You know that feeling whenever you come across a line from a book or a song, its meaning to you so profound, you mull over it for days? Imagine it happening while having a conversation with a stranger. Magical.
Jetro Rafael, owner and resident bipolar chef of Van Gogh Is Bipolar, is one of the most inspiring people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.
Having just reached a gustatory nirvana, my friends and I were the only ones left in the restaurant. Jetro, finally free from his kitchen duties, joined us soon after to chat.
I recently discovered that I could paint… I didn’t even know that I could draw! he joyfully shared. It happened during his most recent trip to Mongolia. The catalysts – a 36 hour train ride and a boredom to kill. His paintings were hung inside the restaurant, filling an entire wall. All of his paintings were portraits. There’s one of himself, and he explained why he made half of his face grotesque.
…[written as I remembered it] Ayoko kasi ng perfect. Gusto ko yung may nakikitang pangit, yung sira-sira. He motions to an antique chair my friend was sitting on. Parang yung mga bagay dito, a lot of them are broken. Just like me. But despite my flaws, mahal ko ang sarili ko. ‘Eto ako eh. I accept who I am.
These are words I’ve heard before. But knowing a bit about Jetro’s back story, I understand that this is him in a state of triumph and I couldn’t help but feel like throwing fist pumps in the air for him. His journey through healing and self-acceptance led to the creation of what we now know as Van Gogh Is Bipolar. And while not everyone understand the bipolar condition, everyone knows a thing or two about the state of brokenness. We are all fragmented beings. The silver lining is despite the fractured or missing pieces, we are still capable of doing something good. Or something great, even. And so, just like Jetro, we should celebrate even the fragments of our fragmented selves.
The rest of the conversation, Jetro shared stories from his backpacking trips, his plans to train for triathlon, and some projects to help further his cause of helping people with mental illness. Truly inspiring. I was still on a high when I got home. And maybe even now as I’m writing this.
I can’t think of any other dining place in the metro that fills your spirit the same way it does your stomach. This is Jetro’s gift to us. I guess this is my way of thanking him.
Van Gogh Is Bipolar: Restaurant. Artspace. Asylum.
All items in the menu are named after famous people with bipolar disorder – Virginia Woolfe, Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain, and Mel Gibson to name a few. Each dish is uniquely prepared to increase dopamine levels in the body causing a natural high. It is an artist’s haven where one can contribute a secret or two. It’s a place where you write your own bill and issue your own receipt. No servers. No slippers inside. Idiots are welcome.