The story of Crescent Moon is one of family, friends, and food.
Lanelle Abueva started her ceramic home studio in Antipolo in 1981, having finished a three-year apprenticeship in Hachijojima, Japan and a one-year course in Sun Valley, Idaho. In the same year, Bey Fernando finished law school and went on to practice in a firm in Makati. The two got married in 1986 and settled down in Antipolo with their two daughters, Majalya and Celine.
Restaurants and resorts soon discovered the handmade stoneware ceramics being produced in Antipolo, which led Lanelle to open a bigger studio with a handful of workers in a small corner of Bey’s family farm also in Antipolo. She kept her prototype room in the basement of their home. Bey continued to practice law in Makati. To unwind from the long commute and the stress of litigation, he would spend weekends cooking for friends and guests of Lanelle who would make the trek to their Antipolo home for her ceramics. It was a perfect combination—Lanelle cooked the plates and Bey cooked the food.
Bey was known for preparing elaborate dishes and being involved in the process from start to finish. Before the crack of dawn on Saturdays, he would wake his then four year-old daughter Majalya and drive with her to Farmers Market in Cubao to purchase ingredients for the day’s spread. Bey seldom went to market with a shopping list and instead bought the freshest produce and the best catch of the day. On some days it would be four-foot tuna, on other days, swordfish, clams, or crab. There was also the occasional duck which he would hang, season, and roast—a process which would take the entire day.
Friends’ trips to Antipolo became as much about Bey’s food than they were of Lanelle’s ceramics. Once in a while, Bey shared the kitchen with other food lovers, including his brother Mol and executive chefs of hotels who would travel to Antipolo to order ceramics for their restaurants. Even after Bey’s kidney failure and transplant in 1991, he practiced law during the week and spent his weekends in the kitchen.
Food was very much a part of Majalya’s and Celine’s childhood. Playtime included a make-believe restaurant powered by a plastic cooking set and a miniature stove and oven. Majalya and Celine took on kitchen aliases, Ms. Pearl and Ms. Glory, respectively. On the menu were fried chicken, steak, and 200-peso siopao. One evening, two loyal customers (a.k.a. Bey and Lanelle) asked Ms. Pearl and Ms. Glory what their restaurant was called. They had not thought of a name. The two looked around the bedroom and saw a quilted crescent moon hanging from the wall. “It’s the Crescent Moon Restaurant.”
Work stress became too much for Bey. In 1996, he rejected the transplanted kidney and started peritoneal dialysis. Because he could no longer practice law, he turned to his next love—cooking. In the early months of his dialysis, plans were made to open a restaurant in the same compound as Lanelle’s studio. Sketches of the dining area and kitchen were drawn, recipes were written, and word of the pottery and restaurant combo started to spread. Bey knew he wanted to serve good food from the freshest ingredients. He also wanted to be involved in the process of food preparation from start to finish.
After months of planning, everything was set except for a restaurant name. Bey and Lanelle remembered the make-believe restaurant of Ms. Pearl and Ms. Glory and named the restaurant the Crescent Moon Café. On January 12, 1997, Crescent Moon had its soft opening which was attended by friends and family, many of whom enjoyed food and ceramics in the Fernando home not so long ago.
Bey and Lanelle envisioned Crescent Moon as not only a restaurant and pottery shop but also as a peaceful and relaxing getaway from Manila. A World War II bomb crater was transformed into a tilapia pond, and later on, a koi pond and waterfalls were added. Guests drove from Manila to dine and spend the day in Crescent Moon, lying on the hammocks under the shade of tamarind trees. There was no a la carte menu, and customers ate what Bey made from the ingredients available for the day.
Bey spent his last few months entertaining guests in Crescent Moon. After the food was served, he would sit with customers and tell them the story and inspiration behind each dish. The homemade suman and the alagaw appetizer, an adaptation of the Thai street food miang kham, became signature dishes of Crescent Moon. Rose, Bey’s caregiver, administered dialysis at night and helped out in the kitchen during the day. Rose had a knack for baking and quickly learned Bey’s recipes. After Bey passed away in September 1998, Rose took over the kitchen and continues to cook up scrumptious dishes.
Today, Crescent Moon is considered one of the must-visit places in Antipolo, as seen in numerous blog articles and print and TV features. Following Bey’s culinary vision, the kitchen offers a set menu from ingredients available for the day. The recipes have elvoved, but the alagaw appetizer and homemade suman remain favorites. Crescent Moon houses Lanelle’s colorful stoneware ceramics and continues to be a backdrop for stories on family, friends, and food.