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A night on the town

The expat’s guide to the Philippine nightlife scene


By Samantha Isabel V. Coronado

Nightlife in the Metro (gov.ph)

Nightlife in the Metro (gov.ph)

Say goodbye to idle nights, and say hello to a plethora of choices on how to spend it. Coming to the Philippines, much to most expats’ delight, won’t be all work and no fun.

In recent years, the Philippine nightlife scene has been flourishing. More establishments have opened in nooks and crannies of major cities nationwide. Everything from laser light discos, exclusive VIP clubs, karaoke bars, and underground music gastropubs can now be found here!

So whether you’re here to stay for just a weekend, or looking to spend years in the country, you’re bound to enjoy your stay if you know the right places.

Concerts and music festivals happen in every corner of Manila

Concerts and music festivals happen in every corner of Manila

Things to know

General attitude toward foreigners – Filipinos are known to be hospitable people. Historically, it has had ties with the Spaniards, Americans, and the Japanese, making these races closest to the Filipino heart. Initially, everywhere foreigners go, they are often treated like celebrities and are also somewhat expected to spend like celebrities. But because of the thriving BPO industry, working-class Filipinos have encountered many expats almost every day in the workplace, thus seeing them more and more as peers. One thing remains unchanged: Filipinos still love showing foreigners around!

Language – One of the advantages of traveling to the Philippines is that most of the population is young and English-speaking. Even the poorest urban communities can accommodate English-speaking tourists without a problem. In fact, expats can even navigate the entire country without ever touching a Filipino phrasebook.

Food and drinks – The local food is mostly composed of meat, often pork and chicken, making it a poor choice for vegetarians. But there are many recognizable American fast food restaurants here, as well as international brands serving Japanese, Korean, and Chinese cuisines inside malls. For variety, try to go to Sunday food markets and nighttime food bazaars in the metro that offer unique flavors under one roof. Sampling street food is also a must!

Aside from food, the Philippines is the place to enjoy a variety beverages such as flavored cocktails, craft beer, and homegrown coffee. A local drink to try is San Miguel Beer, simply called “San Mig.” It’s a Filipino beer brand that has become the Filipinos’ pride and joy, and costs cheap at often $1 to $2 commercially. San Mig is particularly well-loved among the Japanese!

Music – If you’re a frustrated singer, you’ll be happy to find that the karaoke machine is an indispensable element to the Philippine nightlife. Saying Filipinos are fond of singing is an understatement, as they are actually famous for being great performers wherever they go! In fact, even the most remote islands devoid of electricity somehow manage to have karaoke machines. But don’t worry about hitting the right notes. Letting go of your inhibitions by belting it out is the spirit of the game.

In case you’re more of a listener, Filipino music played in bars are mostly in the rock and alternative genre. Because of heavy Western influence, you can find that the performers are up-to-date when it comes to the latest Billboard-topping music, which are often played in clubs. While concert events feature bigger acts from both of local and international artists, you can find popular local bands frequenting certain bars in the metro. Watch live performances, or dance to other genres such as indie, reggae, or jazz.

Transportation – Should you own a car in the Philippines, you’ll face the massive traffic that Metro Manila is known for, but at least save yourself from the sweaty hustle of inner city commute. If you don’t own one, you can find a variety of public transportation to get from one place to the other.

The fastest way around the city is via MRT and LRT. Note that these two train services become tight during rush hours. The last rides are usually at 10 p.m. Land transportation such as air-conditioned buses, vans, and the local jeepney (fondly called “King of the Road”) are also available. To navigate within inner streets, you can take tricycles (motorcycles with side cars) and pedicabs (bike with side cars).

For convenience, expats often choose to ride taxi cabs. But a rule of thumb is to make sure that the taxi meter is on before proceeding. You can also use popular ride-sharing apps such as Uber or Grab.

Safety Like most Southeast Asian countries, safety on Philippine streets can be a cause for concern. You must have a degree of vigilance for petty crimes such as theft and pick pocketing. When partying and drinking, keep your valuables such as your wallet and smartphones secure in case you have one too many drinks. Also, try to avoid wearing eye-catching and expensive items such as watches, jewelry, and other gadgets.

70s Bistro

70s Bistro

Where to find nightlife

There is more to the Philippines than just red light districts and adult entertainment. But let’s face it, the country is also famous for its beautiful women. That’s why you can expect to find a diversity of local nightlife. Wherever you are in the archipelago, there are major cities that offer both a night of adult entertainment and a night of clean fun. You’re sure to find one that suits your taste:

Manila – Being the capital city, it is in Manila where you can find a wide array of entertainment and nightlife. Most of the establishments here are clustered together, often just a short ride away from the airport, hotels, malls, and major roads. Partying in Manila tends to be more expensive, however, because of its proximity to business districts where cost of living is much higher.

Makati and Taguig are central business districts where much of the workforce is concentrated. In Makati, you can find bars and clubs along Ayala Avenue, Makati Avenue, and Pasong Tamo. Nightlife in Taguig can be found in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) and The Fort. Though nightlife here can get quite pricey (cocktails costing $5 to $6), these two cities are great places to enjoy upscale experiences. Most of the crowd here is composed of young professionals unwinding after a stressful day at work.

Manila nightlife is a rather old-fashioned destination to go to, reminiscent of the glory days of the capital city. From Remedios Circle going towards Nakpil Street, there is a cultural mix of modern and traditional Filipino lifestyles. Malate, Ermita, and Baclaran are known for cheaper pubs and bars, as well as adult entertainment. Go-go bars where scantily clad girls dance onstage and visit guest tables can be found here. As such, majority of the crowds consist of older local and foreign men. If you want to get a taste of Manila without the bar girls, you can go for a relaxing stroll and visit the more upscale bars along certain sections of Roxas Boulevard.

Quezon City (QC) is where you can enjoy a more laid-back atmosphere away from the capital city and the business districts. An entire street in certain parts of the city is usually lined up with a combination of restaurants, bars, and pubs. This is also the place to run into local celebrities from the country’s major television stations as well as young students studying from the nearby universities. Some places to go in QC are the Tomas Morato area and Eastwood.

Pasay City and Parañaque are popular for adult entertainment as well as family friendly activities. Being nearest to the international airport, you can find massive malls here where you can dine at fancy restaurants, watch concerts and plays, and try the Filipinos’ favorite pastime—shopping! There also are many high-end resort-hotels with casinos within the area where you can try your luck.

Boracay party Cosmo

Boracay party Cosmo

Nightlife outside Metro Manila

Let’s go out of Metro Manila to discover some of the nightlife outside of the capital region. You’ll find that former US military bases and popular tourist destinations are regularly attracting a throng of tourists looking to party and enjoy the night.

Angeles City – Interestingly named, Angeles City is brimming with nightclubs and “AGogo” bars that attract many foreigners looking for some serious adult entertainment. It’s been dubbed as the “sin city” of the Philippines. Compared to Manila, tourists can find less inhibition in Angeles City, as if nothing here is impossible.

Cebu City – Called the Queen City of the South and located in the Visayas Region, Cebu is famous for its historical and cultural value. But in recent years, it’s also famous for its city nightlife, luxury hotels, and casinos, most of which are just walking distance from the beautiful beaches.

For clubbing in Cebu, the Ayala Entertainment Center is your best bet, having multiple pubs and restaurants where younger and more affluent crowds go. For your dose of adult entertainment, sports bars, GoGo bars, and nightclubs are found in Mango Avenue.

One of the best times to experience Cebu is in the third week in January for the Sinulog Festival. The party swells into the streets, where it’s all about loud music, colorful paint, and chanting, “Pit Señor!” By nighttime, the bars are filled with young and affluent Cebuanos dancing the night away.

Boracay Island – Considered the Philippines’ official party island, you can find a handful of touristy bars and nightclubs along the white-sand beaches of Boracay. The entire island never seems to sleep! Bars often host live music and parties with the coolest DJs, attracting crowds from all over the world. Booze also flows freely through the night. The best time to go here is also in January, in time for the Ati-Atihan Festival in Aklan, where the party in Boracay lasts for more than a week.

Davao – Though nightlife here pales in comparison with other major cities, Davao is still the go-to place for entertainment in Mindanao. You can find music bars and nightclubs here, albeit with very few options to choose from. This may be attributed to alcohol control and curfew imposed in the city, forbidding the sale and consumption of alcohol in public spaces by midnight.

Boracay party Cosmo

Boracay party Cosmo

Local nightlife scene

Are you the low-key pub drinker or the chronic partygoer type? Do you rock out in alternative music or get loose in trance tunes? Or would you rather be the one behind the mic? You can find various ways to enjoy your night right in the metro!

Music Bars – The crowds inside music bars depend on the genre. The younger and more affluent crowd, particularly university students and young professionals, often hang out in hip bars featuring indie bands. You can often find vintage items and art galleries side by side good live music in Quezon City. Meanwhile, an older crowd, ranging from young professionals to businessmen, often hangout in music bars within the central business districts such as Makati and Taguig.

70s Bistro, Quezon City

Route 196 Bar, Quezon City

Black Kings Bar x Café, Quezon City

Conspiracy Garden Café, Quezon City

saGuijo Café + Bar, Makati City

12 Monkeys Music Hall & Pub, Makati City

19 East Bar and Grill, Parañaque City

KTV- Karaoke singing is a must-try in the Philippines. KTV Bars are found anywhere in the city where students, young professionals, and families usually celebrate or unwind. For the expat looking to meet people, it might be harder to just walk-in KTV bars to meet people. Groups of people often reserve an entire room, often packaged with food and drinks. Unless, of course, you walk-in to a KTV girlie bar.

Music 21 Plaza Family KTV and Restaurant

(Pasay City, Quezon City, Makati City, etc.)

Red Box Karaoke (Makati City,

Quezon City, etc.)

CenterStage Family KTV & Resto Bar

(Quezon City, Makati City, Pasay City, etc.)

City of Dreams Manila, Parañaque

City of Dreams Manila, Parañaque

Casinos – A growing form of entertainment in the Philippines are the casinos. In fact, an entire highway that leads to amusement and gaming centers is being constructed from right outside the airport! You can find various resort-hotels with casinos on the ground floor in Pasay City and Parañaque City. The crowd is usually composed of families and business people.

Resorts World Manila, Pasay City

Solaire Resort and Casino, Parañaque

City of Dreams Manila, Parañaque

Sports Bars – Sports bars are the enthusiasts’ dugout. It’s the ultimate place to gather around great food, cold beer, and big screen TVs playing live sports. Basketball and boxing are particularly popular in the Philippines, but you can always find Filipinos rooting for teams belonging to other sports!

Handlebar Bar and Grill, Makati

National Sports Grill, Makati

Velocity Sports and Entertainment Bar,

Pasay City

Boulvar Sports and Music Bar, Manila

Dance Clubs – Partying in the Philippines won’t be complete without trying dance clubs with exclusive access to dance floors, upbeat DJ tunes, and sophisticated club vibes. Be sure to dress to impress because you’ll find the hottest ladies and gentlemen here!

Prive Luxury Club, Taguig

Revel, Taguig

The Pool Club at the Palace, Taguig

Haze, Taguig

Valkyrie, Taguig

Black Market / Finders Keepers, Makati

Time, Makati

B-Low (formerly Paradis and Palladium), Makati

Chaos, Parañaque

Pangaea, Parañaque

Prime Upscale Club, Quezon City

Excess Superclub, Quezon City

Knowing where to go is just the first step to get to know Philippine nightlife scene. If you’re looking to enjoy the rest of your nights here, be sure to make friends with the locals. Try joining travel community groups on Facebook, attend events from the Couchsurfing website, or use dating apps such as Tinder, Grindr, or Filipino Cupid.

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