Manila’s after-dark fetes actually set the standards pretty high: parties usually start at midnight and end with a hearty breakfast the next day at your favorite 24-hour food joint. And then there’s all the proof: confetti in your pockets, the pounding in your head, and all the photos up on Instagram are testaments to an epic night. But hear it from the guys who get the ball rolling in the first place: the guys with the best seats in the house are those who bring the party to life.
Here, we sit down with some local bar owners whose inventive drinking joints have become staple watering holes for all types of people. We talk about what makes Manila the go-to destination for a real night out, and what it takes to keep our partying interesting, to say the least. Hear from Mark Olalia of St. Patrick’s pub in Kapitolyo, husband-and-wife tandem Pia Dimapilis and Ryan Patrick Dimapilis of Habanero in Cubao Expo, and Rainier Barbers of the watering hole Tipsy Pig.
Q: As someone who runs a bar, how would you describe the Manila night bar scene? What makes it different from other places?
MARK OLALIA, St. Patrick’s: The Manila night bar scene is very straightforward. We’ve developed this drinking-while-munching culture that is both gut-filling and emotionally satisfying.
PIA DIMAPILIS AND RYAN PATRICK DIMAPILIS, Habanero: It’s surprising that there are people who drink every day. I thought before that people only drank on weekends. But people have been telling us that even Monday is a good night to drink.
RAINIER BARBERS, Tipsy Pig: I think the Manila bar scene is quickly evolving. Especially because there are a lot of bars and restaurants opening left and right. So for us, we always have to step up our game. The selection of premium alcohol and the demand for it has been stronger than ever. People are well traveled, they’ve tried diff beers, scotch, vodka, and when they’re here they look for it, so we have to always have those kinds of alcohol ready for them. The market is so educated now.
Q: How do you set the standard in your bar? What makes it different?
MO: We pride St. Patrick’s in being a Neighborhood Pub. We make it a point to know everyone who's coming and going through our doors. Now on our third year of operations, we have regulars with a nice mix of complementing personalities: the basketball guys, the "politicians", the workaholics, the loud bunch, the quiet bunch and the drunks. Our atmosphere makes all the difference.
PD & RPD: We wanted to be a chill place where people enjoy the food at the same time. Our regular customers usually come back for the food, and then the drinks are just secondary. Most of our clients are from the art scene, so they know how to appreciate art. The crowd here in Cubao Expo is very unpretentious. They’re also very experimental.
RB: Here at Tipsy Pig we didn’t stick to a certain cuisine, we came up with dishes that we like to eat when we go out. So we started from there, and then we came up with our bestsellers, and directed with other food based on that.
Q: How is your bar innovative in shaping the local bar scene?
MO: We're a bunch of old souls so I guess being innovative is not our strong point. But being charming and overall approachable does help the local bar scene by being good examples to other owners to be engaging.
PD and RPD: We have lots of inspiration especially from foreign chefs. We didn’t want to do the traditional dishes because we felt like I wouldn’t grow if were bound by the traditional. So we always want something new and different. The traditional flavors are still there, but with a modern twist. Like our balut takoyaki.
RB: We come up with new dishes every quarter. We’ve been doing that for the past four years, and we’re launching a new menu early next month. I think that’s the good thing: we don’t just stick to the normal, we always try to push ourselves into the new direction, to what else is out there. From our end, behind the scenes, we have to keep evolving with our alcohol, food, service, look… and then it all comes together.
Q: As someone from the other side of the counter, what makes a good nightlife?
MO: Friends smiling, chatting and binge drinking, that is the all-time equation for a good night. We don't mess with math.
PD & RPD: ‘Yung mga nagtatagal. Di lang umiinom, they eat, and try everything on the menu. A good night would be full of experimental people.
RB: For me, ambiance, great food, great drinks, and great vibe. We’re all working, so when you go out the priority is to relax and have fun. The success of Tipsy Pig is you get to enjoy the top chart music but also get to talk to your friends. So it’s a one-stop shop at the end of the day.
Q: What else do you think does the Manila nightlife need?
MO: It desperately needs better after-hours places to eat. Everyone needs to eat after a heavy night of drinks!
PD & RPD: More food selections late at night. Like places that would open for the after partygoers, something that would cater to those night owls.
Have a taste of Manila’s nightlife by visiting these bars that are continuously pushing boundaries. Pop a bottle of Heineken and immerse in our night scene, so that you can attest to the adage that Filipinos sure know how to throw a party.
Join Heineken's Open Manila Challenge to get a chance to win trips to Amsterdam, London, or other cities in the world by taking photo with the Open Manila sign found in bars and restaurants across Metro Manila, share it on Instagram with #OpenManila and #HeinekenPH in the caption, and tag and follow @heineken_ph. To know more about Open Manila Challenge, visit this website and go to Heineken's Facebook page and website today.