The late artist, tour guide and cultural activist Carlos Celdran described Manila as “can be chaotic and spiritual, dirty and divine, gritty and gorgeous all at once.”
The same can be said about the area in Makati known as Poblacion.
Long saddled with the reputation of being the red-light district hiding in the shade of the soaring skyscrapers of Makati’s Central Business District, Poblacion has slowly but surely been shedding its seedier veneer to reveal a place with its own character. It may be crowded and wornout in some places, but it has its own vibrance and local flavor.
Z Hostel, known as “one of the hippest hostels in Makati,” itself stands on what used to be the site of a brothel. Today, it is the place where young travelers and backpackers stay for a few days of comfort and relative luxury.
Z Hostel recently partnered with Makati City’s International Relations Department in offering its Poblacion Walking Tour, not just to the hostel’s guests but also to locals who want to see another side of Poblacion, all for free.
Together with my daughter #ExhibitA, I took part in the tour to check out Poblacion’s happenin’ places.
An alternative to the usual walking tours wherein museums and heritage sites are the destinations of choice, this is essentially a pub crawl which takes its guests around the immediate radius of the hostel to check out some of the establishments they can hang out in (and have a drink or two) during their stay.
Tour guide Jian Miranda, himself a Makati resident for twenty-one years, shared his knowledge and love of the place by picking out spots worthy of note (such as the former drug den turned events venue, where to get the best barbecue in Poblacion and the names – and ingredients – of the streetfood being hawked on street corners) and the stories behind the various joints featured in the tour.
The first stop in the walking tour was Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen. With the branches of an old Balete tree serving as the shelves of the bar, Agimat serves up magic and mystery with every drink. Prior to presenting you with your concoction of choice inspired by the four elements apoy (fire), lupa (earth), tubig (water), hangin (air) and buhay (life), the crew would perform a ritual complete with ethnic masks, drums and chants. Being a foraging kitchen and bar, Agimat takes ingredients and culinary influences from various parts of the country to come up with unique and memorable dishes and drinks. It’s definitely worth a second visit.
The second stop of our walking tour was Julyan Coffee Spot, a newly opened coffee shop that also showcases artwork by the owners’ son, Julyan. More than a quiet place to sit and relax while enjoying artisanal coffee, Julyan Coffee Spot is also a social enterprise: it provides training and employment to persons with disability (PWDs). In fact the baristas serving coffee are deaf and communicate by sign language. I’d love to spend more time here with just my laptop and my cuppa joe, to work on my blog, or maybe get around to writing the Next Great Filipino Novel (yeah, I can dream, right?).
Kartel Roofdeck Bar, the next stop in the tour, offers a scenic view of the Makati skyline from the towering buildings in the CBD to the hotels and night spots in the surrounding the area. Here, we were given free shots to help us loosen our reserve and get to know our fellow tourists. I wouldn’t mind a return visit where I can leisurely enjoy a light mocktail along with the cool evening breeze.
The final stop in the walking tour is Kondwi. Set in a big, black, boxy type of building, it actually houses a vibrant cocktail lounge at the ground floor and an exhibit space for artwork on the second floor. The last time I was here was when the upper floor was occupied by the Johnnie Walker Highball Arcade earlier this month. I’d love to see the next exhibits, take part in the salsa dance lessons, as well as taste more of Kondwi’s artistic takes on food and drink.
After the tour, the group was treated to cocktails at the Z Roofdeck. Too bad I wasn’t able to join as #ExhibitA and I had the rush home for our dinner date. Oh well…
The walking tour is primarily geared towards tourists looking for places where they can tipple, but it can also be the springboard for a local foodie’s rediscovery of the gritty and gorgeous Poblacion area.
The Poblacion Walking Tour is offered to Z Hotel guests and, recently, to locals as well every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday T 4pm with Z Hostel as the meeting point. Want to take part in the next Poblacion Walking Tour? Sign up here.
Here are the locations of the places we visited today:
- Z Hostel: 5660 Don Pedro St. Brgy. Poblacion, Makati City (Tel: +63 917 8898531 or +63 2 88560851)
- Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen: Second Floor, 5972 Alfonso Corner Fermina Street, Poblacion, Makati City. (Tel: +63 917 8904039)
- Julyan Coffee Spot: 5936 Gloria Street, Poblacion, Makati City (Tel: +63 917 6860895)
- Kartel Rooftop Bar: 5921 Algier Street, Poblacion, Makati City (Tel: +63 917 5638811)
- Kondwi: 6109 Albert Street,Poblacion, Makati City(Tel: +63 917 7771633)