The year was 2006. I had only been in Manila for a few months and have started working at a call center. That night, I remembered my teammates and I were working the lean shift, so by 12 midnight, we were out of the office and ready to have a good time. We all wanted to go out for drinks and hear good music. Someone suggested saGuijo. Say what? Where was that? No matter. I went along anyway. It looked like a dive, located in a quiet street in Makati, not far from where we worked in Ayala Avenue. It was my first time there. I had no clue how important saGuijo was to the local music scene.
Fast forward to the year 2013. I have now been to saGuijo a number of times since 2006. From the outside, on a quiet night, saGuijo is nondescript. You won’t know it’s there if not for the very subdued lighted sign hanging atop the gate.The name of the place is a play on where it is located—in Guijo [Street], which literally translates to the Filipino phrase “sa Guijo.” SaGuijo is a bar situated in what would be the corner unit of a row of old apartments. The bottom floor houses the bar and on the second floor you’ll find Snow Tattoo and the Pocket Universe Art Gallery.
SaGuijo Cafe + Bar, just as it’s about page describes, is all about the music. In fact, if you’re a fan of OPM (Original Philippine Music), then you’d know that it’s an institution. Talk to an avid Filipino music fan, and odds are, he’s been to this place, if not, he knows of it.
I’m sure that a number of bands careers launched here. I’ve actually looked up several unknown (to me) indie bands after hearing them play live here. This is a place for music lovers, not only to hear the music they want, but to introduce them to music they didn’t know they wanted.
To say saGuijo is “cozy” is an understatement. You will only be a few feet, if not inches, away from your favorite band. There is no elevated stage to speak of. Only a small space set up in the corner of the room where the bands play.
I’ve been to saGuijo during both quieter sets and the crazy jam-packed ones, and each time, the experience has been inimitable; whether it’s sitting quietly, listening to some unknown band, dancing to a cool techno beat, nodding my head and tapping my feet to a great punk song or screaming the lyrics of a song being performed by my favorite band.
One of my favorite nights to be at saGuijo is Terno Night, where bands from the Terno Recordings line up play. This is usually when it’s packed wall to wall, so best get there early to secure a good spot. On these nights, one of my favorite bands, Up Dharma Down closes the night (or morning as it usually is) and they usually play a good set.
It must be a testament to saGuijo’s legacy that the bar has been featured in two local films that had a focus on OPM. Quark Henares’ Rakenrol and Marie Jamora’s Ang Nawawala (What Isn’t There). In both films, saGuijo is shown as the setting for key scenes in the movies, as well as a venue to showcase great Pinoy talent.
I have written this piece to start my series on my adoptive city, Makati. I can’t imagine writing about my favorite city, without writing about a place you’d find dab smack in the middle of it, inconspicuous, yet there, always present; this place that continuously reminds me of what great music and talent there is in our country.
Sets can start as early as 9PM and would usually end at around 2AM. They are open Tuesday to Saturday. Check out the gig schedules on their website (http://www.saguijo.com/calendar.php), which they update monthly.
The Old Stomping Ground is a feature that showcases the various places and events in and around my adoptive city, Makati.
Check out my other posts about Makati by clicking on this link.