Sweet discovery

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jamaica Obeso brings a piece of Paris to Cebu

And how her stay in Paris turned into one sweet idea

JAMAICA Obeso found herself in Paris, instead of law school. Though like many others, she had always been drawn to the charm of the city – an exchange program she took in her junior year inspired her to go back, rather than push through with her original plans of becoming a lawyer.

Just right after finishing her studies in legal management at the Ateneo de Manila, she flew to Paris to take her master’s studies there, and for three years experienced what poets and artists have been gushing about, basking in the city’s beauty and culture, in romance and self-discovery.

“It was where my world views and maturity changed dramatically,” she said. With her classmates and colleagues of other nationalities, together they explored Paris and neighboring countries, and at the same time, learned about each other’s cultures and dreams. She said, “I grew up with them.”

Opportunities, privilege

Jamaica studied communication technologies in Université Paris-Dauphine while serving as intern in the Philippine Delegation to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or Unesco. The youngest in both her class and at work, she said the experience drove her to toil harder to prove she was capable in spite of her age.

“Coming from a country whose capacities they don’t know much about, I always felt like I had to represent the country, open their eyes and hopefully entice them to experience our beautiful country for themselves,” she said.

Jamaica initially applied at the Philippine Embassy in Paris and was then assigned to the Unesco delegation, an opportunity she saw as a privilege. Not only did she get to rub elbows with those who took part in global decision-making, she also witnessed how people from different cultures dealt with one another.

“It deeply fascinated me as I observed how leaders interacted even with language barriers, how they represented their countries, how they cracked jokes and made everyone laugh in spite of their differences,” she said, “It made me question a lot of the notions I had about people and cultures — an eye-opener that made me less judgmental and more open to the different realities of human life.”

Manila at 16, Paris at 20

At a young age, Jamaica had gotten used to living away from her family, and away from her bedroom and from Cebu’s beaches that she was so fond of growing up. She said those were what ultimately led her to return home in 2013, as well as her quest for a bit of tranquility that a huge, hectic metropolis can hardly provide.

“I feel it’s much quieter here,” she said. “In the past three years, I went through a lot of changes, since I was always moving around. I barely found time to process everything and when I realized it was time to decide on my next step, my view was hazy. I felt I needed to slow down so I can see clearly where I want to head next.”

Upon coming home, Jamaica brought with her a taste of France. Eerlier this year she opened Creperie Paris, a café that serves French crepes and galettes, which she manages with her partner Raphael Mollard. “I wanted to bring something that people can experience here. Though Cebuanos are exposed to crepes, they are not exposed to French ones, especially galettes,” she said.

Raphael, whom she met when she was on her exchange program, oversees kitchen operations while she handles the management side. “When I hear a lot of customers reminisce about their trips to Paris, or the ooh’s and aah’s of people who have discovered the food, or how our French customers approve of the food, it is very fulfilling,” she said.

In her free time, Jamaica enjoys reading —inspiration books, fiction, economics — and being with her friends at the beach or doing yoga.

The 23-year-old plans to stay in Cebu for the next two years before making her next big move. The eldest in the brood of five, Jamaica said she wants to make the most of her time home with her siblings who are still in school. “I want to make up for the times I was gone and may be gone for, and make them understand that I go not to leave but because it is my way,” she said.

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