It’s been more than a decade since the Marikina Shoe Expo was reinvented into the artsy hub that is Cubao X.
Since then, it has managed to stay the same even as it has continued to evolve. Save for a few establishments, tenancies have changed hands several times over the past few years. Even so, Cubao X has remained true to its core character: It’s still where vintage appeal meets youthful vibe. Artists and creatives, skaters and surfers, musicians and foodies all feel right at home in Cubao X.
For people in search of both retro treasures and cool new finds, Cubao X marks the spot. It’s where antiques and merch from up-and-coming local indie brands are sold side by side, where you’re as likely to find an old-school rotary phone and that hot, new local streetwear brand. For those looking for a place to get an ice-cold Pale that feels as familiar as your barkada’s tambayan, Cubao X is the post-work place to hit with your crew. It’s also somewhere you can get a haircut, catch an indie art show, and hang out at a co-working space with fellow creatives.
Tip: Because business hours vary (depending on God knows what), it’s best to come later in the afternoon or some time in the early evening, and to call or message establishments you’re planning to visit beforehand to ask if they’re open.
UVLA and Studio Soup Library
“UVLA” stands for “Unique Vintage and Lost Art.” Tucked away in a corner of Cubao X’s U bend, it’s easy to miss. Look for the tin man holding up a shop sign and let him welcome you to a vintage wonderland! It’s a charming little store that’s brimming with personality and carefully curated curios. They’ve got old-school tin, wooden, and Filipino toys, Pinoy Komiks, old records, vintage eyewear, patches, watches, etc.
On the second floor, you’ll find the Studio Soup Library, a bistro and library that houses and sells an impressive collection of local and international indie zines, books, comics, and other printed materials.
My Breathing Space
Packed to the rafters—literally—with all types of collector’s items and tchotchkes, it’s a rabbit hole that gets curiouser and curiouser the more you look around. The shop has over 7,000 items: Coke collectibles on one wall, a shelf full of Snoopy mini-figurines, tiny Beatles music boxes, Disney snow globes, Matryoshka dolls, DC and Marvel toys, mugs, Harry Potter time-turners—they sell everything imaginable. Even the dried roses hanging from the ceiling are for sale. None of the items are pre-loved and most of them, like the snow globes, are hard to find and/or no longer in production. If you’re looking for a specific item that’s missing from your collection, you’re most likely to find it here.
Unit 56, tel. (02) 439-7414
Talas Manileño Barbershop
Co-founded by actor Jericho Rosales (he of great hair, cool style, and modern Manila man vibe), Talas Manileño is a throwback to the barbershops of yore. Step inside and let the cool interiors—wooden panels, concrete floors, and leather barber’s chairs—take you back to a time when men were dapper and took great pains to look (ahem) sharp and polished. There’s a men’s lounge chic feel to the place. Here, you can get a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer, maybe even play a game of chess, while you wait your turn, like a true civilized gentleman. Mga kwentong barbero included.
Tel. (02) 283-9631 (open from 1pm to 9pm)
Here’s where you can check out Manila’s vibrant indie art scene. Post Gallery was conceived to provide a platform for talented and promising new local artists to showcase their work. So if you’re looking for somewhere to showcase your own artwork, are into indie and alternative art, or would like to support budding Pinoy artists, drop by Post. Aside from exhibits, they host interactive and music events as well.
Kendo Creative is a retail, workshop, and event space that champions local artists, craftspeople, and artisans. You’ll find postcards, stickers, shirts, pins, trinkets, and a lot of products from local independent artists and merchants.
The moment you walk in the store, a strong aroma of every creative’s fuel of choice, i.e. coffee—brewing at the coffee bar in one corner of the store—greets you, inviting you to stay a while and soak up all that can-do energy. Aside from providing a space for local craftspeople to sell their wares, they also hold workshops and events regularly.
Unit 33, mobile 0917-568-2284
One of the things that make Cubao X pretty special is that you never know what you’re going to find. You have to peek in store windows, come at just the right time, and keep your eye open for hidden spaces. Does that staircase lead somewhere interesting? You never know unless you look. On the second floor of Kendo Creative is one such space. Marked by a sign that’s so low-key it’s barely noticeable, the aptly named Hidden Space is a store, studio, and creative space where art exhibits, art markets, 'zine launches, pop-ups, shows, etc. are held.
2/F Unit 33, mobile 0925-379-7598
The Twelfth House
Aside from thrift stores and vintage shops, Cubao X has become home to a growing number of local streetwear brands. The Twelfth House is committed to crafting high-quality garments that make a statement—both sartorial and literal. They lend a strong local voice to street style with shoutouts to Escolta, Binondo, and Cubao on their shirts and tanks. Their most recent capsule collection was created in collaboration with another local street fashion brand, KLTRD.
The Four Strings
You know the humble ukulele has gone mainstream when even Taylor Swift whips one out during her concerts. Despite its recent comeback being attributed to hipsters, the uke is more than just another item in the hipster starter pack. People are drawn to the little instrument that could because it’s easy to learn to play the ukulele, it’s relatively affordable, and you can bring it anywhere with you. A fun jam sesh is always just one strum away.
At The Four Strings, a ukulele concept strum café that celebrates the uke as much as it does the island lifestyle that comes with it, you can choose from an entire wall of local handcrafted ukes. But more than just selling ukuleles, The Four Strings is keen on fostering a community, so feel free to sign up for lessons and join their jam sessions.
59A, mobile 0942-947-5090
Habanero Kitchen Bar
This unpretentious bar and restaurant speaks volumes on the Cubao X factor, which is a mix between down-to-earth charm and avant-garde energy. On the one hand, it looks pretty unassuming—plastic chairs and wobbly tables—but it’s also the place where you can get a shot of habanero vodka and chocolate lavender vodka. The dishes are inventive and well thought out: The Habanero Three-Cheese Pizza with a microgreen sitting delicately on top of a charred cheese cube, the Turon Habanero served with their habanero langka jam and a side of coffee cotton candy, and their famous Lechon Habanero, a kilo of pork belly sous vide in fresh habanero chilies and special spices. The latter makes for the perfect, filling, and classiest pulutan.
Stall no. 63, mobile 0977-206-5489
And don’t miss these:
Cubao wouldn’t be Cubao X without the Grand Thrift House, which has been around for more than 10 years, and where everything has a story. The owner chooses his merchandise and packs it all in—from Rizal memorabilia, 70s basketball player photos, to Komiks and vintage accessories.
The Grey Market Vintage is from the same owners of the store located at White Plains. Expect a wide selection of old vinyls, vintage prints, and collectible watches, what sets them apart from the other secondhand stores is that everything still works.
Want to see a modern-day speakeasy? Then head on to Int.Bar, (“interior” for short), which is owned by a group of friends who wanted to bring the vibe and culture of speakeasy bars and make it more accessible to those living in the north.
And don’t miss the secret photo booth behind the red velvet curtain!
—Additional text for Grand Thrift House, Grey Market, and Int.bar by Dagny Madamba
Cubao Expo is located at 3 General Romulo Ave., Cubao, Quezon City
This article originally appeared on Realliving.com.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.