EL CHU­PACABRA

Dixie Ma­banta, the man who started the fire, rem­i­nisces about the birth of the New Pobla­cion.

Let’s Eat - - WHAT'S INSIDE - WORDS BY SPANKY HIZON EN­RIQUEZ

Felipe St. four years ago was a dark, omi­nous al­ley. As a mat­ter of fact, I got mugged there once. But our restau­rants had their cen­tral kitchen there, and the ground floor area was un­der-uti­lized. I thought it would be a good idea to come up with some­thing new to op­ti­mize the rent we were pay­ing. I al­ways wanted to do soft corn street tacos, like they serve in Mex­ico; Mex­i­cali was lim­ited to TexMex and Cal-Mex, so that was the start­ing point. The name of the hole-in-the-wall started off as some­thing like a joke – I was drink­ing with a Mex­i­can friend and we couldn’t think of a name. Af­ter five beers or so, in my semi-ine­bri­ated state, I blurted out “El Chu­pacabra!”, and we started laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cally. Look­ing back, it wasn’t even that funny, but, you know… beers. But right there and then, I knew that was the name.

Chu­pacabra was sup­posed to be a cheap neigh­bor­hood drink­ing joint, but I wanted to in­clude the most au­then­tic tacos as well as Filipino pu­lu­tan like sisig. The first cou­ple of weeks were quiet, and then Timmy Po­ten­ciano blogged about it. The buzz be­gan. We were lo­cated in what was then a rather grim area, but it was still in Makati, so it was rel­a­tively easy to get to for the peo­ple who worked in the CBD.

I do think El Chu­pacabra was the start of Pobla­cion’s ‘gen­tri­fi­ca­tion’. Young peo­ple grad­u­ally be­came aware that there was this dodgy, but more in­ter­est­ing part of Makati. All of a sud­den it was no longer un­cool to be seen walk­ing around Bur­gos area. Pre­vi­ously, very few Pi­noys would even think of go­ing there, as it was the in­salu­bri­ous red light haunt of griz­zly old sex­pats and their bar girls. We made the area ‘un­der­ground hip’ and it be­came a thing where if you didn’t know of us, well, you were “baduy”!

What i think is im­por­tant is that Chu­pacabra opened our minds to the idea that there is life-- in­deed more vi­brant life­out­side the fancy malls and their ar­ti­fi­cial fab­ri­cated en­vi­ron­ments. Yes, Chu­pacabra and Pobla­cion are still kind of gritty and Third World, but you know what? The place has got soul.”

PHO­TOS BY GABBY CANTERO

02 1 Soft Tacos

2 Na­chos Espe­ciales

3 El Chu­pacabra In­te­ri­ors

4 Quezo Fun­dido

04

03

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