Some years ago, when the whole strip of Baywalk along Roxas Boulevard was alive with bars and restos, it was so populated round the clock which made it a cool and secure place to hang around to. Come Mayor Lim’s watch, the joints have to be removed because, understandably, the structures are a blockade to the majestic view of Manila Bay. Now, bare as it is, Baywalk becomes a haven for scumbags, prostitutes, thugs and everything. And so it happened once. A night of heavy alcohol led me for some cool sea breeze to refreshen what’s left of my sanity. So I zig-zagged my way through the streets of Remedios, cross Mabini, cross M.H Del Pilar and finally Roxas boulevard and down to Baywalk, like the drunken David Addison (Bruce Willis) struggling on the streets in Moonlighting. (It helps if you drink, drink to death. And there’ll be no more acts of foolishness to regret the morning after.)
Cold and tired, I passed out on one of those marble benches lined up along the breakwater. But I can still hear the fading voices of people strolling around and smell the trademark stench of Manila bay. Hours passed and soon right before dawn, I was half-awakened to something moving my back pocket. Some askal must’ve been magnetized by the reek of my butt. But no, when I flipped to my side to see what’s going on..a man squats just behind me working on my wallet so cool like picking roses in a park! I got on my feet and the bastard slowly walked away as if nothing’s going on. I looked around for a uniformed cop but I really don’t expect to find one at that hour. While a charming gal stares at me grinning from a distance, it occured to me that while I still have my wallet and everything intact, and I am at the wrong place and wrong time, I’ll just charge it to experience. What can I do, this is Malate!
For all its worth, I still have to give it to the place. In 2004, after one crumpled chapter of my life, I picked myself up here. Bruised and battered emotionaly, I figured Malate is such a fine place to live in (so far). So it welcomed me with an affordable living quarter along the busy Singalong street where we inhale huge amounts of dusts and engine gasses and sleep to the tremble of semis passing by. How tough it is to have a change of environment. From one hell to another! But once you get the hang of it, the agony is over. Malate’s fine but it ain’t home (thanks Neil Diamond). At the time, I lived on a 1,700+php space per month. Bedspace that is. Reasonable enough considering the good supply of water and electricity and a tolerable level of room mess. Rents soar high in this part of town. One decent room for two will cost you around 4,000++ hard-earned pesos exclusive of water and power bills. Lower than that will give you a rodent-infested tiny nutshell where hopefully you could squeeze your butt into. But homeowners in Manila, Malate in particular, find it a lucrative business offering some of their spaces for boarders, this means a lot of choices for whatever preference one may have.
You can walk around the streets of Leon Guinto, Nakpil, Remedios etc. and you’ll never miss those “ROOM FOR RENT” almost every step along the way (find your luck). But of course, for those of you neatly-pressed bigtime earners, you could always have the luxury of the high-rise condos of Malate or the nearby Makati to nestle into. As for me, if I’m to hit that jackpot in the lotto 6/49, I can settle for a segunda mano abode on the peaceful Benitez street right on the edges of Paco and Malate. Or maybe Agoncillo street. No need to enumerate the reasons why but here are some facts why these are ideal (at least for me) residential places: First, these neighborhoods maybe the heart of Malate. Because, as I see it, every usual urban destination are just a few minutes walk from these points. Robinson’s Manila on Pedro Gil street and Harrison Plaza on Mabini for the major shopping malls, Malate Church down the end of Remedios street or Saint Anthony Cathedral along San Andres street for your spiritual salvation, plus, the Scottish Rite Temple and the Ellinwood Church on Vasquez street. Leading universities La Salle, PWU, and PCU are just along the stretch of Taft Avenue from Vito Cruz to Pedro Gil street(that is if you dont mind the cost of studying here) while St. Paul Manila Campus is a stone throw away from Taft Avenue. Or you may go down farther to UP Manila in Padre Faura street. There are secondary schools on almost every block for instance Epifanio De Los Santos High School on Singalong street which is perpendicular to Saint Anthony High on San Andres.
But what’s really interesting about Malate is that the place is very near the bay area. Even the non-nature lover loves the panoramic view and the breeze of a vast ocean, what more for mother nature’s son. Just imagine the breathtaking view of the sunset in Manila bay and you’ll know what I mean. On a clear day, one can view the huge cross (Dambana ng Kagitingan) in Bataan with a naked eye. Or, you can always have a morning jog at the CCP Complex right before going to work. Everything is within reach. Other points of interests in Malate includes the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, Rajah Solayman Park, the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden (BAN THE ZOO!) and of course not to forget, the watering holes! Malate and Ermita used to be the red light district of Manila. From Restaurants, drug joints, bars, billiard cafes, live musics to sex dens, prostitutions, casinos and other underground entertainments. We would walk from end to end of the bright neon-lighted streets of M.H Del Pilar and A. Mabini for a night stroll because our measly allowance (was stude then) couldn’t afford us one shot of Gilbey’s gin. And even if we had the cash, Filipina whores back then would always prefer those jolly-white-giants and their dollars! Soon in the early ’90s, when Mayor Fred Lim’s watch came, the party ends. When “Dirty Harry” closed Sin City’s prostitution bars and sex dens it was a huge accomplishment, but unwelcome to many though, and it stirred a lot of controversies.
What remained of Malate and Ermita seemed like recruitment agencies and money exchange shops! However, Malate came to life anew when the quiet neighborhoods of Nakpil, Malvar and Remedios were transformed into bar hubs. Only a little “cleaner’ now and way out of city hall’s line of fire. During the Metallica and GN’R era we were the drunken patrons of Cowboy Grill Mabini (once Shakey’s Mabini) and Arts Venue on Taft avenue. Great places for live rock, but no great crowd. I can’t recall an evening when there’s not a single incident in these joints. But we were younger then and everything’s like..an added attraction. Fast forward to the present, Adriatico is now the place to be. Because right there is my favorite spot, ANTHOLOGY BAR (formerly Hard Rock Cafe Malate). A cozy haven perfect for Gen X’ers like yours truly and those particularly belonging to the New Wave and Heavy Metal era. I think what’s drawing people into this place besides beer and pulutan is the music videos and the array of rock n’ roll mementos adorning its four corners. Plus the stooge veteran head-waiter Mike and their kick-ass DJ/VJ John. What once was at the 2nd level atop Anthology bar was the UNPLUGGED bistro where noted pinoy musicians of of all genres played live acoustics. But now it seemed like an empty place. Whatever happened to that joint, the “wretched Cessna plane” still hangs there. A lot of bars in Malate. A lot more has come and gone especially during these periods of what they call RECESSION when more and more drinkers,lovers, fools, vagabonds etc. know better than to party the night away . There’s just no more money to burn!
I would like to pay tribute to the valuable neighbors around Remedios who have become a part of this metro life and, in one way or another contributed in draining the pockets of wage earners like yours truly: Lunar Bakery, the one-stop carinderia, panaderia, sari-sari store at the corner of Remedios and Agoncillo street. The fastfood for people on the go (especially cab drivers) hungry for a hot meal. Pandesal with instant pancit canton or beef mami, egg omelet with pandesal, or a menu to choose from. Whatever possess you they will serve in a jiffy. One stomachfull would be around 40 php. This is eat-and-run so you can forget about your healthy eating habits for a while. Fronting this all-in-one carinderia is the Lavanderako shop which takes care of the 3 to 5 kilos a week of dirty laundry for an average whooping sum of 100 php. And of course, AnyTime convenience store in San Marcelino for the not-so-cold SanMig Pale Pilsen on Friday nights.