We said it before and will say it again; Metro Manila is truly a place filled with hidden gems. Such places defy the intimidation from aggressive modern technological developments. They stand firm with their raw charm while embracing the culture and vibe they nurtured for decades. One perfect example is Cubao Expo. 


Who would have thought? In one of the country’s major thoroughfares, a hidden gem stands proud and mighty next to towering modern buildings. Cubao Expo, originally called Marikina Shoe Expo, housed Marikina’s finest shoes during the Martial Law era in 1972. But when the Asian financial crisis reached the shores of the archipelago in 1997, the place that boasted locally-made footwear had to close its doors and wait for its rebirth. 


But Marikina Shoe Expo did not keep its doors closed for long. In 2000, it reopened, but some of the stores eventually started closing. Thanks to the low rental rates, several artists thought of occupying spaces within this U-shaped center. Soon enough, it became a haven for bric-a-brac and contemporary art. It was slowly forming a new face as the go-to place for DIY culture.


Years later, Cubao Expo finally took off as more diverse establishments brought in more crowds. From the OG Vintage Pop, Bellini’s, and Chunky Farflung, Cubao Expo welcomed new people thanks to Mogwai, Pablo, Sputnik, and other stores that enticed scenesters, film people, geeks, and even the typical onlookers.

Today, we see Cubao Expo as the “hipster tito” that enjoys antiques, rugged-type dining, and anything artsy. Despite the gentrification of the surrounding neighborhood, this hidden gem remains true to what Cubao Expo is all about— a place for people who value art and the beauty in never forgetting despite the influences of social media and the internet.

So, while it’s still there, we highly recommend you walk around this humble space. Cubao Expo is not only a place where you drink at Fred’s, dine at Bellini’s or Habanero, and feel hipster all day while sipping on a cup of coffee at INT EXT; it offers so much more than just a gastronomical journey. For many people, it is a small pocket of breathing space in the tired and noisy streets right outside. It’s the quiet in the middle of the crowd. It’s an empty chair that offers you rest. So, sit, put your phone down, and look around. Observe the details in every corner of this underrated hidden gem. Borrowing Meredith Grey’s line, “If you’re willing to take the chance, the view from the other side is spectacular.” Who knows? A different perspective is all you need to know what you’ll do next.



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