airswift and Skyjet. Then, hire a tuktuk or rent a motorbike to reach Honesty Cafe. The cafe has no website, but it’s located on National Road, Ivana on Batanes.

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