Exploring Poblacion in a Sober Mood | Makati



Despite being a witness to Poblacion's transformation from a sleazy quarter to an exciting neighborhood, most of the time I only get to do so to get drunk and dine with friends. So when word got to me that Meaningful Travels PH is having a Poblacion Makati Discovery Tour, I quickly signed up for a chance to discover the other hidden charms of this neighborhood—all without the cuffs of drunkenness.

Ann Marie Cunanan  Meaningful Travels PH
See Poblacion from a different perspective by joining Meaningful Travels PH's Poblacion Discovery Tour

A Thriving Artist Community


"A lot of artists now lives here" our guide and Meaningful Travels PH proprietor Ann told our group. Looking around, I see the alteration of the Poblacion locality become more apparent. Gone are the secretive joints where old men would select women from aquarium-like glass capsuled rooms to take as escorts for the night. A story has it that the infamous brothel called Don Pedro Mansion, was where the Z Boutique Hostel now stands. Today, it’s become a popular accommodation for mostly backpackers from around the world—thus doubling as a mock cultural melting pot.

Ann Marie Cunanan of Meaningful Travels PH
Ann Marie Cunanan of Meaningful Travels PH leads the Poblacion Discovery Tour
While a strip of adult cabarets still remain along P. Burgos Street, the surrounding area is now being populated by creative spaces such as art galleries, quaint cafes and restaurants, speak easy bars and even Filipiniana clothing stores.

Poblacion Discovery Tour: Heritage Stops


Our tour started at our meeting place at Plaza Casa Hacienda Park. This small park by the banks of Pasig River hides a history dating back to the 18th century. A historical marker suggest the origins of the name "Makati" from a local who answered then Spanish Governor General Don Miguel de Legaspi’s query of the place with "Makati na, Kumakati na", as the local was referring to the rising level of the river.

Pasig River as seen from Plaza Casa Hacienda Park *
Afterward, we went to Museo ng Makati across the street. The museum, characterized by its large Capiz-shell window shutters, was the former site of the town hall of Makati from its construction in 1918 until 1961. Today, it houses historical artifacts of Makati, various dioramas and a "Living Exhibit" gallery featuring artworks from all over the country.

Inside the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
Our next stop took us to Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. Built by the Jesuits in 1620, it is one of the oldest churches in Metro Manila. While the original structure was damaged during the failed British invasion of Manila in 1762, the facade retained its pretty Baroque architecture. Inside, a Baroque-Rococo-styled carved altar-pieces adorn the interior.

Across the church is the former location of Pedro de Macati Cemetery—an 18th century cemetery—that is now Plaza Cristo Rey. At the time of our visit there was a small event being held at the plaza. As I watched the locals partake in a festive revelry, I can’t help but imagine how the lively vibe contrasted to the mournful setting it used to have before as one of Metro Manila’s oldest cemetery. 

Rajo Laurel’s House of Laurel


History and heritage check. Now, on to a bit of fashion and art. Walking along other hidden alleyways in Poblacion had us passing several interesting hole-in-the-wall establishments like Holy Carabao—a small organic grocer shop. Ann also pointed to us the Poblacion market where one can find great quality tailored suits and dresses.

One of the many good side-street find in Poblacion, the Holy Carabao
After a few strides entering a maze of streets, we come across a clothing shop owned and named after one of the country’s finest fashion designers: Rajo Laurel. Inside is a fashion haven that would make every lady swoon.

Pineapple Lab and Glorious Dias


The eccentric art space and clothing store Pineapple Lab and Glorious Dias came as our next destination. Founded by local designer Jordinand Aguillon, Pineapple Lab is a platform for local artists to showcase their works and also functions as a gallery store—a backdoor leads to a secret lounge where poetry reading and performance art are held on some nights. While the next door Glorious Dias (named after 1969 Miss Universe Gloria Diaz) sells Filipiniana silk tops and barongs. Aguillon even showed us a Barong Tagalog from the 1950s which they redesigned to match current fashion styles while retaining its nostalgic appearance.

Coloful Filipinan clothes and Barongs for sale in Glorious Dias
The space of Glorius Dias would make every Titas and even Gen Z fashionistas swoon over its collection of vintage dresses and tops made from pineapple strands and silks.

Artisan drinks, vegan food and the Annex House


As the nighttime sets in, the atmosphere around Poblacion starts buzzing. Early diners are seen walking the sidewalks in search of either a sumptuous joint or a refreshing hole-in-the-wall—which in Poblacion, they came aplenty. I have tried several restaurants and bars here before namely; the craft beer haven Alamat Filipino Pub, Tambai, Kite, El Chupacabra—just to name a few—so my enthusiasm was further buoyed when Ann told us that we will be dropping by a new bar called Agimat Foraging Bar & Kitchen.

The ritual of serving drinks at Agimat *
After climbing a flight of stairs into the second floor, I instantly found the place oddly beautiful. Who wouldn't be? At the sight of a Balete Tree protruding in the middle of the bar that was built around it and the charming wooden fixture and furniture around. It turns out, Agimat was inspired by the Filipino folklore of the "agimat" (amulet) and their thirst-quenchers drew inspiration from this and other Pinoy supernatural tales.

A shot of "Ritual ng Agimat" is included in the tour
A mini-performance by the bartenders ensued; a ritual dance that accompany every serving of Agimat's signature cocktail, the "Ritual ng Agimat". Other quirky drinks on the menu includes "Anting-anting ni Malvar", "Gayuman ng Paraiso" and "Agimat ng Sawi" (probably, the perfect drink for myself). Agimat also serve a medley of Filipino cuisine but prepared with a twist.

A short walk away was the Annex House and the Ruins (located next to each other). These are old two-story house transformed into a bar that plays DJ sets on most nights. While during the day, it doubles as an artist co-working space where you can see unfinished canvass of paintings displayed around—if you’re lucky, you can even chance some artists working on their artworks. There is also a small event place where talks are regularly held.

Dee Jae Paeste sharing his stories of creating his art at the Ruins / Annex House *
Wrapping up our fascinating Poblacion Discovery Tour is healthy feast at Cosmic Vegan Restaurant. This is my second time here and each time I still swear about having the best kare-kare here—a vegan kare-kare that is.  We also ordered the vegan versions of the Isaw, Caldereta, a vegan pasta and a couple other dishes.

Vegan Foodtripping with friends at Cosmic Vegan Restaurant on a previous visit
After all that walking and learning additional tidbits about the neighborhood of Poblacion, I’d say we finished our dinner with gusto.  

About Meaningful Travels PH


Meaningful Travels Ph is a social enterprise specializing in organizing cultural and community immersions trip all over the Philippines. Aside from the Poblacion Discovery Tours, they also have a Marikina and Quiapo Muslim Town and Culture Tour. They also organize longer tours to Batanes, Batad, Lake Sebu, Bukidnon and more.

Click HERE to book Poblacion Discovery Tour and to HERE to read the tour Itinerary. 


The Photos with * are courtesy of Meaningful Travels PH