Meet the neighborhood

Krista Garcia
Meet the neighborhood
Makati’s Legaspi Village is a growing hub for boutique specialty shops that are ushering a more varied and global sensibility in the country

MANILA, Philippines – Here in the city, if you’re looking for something, chances are you’d be told that you can find it in a mall. 

For Filipinos looking for respite from the perennial heat and traffic, the allure of the mall culture is one that’s hard to beat, even if in the US (its country of origin), the shopping complex industry has been on the decline for quite some time.

But all that is slowly changing. Thanks to a new generation of forward-thinking entrepreneurs and increasingly savvy customers, specialty shops are emerging one after the other – and they’re right in your neighborhood.

In Makati’s tree-lined Legaspi Village for example, a good cup of coffee, hand-crafted cocktails, or even bespoke suits are now just a few minutes’ walk from your own door.

To understand all this better, we sat down with four shop owners who have actively taken on the challenge of redefining what it means to live in the city. All of them are after one thing: to provide a unique experience that’s more laid-back, more personal, and at the same time, at par with today’s global standard. 


A WELL-LOVED STOPOVER. Yardstick’s interiors. All photos by Paolo Garcia/Rappler

In Esteban street’s Universal LMS building, a revolving door separates two now-popular establishments: Yardstick coffee and Your Local. For all the buzz these two are generating online, you’d expect a frenetic lunchtime scene; but on any given weekday, walk-ins can still get a good seat and enjoy what they came for: depending on the door your enter, it’s either a delicious meal, or a great cup of coffee.

Yardstick's Andre Chanco

Yardstick’s owners are all long-time coffee connoisseurs. From the start, they’ve wanted to bring to Manila a taste of the brewing scene that they’ve enjoyed in their work and travels in Singapore, Hong Kong, Melbourne, and the like. “Manila’s about 5 years behind, 8 years behind, in terms of where the Southeast Asia [coffee] industry is,” says Andre Chanco, one of the coffee shop’s owners. “So that’s why we also have a school, where we teach.”

Andre adds that they’re careful to avoid positioning Yardstick as a retail place. Other coffee shops in the metro, such as Toby’s Estate or Craft, are also their clients. Instead, Yardstick was really founded to cater to the neighborhood’s coffee shops, and as a showroom for the machines and beans that they source from around the world. “Most of our wholesale clients are walking distance from us. So for us to succeed, there has to be other restaurants and cafes, adopting better machines and beans.”

Your Local's Denny Antonio

It was Yardstick’s decision to be in Legazpi that also led to Your Local’s inception. Denny Antonio, who handles the restaurant’s operations, recounts that they only took the space after Yardstick’s Andre actually offered it to them. “Andre told us that he has this space in Makati that’s too big for just the cafe, and if we’re interested to have a look, maybe we can open up a small restaurant… we said, ‘OK we’ll take it’… it was love at first sight, in a way,” he recalls.

For Your Local, the full concept for the restaurant only truly happened as the place was being built. “Legaspi has a mix of expats and Pinoys who live and work here, and the one thing that ties those two groups together is they tend to be rather well-traveled,” Denny says. As it is, YL’s menu caters to this demographic by offering Western fare with a Southeast Asian twist. “This place – we can’t picture taking it and opening it in Ortigas, like a cookie-cutter type of thing. We really built this place just for this particular area,” Denny adds. 

A FEAST FOR ALL SENSES. Some of Your Local’s bestsellers.

Both Yardstick and Your Local were shaped from literally what they stumbled upon – a string of upscale coffee shops and yuppies who craved a comforting midweek meal. But now, they’re also actively changing the vibe of the street and its surrounding areas. “When we found the location, we enjoyed turning nothing into something. I’m not a big fan of crowded areas, commercial malls,” Andre says. “It’s nice to build a community out of something that did not exist before.”

The perfect mix

At first, it was difficult to picture a cafe-cum-bar existing at the end of C. Palanca Street, but across a bank and beside a wine store’s entrance, there’s a chalk-written sign that confirms that yes, you’ve come to the right place. It’s easy to consider The Curator as a speakeasy-inspired joint, but it’s so much more than that – during the day, they serve specialty coffee; but by night, the place transforms into bar that serves hand-crafted cocktails.

The duality sets The Curator apart from other similar establishments that have appeared in recent years. “I feel like the scene has just really changed in the last 2 years, and it’s not just about beverage, also food, even all the creative side as well like journalism and photography, and the music,” Says David Ong, one of The Curator’s co-owners. “People are just becoming more aware. I hate the word ‘trends’ but I guess that’s what it is… trends that are elsewhere.”

The Curator's David Ong

From the onset, Makati was the perfect place to put a passion project like The Curator to the test. “This is where the spending power is,” David says simply. “Our drinks are not very cheap, and I guess we want to make people feel like they’re getting what they’re paying for.” Perhaps customers appreciate this, because while The Curator has never done aggressive marketing or created promos, the place continues to earn rave reviews. “This is just something that we like to do,” David explains. “We just wanted to do what we experienced elsewhere. We wanted other people to have it.”

And by “it,” David means the luxury of getting a premium, hand-made drink whenever and however you want it. “Legaspi Village, Salcedo Village, we have all these weekend markets now where everybody comes together and it’s become a destination,” he says. “We have all these restaurants and bars opening nearby so it’s becoming more and more of a walking city. If I wanted to have a cocktail call or a coffee call it would be easy ’cause everything is so close by. To me there’s an appeal to that. It’s important for what we’re doing that it feels like community.”

A tailor-made experience

Our final stop caters to a different kind of taste – for the discerning gentleman’s sartorial cravings, the good news is that Signet has officially opened its doors along Legaspi Avenue. After a string of successful trunk shows, Signet’s founders finally decided to create a permanent space for the well-made goods they’ve been peddling to their small but elite clientele.

LUXE BASICS. French Sailor shirts sold exclusively at Signet.

The rationale is simple: Makati is where you would typically wear a suit, so Makati should be where you would also be able to get a good one. “There’s only a few tailors here, like for myself, I couldn’t find a decent tailor here,” says Kelly See, one of Signet’s proprietors. “I had to go to Hong Kong to meet my tailors at least maybe 6 times in a year or more. So I decided to bring them here instead for some people and for myself.”

Aside from providing services for bespoke suits, Signet stocks leather shoes, fox umbrellas, ties, pocket squares, and even Japanese denim – in short, basic yet refined stuff that Makati’s well-dressed population typically has to shop for overseas. “Most of the products here are classic and timeless,” says Tom Sing. “We’re not selling brands or trends,” Kelly adds.

More than providing what the current clientele demands, Signet’s owners are also keen on challenging conventions about menswear. “Filipinos are more conservative, they’re not used to wearing sports jackets or suits. They only wear suits when there is a wedding or a special occasion,” Kelly says. “But you can really wear a sports jacket everyday.”

And judging from the steady stream of businessmen and professionals who have walked through their green doors so far, the no-frills philosophy of “try it and you’ll see the difference” seems to be working. “It’s important to feel good. If your jacket or your suit fits well, you’ll feel good about yourself,” Kelly says. As the store’s manager, Kevin Yapjoco points out, “Nothing can fit as well as something that’s specifically made for you.”

Apparently, for these four establishments, the same also goes for their presence in this district.

DAPPER GENTS. Signet’s Kelly See and Tom Sing.

These four are just a handful of the many up-and-coming establishments who have found Makati, specifically Legaspi Village, to be a “perfect fit” for their vision and their customers. For many, profit was not so much a priority, as much as putting out an above-par product. And with that, business has never been better here. It’s exciting to see how these entrepreneurs – along with the people who live and work around them – will reshape and redefine Makati in the years to come. – 

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