ON THE NEW MALATE

Let’s Eat - - FRONT PAGE - SPANKY HIZON EN­RIQUEZ Ed­i­tor PA­TRICK DIOKNO Art Di­rec­tor GABBY CANTERO Pho­tog­ra­pher LUCKY LEOPARTE Pho­tog­ra­pher’s As­sis­tant LUCIEN DY TIOCO Ex­ec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent AN­NA­LYN DELGADO Editorial As­sis­tant

Malate was once upon a time, a gen­teel neigh­bor­hood, charm­ing and tree-lined, dot­ted with small and quaint one-of-a-kind bars and restau­rants. Reme­dios, Julio Nakpil, Maria Orosa, Mabini, M.H. Del Pilar, and Adri­atico were the streets where the boy I was be­came the man I am now. It was home. Malate, and the neigh­bor­ing Er­mita, were cer­tainly ro­man­tic; it was the only area in Metro Manila where I could take a walk with my girl­friend, chat­ting as we dis­cov­ered one estab­lish­ment af­ter an­other, un­der the old­fash­ioned street lamps that lit up our evening strolls. Café Adri­atico, Movi­ola, Hard Rock, In­som­nia, Iguana, Gar­lic Rose, Blue, Carib­ana, Guer­nica, Pa­tio Me­queni, Camp Gourmet. All very dif­fer­ent, all over­flow­ing with char­ac­ter. All, save for the le­gendary Café Adri­atico, ex­ist only in my mem­o­ries now. There was the thrill of walk­ing through the dodgy red light dis­trict for three a.m. re­cov­ery food: twenty peso shawar­mas at the Golden Ship Can­teen, and the twenty five peso taco salad at Rosie’s Diner. Ear­lier in the evenings, there was Cosa Nos­tra with its lone waiter, a stooped, be­mous­tached gentle­man. It was the most swoon-in­duc­ing Ital­ian restau­rant in the city. Just five or so ta­bles, as I re­mem­ber. But best of all was the Pen­guin Gallery. It was the gath­er­ing place of artists, pho­to­jour­nal­ists, back­pack­ers, po­ets, writ­ers, and young pro­fes­sion­als on a tight bud­get. Our drink of choice was the “sub­ma­rine”, a glass gob­let filled with Pale Pilsen or Red Horse, with a shot glass of lam­banog dropped in, hence the cock­tail’s name. It was ba­sic, but quite po­tent. That would ex­plain the “per­for­mance art” that was a trade­mark of the bar. An in­die ac­tor shout­ing our stan­zas of dark verse from a cor­ner table? All good. Amy the owner, a cool and calm­ing pres­ence, and head waiter Jun, spiffy in his black suit, al­ways smil­ing as he took my or­der, wink­ing as he no­ticed an­other new lady by my side. Un­for­get­table times. It was a Belle Époque for my gen­er­a­tion, and I thought I’d never see the likes of Old Malate again.

But just af­ter Christ­mas in 2014, a tiny bar, lit­er­ally just a store front, opened right across the small Mex­i­can soft taco joint that was al­ready draw­ing the more ad­ven­tur­ous types to the one-lane Felipe St. in one of Makati’s old­est dis­tricts, Bar­rio Pobla­cion. El Chu­pacabra and Tam­bai. They were small and quaint and one-of-a-kind, and they were lo­cated a stone’s throw away from a dodgy red-light area. Hmmm. His­tory was re­peat­ing it­self. A pow­der keg had been lit. The place ex­ploded, seem­ingly overnight, with dozens of dis­tinct new bars and quirky restau­rants open­ing in rapid suc­ces­sion. And when the smoke cleared, Pobla­cion had be­come the New Malate. I was home again.

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