By Keenan Webb
To say that Manila Town is just a bar is an understatement. I’ll admit that this writer has a certain bias in his opinion, but underneath the rough surface of this hidden Shinae hotspot there is a whole lot of heart.
Located just a little over a block west of Shigaetop on the second floor, left-hand side, is Manila Town. A newly established bar as of last December. The owner, Maria, created the venue as a place for the Filipino community to meet, hold events, and call home. Since opening many other waegukins and even Koreans have felt its pull. Maria is friends with the former owner and operator of Bar Somewhere, a previous nightlife hot spot in Seongnamdong, that also boasted its Filipino heritage. Having been the prior location of what is now Royal Anchor’s Open Mic night, Bar Somewhere had plenty of musical equipment to sell to Maria including a karaoke machine, before closing last year. Open from 7 pm to 1 am on weekdays and 5 pm to 5 am on weekends; there’s bound to be live music playing or someone singing karaoke. On the 2nd and last Friday night of every month there’s even a salsa night, from 9 to 11 pm, where one of Maria’s friends (a salsa instructor) comes by and gives free lessons.
As a member of a band that plays there at least once a month, I can easily say it is one of my favorite venues. A mixed, lively crowd and friendly staff always have me feeling right at home. Saturday nights are prime time for live music and Maria herself is the lead singer of the house band, Ulsan Pinoys, who always put on a great show. You can also try authentic Filipino food and drinks (menu below). Don’t be surprised if you walk in around dinner time to a table of Filipinos and Koreans eating and taking turns on the karaoke machine. Maria is also more than happy to host events and parties, and even permits bringing in your own food, as long as you buy your alcoholic beverages in-house.
To say that Maria is just a bartender is another understatement. Maria has been in Korea for 14 years now, 6 of which have been in Ulsan. This isn’t the first bar she’s owned either. Maria used to be a nurse in The Philippines and has held many jobs teaching English here in Korea. She is also perhaps one of the busiest people I know. Other than owning a bar she holds several positions in different local organizations and is extremely passionate about all members of the community here in Ulsan. Some of those titles include: President of the Ulsan Association of Filipinos, Member of Nambu Leader’s Club, Multicultural Ambassadress of the Ministry of Family & Welfare, Asian Community Leader for Ulsan International Volunteer Center, and Foreign Monitor for Ulsan City Hall. Maria is also involved in putting on several annual events such as a beach festival and basketball tournament that draw quite a crowd. Now I am sure you’re thinking, “How does any of this encourage me to visit her bar?” Well, maybe it doesn’t. Nevertheless, Maria is an interesting and loving individual not only worth noting here, but immediately apparent in-person. She is also an important resource. Another reason she created Manila Town was to have a central hub for people to contact her. She actively provides assistance to migrant workers and acts as an advocate to the labor board. She assists local married immigrants with counseling and any domestic problems. Part of her income from Manila Town goes to pay for these services that she provides free of charge.
The next event Maria is hosting is a fundraiser for flood victims in The Philippines. This year they were hit hard with multiple typhoons that left thousands homeless and devastated. The event, “Rock & Rhythm to the Rescue,” will be on December 1st at a larger venue rented out for the evening, right around the corner from Manila Town. Four bands will be playing (Ulsan Pinoys, ‘Stache Potatoes, Pachuco Trio, and Route 65). Tickets are only 10,000 won, which includes a drink! Check out the details on the Facebook event here. You can also purchase at the door! For any more details feel free to call 010-6744-0918
(Regarding the menu, I am not entirely sure what is what, which is embarrassing, considering I am a frequent customer and spent a vacation in The Philippines. The picture is of Chop Suey and a meat dish. I usually eat what’s handed to me without any question.)
Sizzling sisig 15,000 (party of 2-4)
Pancit bihon 8,000
Lumpia 12,000 (party of 2-4)
Afritada 12,000 (party of 2-4)
Menudo 12,000 (party of 2-4)
Adobo 12,000 (party of 2-4)
Fried Bangus 8,000 (party of 2)
Fried Tilapia 8,000
Redhorse 1000ml 15,000
Regular bottle 6,000
San Miguel 1000ml 15,000
Regular bottle 6,000
Cafri / Budweiser 4,000
Various mixed drinks 5 – 6,000
Feel free to contact me on Facebook or via e-mail: Keenanwebb@gmail.com