The tv program captures the nightlife of busy, busy Metro Manila and more
Netflix’s new docuseries and TV program, Midnight Asia: Eat Dance Dream, explores the hidden nightlives in different Asian cities. From Tokyo’s oldest professional DJ Sumirock and the comfort dishes nestled in the streets of Mumbai to Bangkok’s modernized Likay performances, each Asian capital shares its vibrant complexities. Tasty eats, rich pockets of culture and a whole lot of love—that’s what the show has managed to catch throughout its run.
But the most exciting episode is the one that hits closest to home: Metro Manila.
I’d often boil down Manila’s nightlife to bar hopping. All I knew were the upscale nightclubs and bars that populate listicles around our nightlife. Tourists were encouraged to explore Quezon City, Makati, Pasay and Taguig. Sometimes, it’s the open secret of Cafe Havana. And in others, it’s in finding the talents that Route 196 used to house. However, Midnight Asia’s Manila-centered episode explores the metro’s different gems. Ones outside my “sheltered girl” bubble.
The episode from this TV program introduces us to five places. First, Lugawan sa Tejeros and their signature dish: lugaw topped with lechon kawali. Customers from all walks of life fill the establishment, as they’re all eager to get their hands on their dishes. It then moves towards the electric and aggressive tournament of the FlipTop Battle League. Emcees from different parts of the country gather to fulfill their dreams by competing in the coveted stage.
Midnight Asia also explores the LGBTQIA+ safe space carved by Elephant Party at XX XX Nightclub. The first-ever queer techno party in the Philippines serves as a spot for everyone and anyone to come as they are—grandness, greatness and all. On a different side of Makati, professional wrestler Crystal breaks the glass ceiling by competing in inter-gender wrestling matches and emerging triumphant. The last location is world-famous The Tenement in Taguig. The government housing project’s heart is a basketball court painted with various murals, maintained by a loving community. The mural on the court paid homage to the late Kobe and Gianna Bryant in this episode.
The docuseries checks all the boxes of a typical travel show, with its wide shots of the city skyline, close-up shots of mouth-watering dishes and clips of crowds going on about their daily lives. However, this series picks apart each location and its culture. At the end of each episode, viewers receive a lot of food for thought. You’re not just left gawking at the lively sceneries or writing down exciting places to visit. Instead, you learn to appreciate the city and the cultures that give it life.
What I appreciate the most about this series is that it shows the real richness of Manila’s culture and nightlife. The city is more than the upscale clubs, malls, red-light districts and the negative stereotypes. Some people go out here to chase their dreams, find belonging and experience some sort of reprieve from a day job. The need for an escape, to run towards any bout of safety we can find, is visceral. May it be delicious comfort food, a tight-knit community, a platform for talent or just an excuse to let their feelings out, Metro Manila has a spot that will cradle you without judgment.
As we continue to tread the waters of the pandemic, Midnight Asia comes at such a perfect time. We’re all longing for small joys: drinks after work, impromptu dinners out, finding our people or a new hobby to explore. We ache for a time when crowded areas provided comfort instead of fear. At least, though, we can live vicariously through this TV program and other similar documentaries until our adventures come. Binge-watching isn’t as exciting as exploring these spots on foot, but it will do for now.
Stream Midnight Asia: Eat Dream Dance on Netflix.
Art Macky Arquilla