[Executive Edge] A Bohemian haven in Poblacion, Makati

Ezra Ferraz

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[Executive Edge] A Bohemian haven in Poblacion, Makati
Is it possible to revitalize an entire village toward a more positive cultural identity? Don Angelo Bautista, proprietor of Lokal Hostel, adamantly believes so
After visiting a hostel in Australia while on vacation, Filipino entrepreneur Don Angelo Bautista thought of bringing the idea back home, tweaked for the Philippine market.

This idea eventually became Lokal Hostel in Poblacion, Makati City, which was not only one of the first in the area, but also one of the most community-centric.

Bautista bet on the belief that foreign tourists would choose his hostel over competitors, and the future of the neighborhood itself. Up to that point, Poblacion was primarily known for sex tourism  the kind of attraction that the Department of Tourism did not want the country to be known for.

Was it possible to revitalize an entire barangay toward a more positive cultural identity? Bautista adamantly believed so.

INTERIORS. Street art adorns Lokal Hostel
REST. A comfy room with double-decker bed in Lokal Hostel
CHANGE. Lokal Hostel aims to make the area of Poblacion, Makati more wholesome for the tourists to experience

Gentrifying Poblacion

As part of this mission, Bautista decided he wanted to use the interiors of Lokal Hostel to showcase a part of Filipino culture that tourists rarely get first-hand exposure to: street art.

Bautista said he chose to turn Lokal Hostel into a venue for street artists to showcase their talent and skills to these travelers and backpackers.
He added that he wanted Lokal to represent a hub of art separate from traditional mainstays like B-Side Collective and Cubao Expo, Araneta Center.

Bautista takes this role seriously because he likens the job of hostel proprietor to that of a country ambassador. Since the vacationer is looking for an unforgettable experience, Bautista must make sure that tourists get to interact with locals at the hostel. The street art, then, gives them a kind of jumping off point for conversation.

All of the pieces that street artists do in Lokal Hostel are commissioned by Bautista. He believes that street art is one way to gentrify a community, as it gives it a sense of identity. People will come into an area to view the art and also act as more responsible citizens in its presence.
That is why he hopes that the street artists he has patronized will also be able to contribute their works in and around greater Poblacion.
EXPERIENCE. Bautista says he chose to turn Lokal Hostel into a venue for street artists to showcase their talent and skills to these travelers and backpackers.
RESPONSIBILITY. Bautista says it is the neighborhood’s responsibility to maintain Poblacion's standards of appeal as well as sense of identity, an economic interest of them to do so.

Appealing venue

Is it really possible to gentrify Poblacion? The possibility may seem far-fetched because of its reputation as a red-light district – until you look at international analogues. Bautista compared the character of Poblacion to that of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York, and Kings Cross in New South Wales.

“It used to be dominated by nightclubs and brothels, but in time it turned out to be a rather appealing venue for hole-in-the-wall ideas namely cafés, hostels, restaurants, pubs, bars, and other non-traditional establishments,” Bautista said.

The influx of new businesses in these areas eventually gave rise to tours of the whole community, such as pub crawls and food crawls.

Thus, Bautista said it is the neighborhood’s responsibility to maintain its standards of appeal as well as sense of identity, adding that it will be in their economic interest to do so.

Bautista pointed to two examples closer to home  Rockwell Center and Century City  of what can happen when a community works to gentrify itself.
“It will attract the paying patrons and repeat buyers to the area,” he said. He added that gentrification not only helps businesses profit, but makes the area safer for residents.  
Though Poblacion is still primarily known for its nightclubs and other seedy establishments, Bautista said that the community has undergone an “amazing turnaround” over the last 10 years, as some of the mainstream businesses eventually became attractions on their own.
One need to look no further than the popular restaurants in Poblacion, such as El Chupacabra, to see how much this is true.

Ultimately, Bautista wants Poblacion to be known as an “art district of Manila.” But peace and order, as the biggest obstacle in the way of the community’s continued development, must be addressed by all stakeholders. Police need to have a visible presence, and the Poblacion residents and businesses need to work with the local government toward a common goal.

“Getting people involved will help stimulate the plan rather than doing it on your own,”  Bautista said. – Rappler.com
 Rappler Business columnist Ezra Ferraz brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Connect with him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz

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