The hippie generation might remember Mandaluyong in the 1960s for Black Angel, said to be Manila’s first “discotheque” on Shaw Blvd., owned by Betsy Romualdez before she married Henry Francia and opened Cafe Los Indios Bravos on Mabini St., Malate.
These days, Mandaluyong’s nightlife is virtually dead, since much of the action is in its neighboring cities, Makati and Pasig.
Fortunately there’s Club Mwah on Boni Avenue near city hall. It’s only our second time to visit, and we are surprised when owner Pocholo Malillin says it’s now on its 11th year. That means that Club Mwah’s Las Vegas-inspired cabaret shows continue to draw crowds.
The audience that night is of mixed groups: 30-ish male and female friends with Caucasians; all-women buddies; young gay couples; and a senior-citizens’ gang.
We spot Joe Alejandro with his wife Marilou along with their friends. “Mga taga-Ayala Alabang, members of Couples For Christ,” Pocholo tells us.
“I’m glad to invite friends to come here,” says Marilou, a director at the Philippine-Italian Association.
Joe, a director at the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry who happens to be a childhood friend and schoolmate of my dad, Antonio Concepcion, at St. James Academy in Malabon, smiles when we approach him.
The show warms up with the club’s cast, collectively named Follies de Mwah, dancing to “Everything’s Coming up Roses” from the 1959 Broadway musical “Gypsy.” The dancers move with grace in their elaborate costumes, the lights and sound are mixed well, the stage enhanced with more depth at the back.
It takes a while for the show proper to start; scanning the drinks list we are tempted to try “liquid cocaine” (a mix of rum with Jägermeister and other liqueurs) but decide to stick to red wine. The club sandwich is fine, though the pork sisig seems too oily.
But nothing else matters when the stage comes alive again, this time with a seamless flow of spot numbers: a Madonna medley highlighted by “Vogue”; scenes from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Chicago,” “Dreamgirls,”; an “Amadeus”-inspired sequence; and the classic Tina Turner impression by Cris Nicolas—who is likewise the show’s writer, director, choreographer, costume designer and Pocholo’s longtime domestic partner.
“Mga tunay na lalaki yung male dancers,” Pocholo points out.
Oh. But what we remember best are the graceful movements and in-character projection of the whole cast, and the songs, though lip-synched, dramatically expressed. Overall it’s a stunning theatrical experience.
Club Mwah is at 3/F, The Venue Tower, 652 Boni Ave. Mandaluyong City; tel. 5357943; open only on Fridays and Saturdays.
Before the gigs
Recently we had the chance to check out two restaurants for the first time, a few hours before watching gigs around town.
Sarsa Kitchen + Bar in Mall of Asia offers creative twists to Ilonggo dishes. We like that its Batchoy Special didn’t have too much chicharon lard swimming in the soup. The Kinilaw Tanigue tastes really fresh, the meat soft and chewy, and the spicy vinegar dip tickling the tongue just enough before sipping San Miguel Pale Pilsen.
The piped-in dance music enhances the cool vibe of the place.
Sarsa Kitchen + Bar is at 2/F, Mall of Asia, Pasay City; tel. 0915-3071426.
The food strip on Maginhawa Street in Quezon City has a new restaurant called Provenciano—the “e” is not a typo—whose facade has a kalesa but without the horse.
Its menu is a combination of regional specialties, and recorded tunes of the Mabuhay Singers add a nostalgic feel to Provenciano’s native Pinoy theme.
We are a bit under the weather on the night we visit, actually the very first night the place opened; we try its miswa with ampalaya and somehow feel better while hearing “Ang Pipit” and “Sinisinta Kita” in the background.
Provenciano Restaurant is at 110 Maginhawa St. Teachers Village, Quezon City; tel. 0925-5122160.