Handlebar and my first “sidetrip” to Makati’s red light district

Posted by Cat Ramos

Handlebar MakatiI never thought that I would find myself in a “manly” bar on a Friday night. The guys decided to bring our boss Vernon to Makati after work for drinks. They know a lot of places but they decided on Handlebar, which is in Polaris Street, near Jupiter.

Jupiter used to be my Saturday night hangout — that is where I usually went to after Japanese class, with my teacher and classmates. We’d usually go have dinner then karaoke until very late. I have not veered far from Jupiter’s “karaoke area” so I have no idea what is on the other side.

Handlebar is a biker-themed bar. I have not seen one before, obviously, as I mostly hung out at karaoke places only. It was dark and smelled of cigarette smoke, as what you would expect of a “manly” place. Shirts and motorcycle handlebars decorated the ceiling. There were small tables and bar stools, a couple of pool tables, TVs showing football, baseball and the Sochi opening ceremonies. A live reggae band was playing in front. Vernon seemed impressed with the place and he started talking about motorcycles but I couldn’t understand anything since the music was so loud.

Because we already had dinner before leaving the office, we only ordered drinks and fries and chicken fingers. They all had beer while I ordered a Jager Bomb. After the 2nd round of drinks, we headed out since it was getting a bit boring with all the noise.

We were supposed to go to El Chupacabra, a nice hole-in-the-wall place several meters away. But there was a waiting line when we got there, and it was already midnight. Not too bad for a small place.

We walked around a bit — around the red light area — looking for a nice place. It was my first time to see the red light district of Makati. Bright neon lights, women in short, tight and shimmery dresses and heavy makeup, burly guards outside doors, foreign men loitering about. Same old, same old, I suppose.

Several blocks away, we settled on a nice, quiet place called Grilla. No more alcohol for me. I got coffee and an order of leche flan…because you should always leave room for dessert. The coffee was really nice, but the flan was a disappointment. I didn’t mind. At least, at Grilla, I can enjoy exchanging stories with the guys. Kevin just got married the week before and so Vernon had lots of stories and “advice” for him.

Observation number 1: I was not feeling Handlebar. I can hardly hear what Vernon, Karlo and Kevin were saying as the band was so loud. Maybe we’re not supposed to talk, maybe we’re just supposed to listen to the band sing — even if I could not make out the lyrics. Well, when I go out with a group, it’s all about the companions and the conversation. It does not matter if the place or the food sucks; as long as I am in the company of good friends and enjoying good conversation, I am fine. The conversation part, sadly, was missing in Handlebar.

Observation number 2: When we entered the bar, I felt several pairs of eyes on my boss, then on me. I can see several people giving me the “once-over” from head to foot, and many are probably wondering what I was doing there. Hello?! Jeans, T-shirt, glasses, sling bag, ballet flats. This is NOT the attire of a “working girl”, if you know what I mean. I did not come to the bar to pick up some white guy. I was just there with a group of people (one of whom happened to be a Caucasian man) out to enjoy the end of the week.

Observation number 3: So many foreign men in Handlebar and some of them are actually groping the waitresses. The waitresses do not seem to mind. Is it part of the job description, or perhaps just an occupational hazard?

Overall, a great night out with the guys. We will have to come back to eat at El Chupacabra. I still cannot get the thought of tacos and nachos out of my mind since then. But I will probably skip Handlebar next time.

Handlebar Bar and Grill
A Bar Run by Bikers for Bikers
Address: 31 Polaris Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati City
Phone: 63-2-8982189/63-2-8981976

Grilla Bar and Restaurant
Address: Poblacion, Makati
Phone: 63-2-8998775

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