manila at night

Art by French graffiti artist Tilt. on display at RONAC Art Center, Manila.

Dearest ______,

When we flew back to the Philippines last month, our good friend introduced us to possibly the coolest adult we’ve ever met in our lives.  By adult, I mean married and has kids, owns business properties, mortgages, and all.  By coolest, I mean he longboards, travels the world to collect toys and art, and knows pretty much everybody you need to know when you’re out and about in Manila.

We told our new, coolest friend Desmond that we didn’t have much time in Manila, so he tried to take us to as much places as that time permitted-  one night, really.  We landed on a Saturday afternoon and went out to meet him a few hours after that. Our first stop was meeting his other friend, Mr. Rocks*, who happens to be the Philippines’ biggest collector of Tektites.

We went into Mr. Rocks’ home in the middle of Makati’s business district and saw a whole room dedicated to his collection.  Tektites are basically small, black rocks which can get quite expensive in value, hence I am keeping this collector’s identity from you.  Mr. Rocks is a very nice British expatriate (works in the oil industry), who is absolutely crazy about these rocks, that he’s even planning on writing a book about them.  He says the latest accounts written about these stones were too old, that previously- known theories on their elusive nature (some say they are from outer space- “…tektites were formed under phenomenal temperature and pressure not normally found on the surface of the Earth,” Wikipedia) are in dire need of an update.

From a very interesting introduction on expensive stones in Makati, we drove all the way to Ortigas to visit another very interesting place.  I’ve been reading about the RONAC Art Center a whole lot on the internet;  luckily Des is a very good friend of the owner, so he knows his way around.  Right before supper, Des gave us a quick tour of the place.  Too bad it was a little late in the evening, so most of it was dark and closed.  Not a bad introduction though.  We will definitely go back to that burgeoning contemporary art and retail hub in Manila, some day.

The Ronac Art Center is designed by Jagnus Design Studio, whose office happens to be inside the building too!

Most of RONAC is covered in pine wood flooring. Even the elevator is entirely clad in timber!

This winding outdoor staircase is said to pay homage to Uratex mattress springs. RONAC also houses the brand's display room and office on the first floor.

Also on the ground floor is the shop called Fresh. They sell collectors' items and toys from Ashley Wood's 3A, to Hot Toys, among many other things.

Other shops at RONAC include Bunker, We Legendary (the sk8r boi’s stop), Terminal (the fashionable sk8r boi’s stop- just kidding- it’s a hip clothing store actually), etc.

Right above Fresh is Secret Fresh, an art gallery and exhibition space where we found French graffiti artists Tilt’s and Mist’s works on display.

That's Desmond, telling the boys all about RONAC.

We had dinner and beers at Charlie’s Grind and Grill on the ground floor.  I had the Vegetarian Mushroom Burger and some Coronas and it was really goooood.

What I would give to have this now.

We had already downed a few beers after supper, we were all happy and chatty at that point, but Des was resolute in showing us more happening places in Manila these days.  From Ortigas, we drove back through Makati and straight into The Fort, where Prive is.   If you’ve been to The Fort a few years ago, Prive the premiere Luxury Club in Manila today is where Embassy Super Club used to be.  Before Prive, it was Members Only Club (that high- brow members’ only club, where people had to pay a monthly membership fee of XX,XXX to retain tables and VIP lounges).  Prive is less snooty strict, although it more or less has the same concept and crowd.  And since Desmond is  the man, we had no trouble of getting into the place and settling to a nice table with bottles and bottles of liquor for ourselves.  Thank you, Desmond.

Because I will never be the kind who wears short bondage dresses, hahaha.

At around 3 AM, the two boys and I were already "good" on the alcohol level, and were already laughing at ourselves for just being there. The unhip, non- clubbers that we were, we fist- pumped the hilarity away. At that point, Des had already invited more people into our table and was relentless on bringing us to yet two other night spots.

From the Fort, we drove back into the heart of Manila where Resorts World Manila is.  We went into Republiq,  purportedly Manila’s most popular and happening club today.  At that point, it was just a mad blur… from getting past velvet ropes and queues care of Desmond (yet again), and finding ourselves walking across a throng of dancing, gyrating people.

I think I've found my most hated place in Manila, hahaha.

We didn’t like Republiq as much as RONAC or  even Prive, because everybody at Republiq was just pushing and shoving and walking around like a bunch of Jersey Shore characters.   The girls at Republiq were seriously at each other on ledges like live- action- pornography, which would be funny if it weren’t for the over- age gorillas hooting and egging them on, making the whole scene a little too scary and gross.

After 45 minutes in Republiq, the three of us just wanted to leave.  Desmond (now the best Manila tour guide in the world) still wanted to take us to Opus nearby, but we really had had enough by then.  We politely declined and profusely thanked our gracious host for the night.   Oddly enough, the three of us are Filipinos by birth, and Des is actually an Australian who’s only lived there for a few years.  We have become clueless tourists in our own land, hahaha!

We proceeded to get a very early breakfast at the old favourite… a 24- hour breakfast joint called Sinangag Express.  All tired and sleepy, it was then that the three of us got to talking about how much Manila has changed since we left it about four, five years ago.  After having the same fried rice and eggs at Sinangag Express though, I gladly realized that a lot of things, have still remained the same.

Love,

Karlita

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Photography and text by Author unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.

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