Manila is often overlooked for what it can offer visitors. Truthfully, this mega-city can be intimidating to those who are unfamiliar with the its rhythm, but if you dare to scratch beyond Manila’s tough exterior, you will find a colourful underground arts scene, that unlike in most cities, is open and accessible to anyone that is looking for it. Here is my list of the top five spots in Metro Manila to immerse yourself in the underground arts scene.
5. Today X Future (7-T Gen. Malvar St., Araneta Centre, Cubao, Quezon City)
This self-proclaimed dive bar creates the perfect atmosphere for creatives to gather. With good food and cheap drinks in hand you can find everyone from illustrators to DJs mixing on the patio beneath giant smiling cartoon ticks (garapata), painted on the walls. When you are tired of making friends head inside to dance to anything from Spicegirls to jazz. They are open and enthusiastic to requests, so Today X Future can really be whatever you want it to be.
4. Vinyl on Vinyl (2135 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati)
A restored warehouse art gallery in Makati, Vinyl on Vinyl draws local artists from the worlds of contemporary art, pop, surrealism, underground, and street art. The last time I visited the second floor was hosting a pink and blue collection of surreal personal paintings by drag queen Jellyfish Kisses, and on the main floor a combined exhibition of pop art images featuring everything from portraits of Jesus to stray dogs. Vinyl on Vinyl offers up an original point of view and of course the chance to meet up with the artists themselves at opening nights or if they happen to swing by the gallery while you are there.
3. B-Side (7274 Malugay Street, Makati)
B-Side is a double shot of alternative art and music. Behind unsuspecting restaurants the walls open into a large open air venue with casual seating scattered around. in the foreground a smokey bar and grill serves up hot filipino street food and cold drinks. Beyond here, is an interior lounge where you can sink into an old sofa and get your fill of live reggae, ska, or indie rock. In between acts, you can even check out the artists stores at the side and pick up an original piece of jewelry or some artist merchandise.
2. Saguijo (7612 Guijo, San Antonio Village, Makati)
Although small, Saguijo is an experience you won’t forget. This old house plastered with stickers and art posters has been converted into the place for rising indie bands to perform. You can catch undiscovered talents here, as well as those who are already making their way onto the charts. The unpretentious vibe and the intimate setting remove any barriers between artist and audience so you end up feeling like you are hanging out at a house party, rather than a music venue.
- XX-XX (20b La Fuerza Plaza 1, 2241 Don Chino Roces Avenue, Makati)
XX-XX is a personal favourite in Metro Manila. Themes nights encourage creative attendance, which is obvious once you are under the spacious club’s neon ceilings. While the art and fashion scenes mingle outside, an array of DJs take to the booth pumping everything from vintage pop hits to electronica,. Thursday night at XX-XX is Elephant Party, where “being different is celebrated”, and creatives from across the board stop-in to let loose. After one night out here, even visitors to the city will feel as though they have gotten a taste of Metro Manila’s alternative scene.