Music & Culture
Music & Culture

Manila at Night: What I’ll Miss About Being Nocturnal in the City

Manila at Night: What I’ll Miss About Being Nocturnal in the City

Maria Grant June 30, 2020 Music & Culture

Since the start of the pandemic, I found myself scrolling through photos from my old life. There were the usual suspects: food pics at a café I used to frequent, quite a few selfies at school, and snaps of me lifting at the gym.

The most striking ones are those selfies I took in transit to the corners of Manila that called to me because it promised long nights spilling over to mornings. All the scenes were familiar, in a sense that I might have dreamed about them. As a strange emotion bubble up inside me, a cocktail of sentimentality and melancholia, I hit up a friend on FaceTime with a “Remember when we used to…”


Poblacion, Makati (Ph: Melissa Peritore)

Through a series of calls, we would exchange memories of what our lives were like just three months ago: coffee dates, and night outs spent pub crawling along the streets of P. Burgos and Kalayaan, ultimately ending up on a dancefloor elsewhere. It’s nostalgia I feel for three months ago. While mandated to stay at home I find myself homesick.


Elephant Party at XX XX (Ph: Jack Marion)

We don’t often associate nostalgia, wistfulness for the erstwhile, to the recent past. It’s said that nostalgia is watching nineties TV commercials and being reminded of the comforts of childhood. It’s frisson for a distant past. Except, nostalgia actually serves a utilitarian purpose. When change comes for us, shaking the very core of our mundane lives, nostalgia rescues us from the anxieties that come with it. It frames a narrative of our life that makes the most sense, reminding us that yes, we can cherish the good and the bad, and be happy to move on.

In the many iterations of the community quarantine alphabet, I catch myself thinking a lot about the countless nights I’ve gone out in the last few years. Needless to say, as a twenty-something girl in the city, I have gone out to go dancing once or twice (okay, maybe more than I care to admit) all of which feels nostalgic right now.

So, what do I miss about my night outs? It’s starting the night greeting a bevy of friends with a kiss on the cheeks. It’s giving a handful of handshakes to countless strangers turned acquaintances. The rotating rounds of tequila making its way to my lips. The sweating bodies on the dancefloor bumping to an old Robyn tune next to mine, and the pulsating roar of being among people, living our lives with excess maybe just for one night.


Today X Future – (Ph: WeCelebrate Studios)

Most people would think that partying is a superficial endeavor enjoyed only by those who take the road less challenging. Perhaps there is some truth to that otherwise being an “eventologist” wouldn’t be a full-time job. Still, out of the decadent notions of nightlife, a deeper understanding of communion is built, a public house as its melting pot. Its hollows are carved out in the grittiest corners of a city that cradled friendships, kinships, and even relationships — drama included. After wading through the weed and the mud, there’s a kind of warmth in finding people who’s on your wavelength. People who hang in on conversations from the recent Drag Race episode, to hearty discussions on Marx, to exchanging your latest Sinigang recipe. It’s people who just, simply put, get you. Strangers turned IG mutuals, turned lifelong friends. A pub then stops being just a place, it becomes your home.


Today X Future 

It’s month three going into the current pandemic, which means most of us have been inside for about 107 days. Everything in the pre-Covid world feels out of place, seems like a lifetime ago.  Hanging out in a coffee shop? Unimaginable. Going to the movies? Impossible. Partying? Irresponsible. Tracing the steps of my memories, occasionally helped by a blurry photo to piece the puzzle of an equally blurry night, has become my respite during these strange times. My mind wonders when I can go out again and get back to my old life. The answer remains elusive, my plans are left a fantasy.

In those spaces we chose to make our flighty pacts are people behind the scenes. I think about folks who make a living in those venues. From the bartenders who kept the bubbly flowing, the DJs who kept the music going, to the bouncers keeping everything in check while everyone else danced the night away. What I mourn as my Saturday nights represents the livelihood of these folks and the survival of their families.

I have to face the fact that while I long to head to my usual haunt the moment the lockdown is lifted and it is safe to do so, there might be nowhere to go. Because of the lockdown, a large number of businesses have closed. The policy was to shut down non-essential operations, and with bars and clubs capitalizing on physical social gathering, they were inevitably the ones to go, lest they become epicenters of an outbreak. As of writing beloved bar, and my homebase, Today X Future in Cubao announced that they will not be returning. This breaks the hearts of its many patrons both queer and otherwise, including yours truly.

As someone who’s itching to get back on the dance floor but being in the smack middle of a global pandemic, for my own sanity, health, and the wellbeing of others in mind, taking Swedish pop superstar Robyn ‘s advice to heart might be the next best thing. This Saturday night, maybe with a drink in hand, I’ll keep dancing on my own.

Cover Photo: Melissa Peritore