One of the paintings at Balai Ma-Yi
Food and Drink, Living and Culture

Balai Ma-yi: Our Go-to Cafe in Tagaytay

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We’ve celebrated two birthdays here (mine and my husband’s — on different years), so it’s quite surprising that we’ve never written about our experience about Balai Ma-Yi. It was called Java Jazz Cafe when we first saw it along Tagaytay-Calamba Road. We were looking for a new place to visit as we’ve grown tired of the places we’ve been frequenting in Serin. The artworks displayed in a gallery right beside it was what made us pull up. But we came back — again and again — for the ambience and food.

Inside Balai Ma-Yi

Balai Ma-Yi’s ambience

The best way to put it is minimalist Filipino with a peppering of artworks. Aside from the tables, some of which are low and would require you to sit on the floor to use, there’s also a nook where you can find various trinkets: T-Boli-inspired accessories, cellphone holders, pins and more. “There’s a vibe that you’re eating in a tree house even though it’s not a tree house because there are lots of trees surrounding it,” my husband says.

What to get at Balai Ma-Yi

On the cafe’s placemats is a story of where they got the inspiration for their name. Ma-Yi is said to be an ancient sovereign state located either in Bay, Laguna or Mindoro (it’s still up for debate). Its existence was said to have been mentioned in the History of Song and the 10th century records of the Sultanate of Brunei. While they don’t serve traditional Filipino food in pots or banana leaves, they do serve mostly Filipino dishes. Yes, they have sinigang and bulalo (a staple for Tagaytay).

It’s a bit basic but my favorite is their daing na galunggong meal. 

Their spaghetti’s Pinoy, too.

Balai Ma-Yi’s Suman sa Latik is so good. The new version is actually better than what we first had, which made us go back to the place again and again. It’s not the type of Suman sa Latik I’m used to because the latik I grew up eating is desiccated candied coconut, but it doesn’t matter. This is so good! Tastes even better with a cup of Kapeng Pinoy.

“Their food is a cross between a restaurant’s and home-coooked meals,” my husband describes it.

The service is good, too. The staff is not overly friendly, although we definitely won’t mind striking a conversation. But they’re quick to attend to our needs.

I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve been to Balai Ma-Yi, but we’re definitely gonna keep coming back.


Jorj Cornejo

Jorj writes and helps shape stories that stick in people's minds, tug at their heartstrings and move them to action. She spends her free time trying to read the whole Internet.

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