Dixie Mabanta, the man who started the fire, reminisces about the birth of the New Poblacion.
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.”
02 1 Soft Tacos
2 Nachos Especiales
3 El Chupacabra Interiors
4 Quezo Fundido