Finding More Than Just Art at Cubao Expo

We did a different kind of escaping by paying the Manila underground scene— Cubao Expo— a long-awaited visit. Knowing the hassle of any EDSA-related roads, we took a bus from the South to get to Cubao. It was a bit of a walk from the jam-packed terminals lining EDSA but as soon as we stepped foot inside this funky U-shaped compound, the suffocating buzz of Araneta Center just vanished. It was our first time in Cubao X— as the veterans like to call it— but the smell of eccentricity in the air made us feel more than welcome. The irony of belonging in such diversity is the difference between the new society we are fighting for and the stereotypes that labeled us entitled.

Our exploration of sorts began late in the afternoon and of all the times it could’ve rained, our visit to the expo had to be it. It was unexpected but we were meant to explore that day; our Palladium boots didn’t fail us. Not once did we slide on the wet concrete nor did we fall prey to the slippery alley between the antique shops. The outpour didn’t even touch our toes but most of all, on-feet we fit right inside the sanctum of art.

With each passing decade, Cubao Expo has built up a character that is almost impossible to fully describe. It’s like your fun, quirky friend, your cool retro aunt, and your favorite streetwear influencer morphed into a hangout place. Passion is practically painted on every wall and every corner of the streets. It didn’t just welcome diversity, it is a breathing proof that we could co-exist with all our differences and individualities.

There are many who call it their second home: the punk millennial, the indie/graffiti/tattoo artists, the enthusiasts, the geeks, the bookworms, the skaters, the collectors, and everything in between. It is the community of youths then and continues to be a safe space for the youths now. It grows old with the once college kids who drank cheap beer by the bucket while keeping up with the cool kids raised by iPhones.

At this day and age, seldom do we find a place to fit into that is timeless, genderless, and ageless so we are nothing short of lucky to have one we can call our own. We can only imagine how vibrant the night becomes when conventions, gigs, or parties gather crowds for one purpose: to have fun even for a single evening. 

To truly appreciate the charm of Cubao X, we grabbed a local beer and watched it come alive as the evening fell. The flickering neon signs and light jazz music is almost hypnotic, our only attachment to reality was the periodic clinking of glasses at a curb. Despite getting so many visits from all types of people, Cubao Expo never changes at its core, it is always welcoming, never judging, and its warmth never receding. As our culture evolves, it transforms alongside it.

We are currently at the advent of smartphone cameras capable of capturing 21 megapixels yet our generation uses apps to make our photos look as if it were taken in the 90’s. It’s neither good or bad, it’s just a part of this culture we’re in the middle of shaping. It’s already 2018 and the nostalgia of all the years before 2000 is now somehow therapeutic. While we may never truly know what it was like to live in the generation of our parents as teenagers, we’re lucky enough to have a place like Cubao Expo in the middle of the city to satisfy our curiosity (and introvert needs) for all things vintage and hipster.

Cubao Expo will always be a sanctuary of music, art, and cultures without judgment, opposing the merciless city that envelops it. You can be whoever you are in this space and if the whole country were like a big Cubao X, we’d probably be the happiest place on earth. Join SA'ICHI as we soon uncover the secret of Filipino explorers...


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