food + drinks by Cedric S. Reyes

A Prescription for Ennui at Ritual

This organic store’s wide assortment of ingredients adds texture to city dwelling.

In the case of Ritual, a general store tucked away along dusty Arnaiz Avenue, a bit of frustration can be a good thing. After all, it’s frustration with the city’s rampant use of plastic packaging that made Ritual what it is—a plastic-free retail outlet for organic ingredients and a sundry assortment of local goods. Described by its owners as a general, dry-goods store, Ritual carries everything that a city dweller needs for a well-stocked and sustainable kitchen.ritual 4With its bright and bare interiors, tastefully arranged and stripped of plastic by the owners themselves, Ritual directs all attention to its wide variety of products. Hidden neatly on the second floor of Languages International Building, the store itself is pared back and brightly lit. Arranged on rows of shelves are Ritual’s mostly unbranded offerings, labeled only by their name and source town. These products are stripped down, but never simple.

Established as an environment-friendly neighborhood joint that locals could retreat to when cupboards were running dry, Ritual provides its customers with wholesome products sans plastic. According to Bea Misa-Crisostomo, owner and founder, their commitment to minimizing carbon footprint keeps Ritual on the lookout for plastic alternatives, using everything from glass jars to cotton tote bags to banana leaves for packaging. Refills tend to be taken in the literal sense at Ritual, where customers are encouraged to bring their containers for replenishment.

ritual 3What fills these containers is a robust variety of cooking ingredients, and various necessities for the modern home, like cleaning agents, and even skincare products. Each of these products can be traced back to their diverse origins. This is because Ritual’s inventory is supplied by mom-and-pop producers, seasoned by time and experience, from provinces around the Philippines. Salt, for example, is sold in three different varieties at the store, with each being sourced from Ilocos, Mindoro, and Pangasinan, respectively. Coffee comes in at least two strains: Forest, and Arabica from Mount Tilinis. It’s refreshing to see, in this way, ample recognition being given to the specialties of different towns and the peculiarities of their produce. With the cheap access that modern manufacturing extends to consumers, it’s hard to notice these nuances fading away. Ritual gives local producers a chance to assert their differences, season more dishes, and keep more locals awake.ritual 2Ritual’s austere approach to retail allows the nuances of their products to shine. By peeling back the noisy packaging and eschewing modern marketing trends, Ritual has also allowed customers to make what they will of the store’s wholesome products. These have been used in a flurry of ways. One example is Jordy Navarra, head chef of Toyo Eatery, who uses Ritual’s Cagayan patis in his restaurant’s signature chocolate dessert.ritual 1Since setting out to provide its customers a plastic-free retail experience, Ritual has become a one of a kind emporium of local ingredients. The founders of Ritual were merely responding to frustration, but in their general store, they’ve created something that might just cure the modern city dweller’s ennui. Ritual is proof that frustration isn’t just good; it might even be delicious.

Photography by Sonny Thakur

Cedric S. Reyes
Cedric had the squid. For more of this nonsense follow him on Twitter at @cedritoreyes.
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