The term “speakeasy” means hidden bar. It originates from the Prohibition period, a time in the 1920s when bars and drinking alcohol was under strict restrictions so the establishments had to be put up in secret. While the days of hiding from the authorities are long gone the appeal of speakeasies still remains. There is something so attractive about being a hideaway that draws in a crowd.
Manila, the capital of the Philippines, is quickly making a name for itself as a nightlife destination so there are more than a few hideaways that have popped up. If you're not up for the large clubs then our roster of speakeasies might be the thing for you!
Here are the top 5 Manila speakeasies to visit on your next trip. In no particular order:
1. Finders Keepers – Makati
First up on the list is one of the most popular speakeasies in Manila, Finders Keepers. If you're a local on the scene then you have probably seen their iconic red neon sign somewhere on the internet. It became famous for being a little bar hidden next to a hip hop dance club named Blackmarket.
Blackmarket has become one of the most popular party destinations for its warehouse party atmosphere. It has three hidden bars in the building but Finders Keepers is definitely the most popular. To get to Black Market's main dance hall you enter through a hallway. Upon entering on the right side you will see some black curtains. If you push them aside they'll reveal a wooden door. Push it open and voila, you've found Finders Keepers.
It's an intimate place, mostly lit up by the eponymous neon sign. Head to the bar and place your order. I prefer this more than the main hall because it's smaller but filled with some tables and comfortable couches. Don't let the size fool you though, people still get down in here. They have a great playlist of early 2000s throwbacks. The type of songs you'd gladly sing along to with a stranger.
2. Oceans Telephone Co. – Bonifacio Global City
Another favourite is Oceans Telephone Co. This one is located in one of the most developed parts of Manila, Bonifacio Global City. For that reason, the area is very popular with tourists. It has world-class hotels and some of the best restaurants. To top it off, that's where most of the bigger clubs are. The real fun, however, is found in the smaller tucked away places.
Oceans Telephone Co. is located on the corner of Burgos Circle, another part of BGC with great restaurants. To get to it you have to pass through a cafe and go up the stairs to the second floor. What truly makes it a speakeasy is that if you didn't know what to look for you would've thought that the second floor was just a small extension of the cafe.
But if you're curious enough you will see a large ornate door and try to push it open. Opening the door is what I imagine it felt like to open the dresser doors into Narnia. You enter and it's an entirely different atmosphere from the cafe. Low lightings and low couches are spread around. At the end of the room, there is a small DJ booth with an extra table. It's a great place to go with a group of friends and get bottle service. Although I will say that the crowd has gotten a lot younger in recent years. If that's not for you then the next speakeasy might be what you're looking for.
3. Bank Bar – Bonifacio Global City
This is among the higher end Speakeasies on the list and it's hidden in plain sight. It is also located in Bonifacio Global City, in fact, it is actually in a building right in front of the Strip. The strip is a line of bars and restaurants. In front of the strip is what looks like a corporate building that has a 7-Eleven in the lobby. Enter the unsuspecting 7-11 and ask to have access to the freezer.
Don't worry, you won't actually be led into the freezer. Instead, you'll be led to what looks like a storage door, when you open the door you might be fooled into thinking you have actually just walked into a storage closet. The door opens up to reveal a small room lined with shelves that are stocked with famous Filipino snacks. The room is colourfully lit so it hints that it's more than meets the eye.
True enough, at the end of the small room, there is another door. Push through and you will enter Bank Bar. A posh setting that feels like a speakeasy in every sense of the word. The interior is something mysterious and classy out of the 20s. Even their restroom has a beautifully tiled floored and a retro powder room. Drinks at Bank Bar are a little more expensive than the other places on this list. It also isn't a party environment, it's more appropriate for professionals or those looking to enjoy some cocktails with a date or friends.
4. The Hotel Bar at Pink's – Bonifacio Global City
When Pink's famous Hotdogs set up shop in Manila they certainly drew in the crowds. While people still show up for the food, the owners thought it was time to offer something new. Pink's itself has a colourful and retro interior but when you ask where the restroom is you'll enter a back room that has been converted into a bar. True to its name, it does in fact look like a vintage Hotel Bar.
Dimly lit with comfortable cushioned booths, it's quite spacious when compared to the other bars on this list. It is also in a great area, right around the corner from the Shangrila Hotel. Pop in and have some food then go for a nightcap in the Hotel Bar.
5. Thirsty Barber – Greenhills
Located in the Greenhills area is this little hidden gem. When you first get to the location you may think it's a random area. Definitely not the typical location for a bar but trust us when we say it's worth the visit. Go inside the building and up to the second floor, you'll find a barbershop. Yes, during the day it actually is a functioning barbershop. Not your average barbershop though, one that has luxe barber chairs for all its clients.
When you're in the main room you may see a neon sign that says, ‘Thirsty Barber'. Head towards it and on the left, there will be a door. It's a rectangular room with a DJ booth towards the front. It features a rustic design and the perfect atmosphere to throw intimate parties. The price range is relatively affordable compared to the other places on the list but you'll definitely have a fun time!
While Manila offers a variety of nightlife experiences, hanging out at a speakeasy bar is still the most attractive option for me. This list only shows five out of several. While all of them take inspiration from the past you can be sure that each offers its own unique ambience and experience. So whether you're looking to dance the night away or just enjoy quiet drinks with friends, there's a place for you!
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