MANILA, Philippines – Don Pedro and Alfonso streets in Poblacion have seen bigger crowds that they might have been built for, that corner being something of a hub, the Kilometer Zero for the nightlife district this side of Makati has become in recent years.
Throughout the year, this small corner has seen thousands of partygoers come and go, celebrating all sorts holidays – almost like they will take any excuse to party. St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, and Halloween are all observed here, celebrated with music, food, and of course, copious amounts of alcohol.
On June 11, another one of these big street parties was held, and the holiday was the closest to home: Philippine Independence Day. They called the party Repoblacion, and closed off stretches of Don Pedro and Alfonso streets for it. Organized by a team led by Z Hostel – one of the first party establishments on Don Pedro street – the party included a lineup that celebrated everything Filipino.
“The main focus for tonight is we want our guests to experience the Philippines how a local would – how do Filipinos eat, how do Filipinos dance, how do Filipinos drink, how do we party?” Z Hostel’s marketing manager Cao Ocampo told Rappler.
True enough, the program showcased snippets of Filipino culture, with folk dance performances by the Marikina Dance Guild, spoken word poetry, and a lineup of bands that included some of OPM’s best and biggest (Mayonnaise, Kjwan, Apartel, to name a few). During the program, revelers both foreign and local got to try out some of the dances themselves, guided by the performers.
There was a stall of Filipino delicacies, including Filipino cuisine faves like Chicken Inasal from Bacolod, empanada from Ilocos, kesong puti from Bulacan, and of course, lechon belly – because it is a fiesta after all. Obviously, Filipino-brand liquor was available everywhere – local beer, rum, even Red Horse beer ice cream, which was the inspired creation of one of the residents who lived in the house right at the heart of the street party.
A handful of the area’s residents were among the vendors that night, selling pica-pica like cheese sticks, fishballs, and kwek-kwek, on invitation from the organizers.
“We invite them, we encourage them to join us, make them feel like it’s also their event,” he said.
“They can invite their friends to come and watch the entertainment, watch the bands,” he continued.
“We only do this a couple of times a year, so we keep them in mind. We respect them because it’s also a residential area. We always keep them in mind.”
Truly, the area is as much a residential area as it is a nightlife hub. In fact, many of the Poblacion’s residents are among the oldest families in Makati. They are the people to whom the area originally belonged, long before any Poblacion frequenter even saw the area as more than the seedy red light district.
As the Don Pedro bars became more popular, and as the parties grew and the streets became more and more noisy, this handful of residents have stayed put.
There was a time when those who lived on this busy corner would put in their noise complaints. But they have since learned to just make the most of the crowds, and also, to simply enjoy the party – almost as if they’re resigned to the fact that the place they call home is now also a place where many others feel at home too.
“Siyempre, wala na rin kasi kamin magagawa kasi commercial and residential na siya. So accept nalang namin (There’s nothing we can do anymore because it’s both a commercial and residential area. So we just accept it),” said Abby, whose grandparents have lived along Alfonso street for generations.
“Naki-join nalang din kami lumabas nalang din kami, enjoy nalang (we just join the party, we go out, we enjoy),” she said.
Another resident, Carol, echoed Abby’s sentiments saying “If you can’t beat them, join them.”
“Wag mo nalang i-stress ang sarili mo. Kumbaga, maki-join ka nalang (Don’t stress yourself out anymore. In other words, just be part of it),” she said.
“Mamaya nalang kami matutulog (We’ll just sleep later),” she laughed.
It did turn out to be a late night for most everyone on that block that night. By 11 pm, even as the humidity alternated with light rains, more revelers poured in.
That night, they had to endure a tighter security check than usual, with bouncers frisking for anything that shouldn’t be there, and officers and K-9 units from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), inspecting bags. Ambulances, policemen, and firemen were also on standby.
“Having thousands of people here, one mistake, one thing goes wrong, and we might not be able to do this again. So we make sure that we’re prepared,” Cao said.
Ultimately though, the tight security and intimidating uniformed men at the entrance didn’t take away from the easygoing, free-for-all atmosphere at the party. Perhaps more than the performances and the food, it was the determination to have fun no matter what the circumstance that made Repoblacion a truly Filipino celebration.
Check out more photos from the event below: