When you ask people what Cubao Expo is or have they even heard about it? They’d tell you that it is a place where you get “old school shit”, an antique bay or where hipsters used to hang out 8 years ago. Well, those annotations are true though in the sense if you have no immersion from what this space in Cubao is all about.
The Igniter of it All
Cubao X housed street and art culture driven establishments prior before all the millennials flock annual Manila Art installs and jump into the bandwagon of dosing into contemporary art for GRAM purposes. The whole complex used to be the Marikina Shoe Expo, developed in 1972 where the best shoemakers of Marikina showcase their products then it closed in 1997 as the industry then was dying out and left it with ruins of quirky spaces. The place made a comeback in the 2000s housing everything artfully dodged, eclectic and underground hip.
All shops are purely out of own passion, collected and carefully curated. You’d definitely know that people put up these shops for the sake of not profiting but only to contribute to the underground scene. I remember attending Mae Day events back in 2011 where a street party with local bands is all about having a community of like-minded individuals.
The common formula would be cheap cold beers, tattoo shops, 80’s built parlors, tailor leather shop, Ukay Ukay for clothing, 2nd hand vinyl shops and a number of antique shops who have been there since they re-opened.
List of shops, bars, and restaurants (2018):
- Geo Shop– specializes in organic, eco-friendly, and locally sourced products.
- Gold Digger– all genre vinyl record store stocking up on professional DJ equipment and they also sell siomai and beer outside
- THE clothing– Street culture clothing and accessories
- Kendo Creative– Coworking space that serves coffee. Surf lifestyle clothing also available in store from Coast Thru Life
- Four Strings– Ukelele shop that serves coffee and offers free weekly Ukelele sessions
- Talas Manileño– Gentlemen’s barbershop
- Timeless Toys– Antique and unique collectibles
- Vinyl Dump– Vinyl store and
- The Appraisery– coffee shop, vintage boutique shop
- Bellini’s Ristorante Italiano– One of the first establishments in Cubao Expo. Serves authentic Italian food.
- Fred’s Revoluciòn – One of the few original bars in the compound. Serves cold cheap beers and good salted egg wings.
- Korean King Rice Burger– Try the rice burgers and stay for beers.
- The Humidor– Assortments of cigars both local and international. They serve beer and liquors and upstairs houses a random sushi shop.
- PenPen’s- Serves Filipino dishes with a twist and of course cheap beers.
- Grey Vintage– Antique and hard to find items
- Jin– Cheap Korean/Cheap Beers
- Habanero Kitchen Bar– Filipino, Spanish. Italian Confluence.
- Random shops/siomai house/etc– by which I cannot keep up anymore.
Pro Tip: Never miss Manang who sells green mangoes with shripm paste on top (Manga’t Bagoong). Her goods are the BEST. She starts selling at 4pm.
Why Places Like This Matters
I have been coming to Cubao X for the past 8 years or so. I have never outgrown it still and evidently, people with the same age as I am in their early 30’s til mid 30’s still hanging out either in Fred’s or go thrift shopping over at Grey’s every once in a while. Now the big Cubao Expo signage is gone already and the place is left with a nondescript facade in front of the abandoned Plaza Fair.
College kids within the area frequent the place, punk millennial drinking red horse on the curbside, and old antique collectors randomly walking on its side street. Many shops and galleries all left the place and moved on to something posher, but Cubao X hasn’t died out yet and it cannot. We all need a space like this where you are welcomed regardless of your race, preference, whether you have too many tattoos on your body and nobody would give a damn to stare at your skin for a few minutes making you feel uncomfortable. It is really hard to pin down what Cubao Expo really represents or what generation it caters. For me, it’s a neutral ground where we all could drink cold beers and discuss how awful and preppy the outside world is. It is still Cubao’s best-kept secret and a treat for the discriminating few in search for the rarity.
Address of Cubao Expo: General Romulo Street, Araneta Center, Cubao, Quezon City.
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