Tito F. Hermoso / Wikimedia Commons-Negi, Google Maps | April 02, 2018 19:01
The Inside Man takes a look back that Metro life 30 years ago
They had a Dream
The dream of the just ejected administration was to make possible all kinds of travel to all points of our 7,107 islands, for all Filipinos - whether by land, by sea or by air – feasible, reasonable and comfortable. Plans and initial investments were made for new airports, sea ports, tollways and even inter island bridges like the San Juanico bridge, connecting Leyte to Samar. But with the state of the economy then, one can appreciate how far we have come to where we are now, where we already take for granted weekly road trips, RoRo journeys and budget air travel to anywhere worth going to.
The Metro night life
No crisis, economic or otherwise, ever put a damper on having fun, at least, not for long. The change in administration, also changed some of the “who's who” in high society and chi-chi watering holes. The hotels, many built in the late 70s, were still open for business. Discos or discotheques [called dance clubs today] were still popping up all and around, while the staple bars and night spots had their regular crowds. Slowly but surely, the GMA [Greater Manila area] was already being known by its new, bigger and better name – Metro Manila. Metro was the buzz word and even the founder and owner of the popular LJC chain of restaurants, Larry J. Cruz, bought an old art deco mansion on the M. Adriatico, Ermita cafe and gallery strip, to convert it into the publishing house of Metro lifestyle magazine.
Map of Malate, Ermita, Adriatico street
The Malate Renaissance
From a niche player of touristy night spots on A. Mabini, Malate/Ermita owes its resurgence as a multi-dimensional entertainment zone to Larry J. Cruz's gentrification of the Remedios Circle with his first Cafe Adriatico in 1979. His eponymous chain spread the cafe lifestyle all over the city and to other parts of the country. He turned Remedios Circle into an architectural gem complete with an Art Deco restaurant complex [In the Mood, Larry's Bar] and turn of the century panciteria [Bistro Remedios] across the street. With further sophistication of Filipino dining tastes, Filipinos who studied in Swiss finishing schools were coming back to test the HRM [Hotel & Restaurant Management] waters, starting gingerly with European ambience cafe-bars, charcuteries, chocolatiers, bistro's and the like, as Filipinos were beginning to appreciate a more casual ambience with their fine dining. Auberge's and Albergos, ala Bed and Breakfast, were to catch on decades later.
Despite the exodus of Filipino show bands to other parts of Asia and the Middle East, there was never a shortage of groups of music loving friends who had a friendly sound studio to rehearse in and were not afraid to twist and shout in front of a live [and eventually inebriated] audience. Likewise, there was never a shortage of bars and clubs who always welcomed a live band or two doing regular sets all through the working week, up to the weekend. Besides, hotel bars always had show-bands as part of their 5-star image. Friday night will always be Friday night.
Good life, easy pay
Fueling all this consumer spending was the expansion of Credit Cards, as Banks sought to market the “charge now, pay later” lifestyle. ATM's and electronic banking networks were expanding to feed a population eager to get on with life and make their money and their bank “work” for their convenience and leisure. So whether on a “hot” date dressed to impress or hanging out with the “boys” on the cheap at 7-11 BF Homes, not having cash in the pocket was remedied by those little pieces of plastic. Little did we know then that this expansion of credit was to make even residence, travel tickets and car purchases a lot easier 30 years hence.
Like today, watch-your-car street urchins, who “guard” your car for a “fee” were a fixture where the fun crowd need on-street parking at some popular downtown bar or disco, anywhere in the country. You take your risks, even with a car alarm [and today's blanket surveillance by CCTV's] as you never know who would scour your paintwork with a bottle cap, nick your mirrors/tire valve cover/hub cap or worse, break in to steal your car radio or even your spare tire. Like today, expect to see these “hard working” boys at Makati Ave., Metropolitan Ave., Pasay Rd. in Makati. At Quezon City, their coverage zones were T. Morato, West Avenue and Timog Avenue and their side streets. Over at Manila, you won't miss them at A. Mabini, Remedios, M. Adriatico and on Roxas Boulevard's side streets, up to the Pasay portion of the sea side boulevard. Though the Makati CBD night spots and hotels provide secure pay parking, somehow there's something to be said about bars in crowded city blocks, where they seem to be raunchier than the genteel parts of the city and hence, more fun. But night driving and parking in the city held risks from crimes more serious than a nicked mirror, stereo receiver or bent antenna.
Map of Metropolitan, Morato, West Ave., Timog Ave. Mabini, Remedios, Roxas blvd. Makati Ayala CBD
Peace and Order
Though the sitting revolutionary government's election battle cry was the general lawlessness during the previous regime had currency among the People Power forces, there were more checkpoints and searches on the street during the revolutionary regime than during Martial Law. Many armed soldiers, AWOL [absent with out leave], from the divided armed forces camps caused by the RAM [Reform the Armed Forces] failed coup d' etat, were ripe for the picking for whichever mercenary job was available. Attempts for destabilization or coups d' etat were frequent. Criminal elements hired these ex soldiers to implement a new style of bank robbery. Instead of robbing the bank itself, they intercepted the cash transfers by armored car, poured gasoline on the vehicle and threatened to stew the crew alive unless they came out and surrendered the cash. The revolutionary government also extended its hand of reconciliation to the Left, who promptly infiltrated key government agencies with Communist sympathizers. The Labor department became a hotbed for feigned helplessness as thousands of employees were goaded by the KMU [Kilusan Mayo Uno, a labor rights group] to strike for better pay against their class enemies, the “greedy capitalists”. But many of these companies were barely surviving, hit by years of decline in sales due to the economic crisis, foreign exchange crisis. Thus, these companies eventually collapsed under strain of labor unrest. Hence the same employees striking for better pay, ended up losing their jobs and failing to get any better jobs, joined the ranks of the unemployed and the disgruntled. This expanded the ranks of the communists who never disavowed their ultimate goal to gain critical mass to topple the oligarchic government. Also, a new business arose, never before seen during the previous regime; kidnap for ransom. Victims were accosted and under threat forced to withdraw cash from the nearest ATM. Paranoid businessmen began to travel the Metro with a retinue of armed bodyguards and back up vehicles. Another new style of highway robbery was to intercept/block arriving residents traveling from the airport and to divest them of monies and luggage, then also dump the victims, shoeless, after, so the crooks could steal the victim's car for getaway. Crime was worse now than in the previous regime.
Checkpoints, a reality check
Nightly checkpoints were a fact of life, specially when going out. They were easy to spot. Usually parked were a white 70's era Ford Fiera Mk.1 or DMG Sakbayan, marked PNP in red, a couple of semi-stainless owner jeeps, usually the cops' private transpo, and dark blue Isuzu Gemini diesel or B12 Nissan Sentra diesel with the words CAPCOM emblazoned in red on the doors. The CAPCOM or Capital Command was the PNP group that replaced the dreaded METROCOM or Metropolitan Command, the main enforcers of curfew during Martial Law. The cops, some in their Khaki tunics but with loosened Sam Browne belts to survive the heat, held poorly lit flashlights. Whether your car was tinted or not, they politely requested you to open your door and your dome light. Open the glove box to inspect for unlicensed firearms. Though generally not so thorough, the more conscientious ones look under the driver's seat where pistols are usually hid, ready for a quick draw. They were not too interested in profiling drunks or junkies as searches for drugs were not in their mission orders. Neither were they interested in the trunk, unlike today's mall security guards that always inspect the trunk just in case you carry a large object labelled “BOMB”.
Though there was a change of elite, the night life habitués were essentially the same. The Hotels night spots were thumping and crowded on weekends; “Tipanan” Bar at the Pen [today's Spices], “Captain's Bar” at the Mandarin, “Altitude 49” at Manila Garden, etc. “Where else” was hibernating as Louie Ysmael, the man who introduced the Monaco jet-set lifestyle to our country was planning its resurgence as Euphoria. As a matter of consequence of his business, he was close to the former elite, so he laid low while he was reformatting his “Louie Y” discotheque at the Hyatt to emerge as “Isis”. Elsewhere, there was “Culture Club” [which became Bobong Velez's “Faces”] at the Makati Ave. entrance of San Lorenzo village and Neil Gaylor's “Billboard” at the opposite end of Makati Ave. in the old town. They all had their fair share of loyal clientele. “Rumours” disco, in the old Marquina bldg. near Quad, was filled to the rafters up to the weekend dawn whenever Irish DJ John Robinson was spinning the turntables and dancing on the booth ledge. There were also Shakey's pizza parlor, bars and discos, [Andros, La Cueva] in Greenbelt which catered to the after office Makati crowd. Tia Maria near IS [International School] continued to cater to the Margarita by pitcher crowd. Vanna Calalang's Seasons restaurant in Amrosolo Creek was drawing in the Polo Club elite. Joaquin Imperial was moving his restaurant from Ermita to Jupiter by Bel Air.
Map of Tia Maria, Mile Long, Faces, Greenbelt
Manila, Quezon City and San Juan
The imprint of Louie Y, and those who followed his gospel, spread far and wide among the joints along Roxas Boulevard. His “babies” were Stargazers at Silahis hotel, and Circuit, Louie Y, then Isis at the Hyatt. To compete, Manila Hotel had its Jungle Bar, Philippine Plaza at the reclaimed area had the Lost Horizon, Philippine Village hotel near the Airport had the Flying Machine. Ramada's ground floor Club Valentino disco even had a faithful copy of the multi-colored lit dance floor seen in John Travolta's iconic 1978 film “Saturday Night Fever”. Quezon City's T. Morato was more into restaurants, steak houses [Alfredo's] and cafe's [Gene's Bistro] while Timog Ave. and West Avenue was chock-a-block full of night clubs, sing-a-longs and folk houses. Patron and gourmet chef Gene Gonzalez was just about to transfer genteel Cafe Ysabel from Wilson to a quaint 1920's Lopez vacation mansion on P. Guevara, San Juan and from such humble beginnings, Gene was to branch out to other cities and establish a culinary academy.